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Tenacity, sports helped shape Charleroi man

| Sunday, May 31, 2009

It's unlikely Elisha Graves Otis had John Gilbert "Jack" Green in mind when he invented the safety elevator in 1853. That was, after all, nearly 80 years before Green was born.

"Yes, I've experienced a lot of ups and down in life," Green said. "Adversity has knocked more than once, but we've always had the good fortune to be able to bounce back."

Reflecting on his innate ability to find the positive in life, Green pointed to his athletic experiences as a strong foundation.

"You learn a lot in sports," said Green, a 1949 graduate of Charleroi High School. "I was blessed with great coaches and teammates, men who encouraged me and taught me things that go far beyond the athletic arenas. A lot of what I learned from athletics, along with support from other people, has guided me through life."

One of eight children born to the late Gilbert and Daisy Green, Green grew up in Speers and lives in Charleroi.

"Most of us were in the same boat, we really didn't have much but didn't realize we were poor," he said of his humble beginnings.

"I remember the time the kids in our neighborhood needed a new baseball. We didn't have the money, of course, so Billy Utterback talked his father into giving us a live chicken. We took that chicken door to door, sold chances at five cents each and raffled it off. We raised the dollar for the baseball and had a few pennies left over."

Green credits his late sister Lois' husband, the late Karl "Kutcy" Sauritch, for guiding him toward athletics in Charleroi.

Green earned 11 varsity letters at Charleroi High School, four each in football and baseball and three in basketball. He received the coveted Leslie Morgan Award as the top athlete at CHS in his senior year. That trophy is among the memorabilia on display at his home, as is a football from the Cougars' 7-6 victory over Monessen in 1948.

Green played football for Virgil "Vap" Paterline and R. James "Rab" Currie, who moved from Monessen in 1947 to begin his long career at Charleroi, and basketball for Robert Bornscheuer and Currie.

"Rab was a major influence in my life," Green said. "He was a great coach and an outstanding teacher."

Green garnered enough attention to find his way to Duquesne University. He credits legendary Charleroi sportswriter John Bunardzya for that opportunity.

Phil Ahwesh was the head coach at Duquesne University, and Green earned a starting position with the freshman team. The newcomers made up what many Duquesne faithful called "the best freshman team ever" at the school.

The school, however, decided to drop football as a varsity sport.

"The announcement was made during Christmas break, and it was darn traumatic," Green said. "They offered to honor our scholarships or help us get into other schools that had expressed an interest. I decided to stick around and play baseball."

He lettered one year in baseball, but faced with no football at the start of his junior year decided to drop out of school. He took a job at the Clairton Works of U.S. Steel Corp.

That was followed by another life-altering move as Green became engaged to his childhood sweetheart, Beverly Bassi. The Greens were married on Feb. 10, 1952.

A little more than three months later, on May 29, Green was at Indiantown Gap Military Reservation to begin basic training with the Army.

Following his discharge from the military, Green returned to Charleroi and contemplated what he wanted to do with his life.

"I knew I didn't want to go back to the mill in Clairton, so I took a job with Charleroi Supply Co.," he said.

But Green was looking for something else, so he turned to Pete Sance, a Charleroi resident who was president of Pittsburgh Steel Co.

"Mr. Sance was very helpful and very straight with me," Green said. "He said he could arrange for me to have a job with the company on one condition I had to go back to college and get my degree. I've always been grateful to him for that."

Armed with the mandate from Sance and his G.I. Bill from the Army, Green returned to Duquesne University. He attended night school while working at the Monessen Plant of Pittsburgh Steel and earned his degree in five years.

He worked in the industrial engineering department and his supervisors were John Moussiaux and Nestor Henrion, two of Charleroi's most accomplished athletes.

Officiating career

It was during this time that Green's brother-in-law, attorney Melvin B. Bassi, and Tom Brown approached Green about becoming a high school football official.

After four years of working high school games, Green got the call to the college level.

"Mel (Bassi) was injured the day before he was to work the Waynesburg-Westminster game," Green recalled. "I got a call telling me I would be the head linesman for that game. Dave Fawcett, who was the commissioner of the Eastern Collegiate Football Officials Association, was a Westminster graduate and attended all of their games. I was nervous, to say the least, but it worked out well. I was at the right place at the right time."

Another brother-in-law, Karl Sauritch, directed Green to officiating basketball games.

Green was scheduled to move up to Division I college officiating at such venues at Pitt, Penn State and West Virginia the next year, but that never happened.

A telephone call from Paul Zolak, then-athletic director at Ringgold High School, brought welcome news.

"Paul offered me a job as the permanent clock operator for (Ringgold) games," Green said.

Word of Green's acceptance of the Ringgold assignment and his quality work there quickly spread to Pittsburgh. Emil Narick, commissioner of the Major Eastern College officials, called and offered him the assignment as a permanent clock operator at West Virginia University. He worked some 10 years in that capacity for Ringgold and the Mountaineers.

Business career

It was during this time that Lou Farkos, who owned Tenth Street Pharmacy in Charleroi, suggested to Green that he take up photography. Soon after that, Green fell victim to the bankruptcy problems that beset Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. in 1986.

"Like many others, I didn't think anything would happen to the company," he said. "They had just installed the new caster and the rail mill at Monessen and I figured I'd be working there a long time. But the company went out of business, the mill closed and, after 33 years of service, I was out of a job at age 58. I vowed I would never work for someone else."

The Greens opened a store in Charleroi at that time, and Jack started going to California University of Pennsylvania

"Beverly and I went on a business trip to the clothing outlets in Reading and to Hershey to talk with a friend about what equipment I would need to open a photography studio and also do videography," Green said. "My friend suggested I incorporate a video store with the photography studio."

Jack Green's Video World and Photography opened in time for the holiday season. The business operated until 2000.

Green and his wife are the parents of two children.

Their son Jack was a standout football player at Lafayette College, where he earned a degree in mechanical engineering. He works in that capacity at the Homer City Power Plant, and he and his wife Kathy are the parents of two children, Kaitlyn, a junior at Franklin Regional High School and a talented golfer, and a son, Matthew, 12, a seventh grader. The family resides in Delmont.

The Green's daughter, Debbie Corridoni, is a registered nurse and, like her father, is a graduate of Duquesne University. She is the manager of the same-day surgery center at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh. She and her husband Anthony are the parents of two daughters, Maria, a junior at the University of Pittsburgh, and Mandy, who attends Seneca Valley High School, and the family lives in Zelienople.

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