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Donora honors 'humble hero'

| Monday, Nov. 12, 2001

John Cupper walked into the Donora Borough Building Saturday night to attend a banquet related to the borough's Centennial celebration.

Cupper was under the impression the banquet also would include a KDKA Hometown Hello.

Surprised filled his face, though, as he spotted his mother, Anna; wife, Patricia; and his daughters Maripat Hensel, Mollie-Ann Tregembo and Melissa O'Brien and their families.

His brother, Bob Cupper, and his wife, Barbara, were there, too.

Chuck Muia, a friend for more than 40 years, said the banquet was conducted in Cupper's honor for all he has done for Donora.

"He is my humble hero," Muia said. "Any time there is an event or help is needed, John is the first one there and the last one to leave," Muia said. "He delivers with his truck and hauls it away again."

Cupper, a local businessman, has been involved in civic activities in virtually every capacity.

He chairs the events committee for Donora's Centennial, belongs to the Donora Rotary and Downtown Committee and is Donora Chamber of Commerce president.

Membership in civic organizations is just a small part of what Cupper does for the community, Mayor John Lignelli said.

"If it weren't for John, 90 percent of the storefronts in Donora would be vacant," he said.

Lignelli said Cupper's greatest accomplishments involve community revitalization.

"He buys storefronts, fixes them up, drums up business owners, brings them to town and rents the space," Lignelli said. "He has done a lot for this town and I am grateful for all of his hard work."

Cupper had been hospitalized for 10 days, but that didn't stop him from attending a community function.

He acquired a four-hour pass to do so.

His eyes expressing surprise, Cupper stopped and either shook hands or hugged everyone in attendance and thanked them for the banquet in his honor.

"This celebration isn't just for me, it is for the whole community," Cupper said. "Everyone here has done a good deal for this community. If it weren't for everyone, the events of the centennial would have never happened."

Hensel said one word best describes her father: dependable.

"As a child, I remember my father always doing something in Donora," she said. "He did it, because he thought he could make a difference."

Cupper said it was nice to see his friends and family together.

"I am happy to be here with everyone," he said. "But I think the banquet is for all of us. I didn't do this alone."

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