by David Croyle
For the past 33 years, Ford City has honored 245 area individuals and groups for their accomplishments through induction into its Hall of Fame.
On Sunday, September 25 at 6PM, the organization with once again hold its induction ceremony during a dinner to be held at the Ford Cliff Fire Hall.
Ford City Area Hall of Fame Board of Governors President Grace Charney gave details of the 2016 Induction Ceremony and Dinner.
Grace Charney, President of the group’s Board of Governors, said the organization that started in 1984, will see many more inductions in the years to come.
“I don’t think that we will ever run out as long as there is Ford City, and as long as there are people who are interested in recognizing the achievements and honors and contributions of the citizens of Ford City and the entire area. It’s not just Ford City proper. We try to keep track of that and make sure that people are recognized and that the future generations know what has gone before them to provide for their quality of life.”
The Hall of Fame honors both inductees who are living and those who are deceased.
“Our bylaws actually stipulate that we have to have at least one more inductee who is living than who is deceased each year. So, we try to keep that perspective so that we are actually honoring people who are able to have friends, relatives come to celebrate their achievement and their induction.”
The group meets from April through October each year, with the nomination process starting with the very first meeting. Final nominations are required to be submitted by June and a ballot is created for the July meeting. Each of the members of the Board of Governors is entitled to a certain number of votes from that ballot. The determination of how many people are selected each year is based on the number of votes that they get.
This year’s inductees include:
Wallace Elger – He is a graduate of Ford City High School, a graduate of the US Naval Academy and he teaches at the Naval Academy at this time. He’s in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Charney said he is one of the toughest and also favorite teachers of the students at the Academy. He also holds several patents for mechanical distribution of light and prolusion for submarines.
“He is very well liked. And everything that I could find from the students, says he is one of the toughest teachers and they all love him and they think his courses are great. And, he will be recognized this year for his achievements in that regard.”
Georgia & Randall Pendleton Sr. – (deceased) They were among the first African Americans to come to the region. They parented 14 sons and daughters – 6 men and 8 women – and all of them have been actively involved in the political scene in our local area, in music endeavors, in education, and in working at the factory.
“They just were pioneers for the black experience in our local area and they are probably related to at least half of the blacks in the Ford City area,” Charney said.
Janelle Sanders – She is a graduate of Ford City High School and teaches biology at Freeport High School. In May, she received the Keivin Burns Outstanding High School Science Teacher of the Year Award from the Spectroscopy Society of Pittsburgh. She is the owner of a taxidermy company called “End of the Line Skull Cleaning”. In fact, one of the things that she has done in her biology class was to arrange for a Game Commission official to bring a road kill deer for dissection into her classroom. She has also arranged for her students to be allowed to participate or observe cadaver use at the various universities in Pittsburgh. And, she has designed and created an Anatomy & Physiology class for the entire Freeport School District.
John Skukalek – (deceased) He was one of the first graduates from the Holy Trinity parochial school in Ford City. It was a class of 12 students that graduated in 1921. He was an active individual as far as all things Slovak were related. He was the director of the Men’s Choir at Holy Trinity Church before it was disestablished years ago. He was also a trustee at the Slovak CU Club. He was the director of the string band.
“He actually became involved in Slovak activities starting at age 8 with his music background and interests. He was also an organizer of the local union for PPG. He was one of the ones who signed the charter for the local union. He was an electrician who was involved in wiring all the homes that were in the PPG Plan, Hansotte Plan on the top of the hill,” Charney said.
Welch Funeral Home – This year, the Hall of Fame is starting to recognize businesses that have been operating in the Ford City area for at least 50 years by the same family. Charney said the Welch Funeral Home was chosen because it is the oldest family-owned funeral home in all of Armstrong County.
“It was established in August of 1912 by Kirby Welch who ran a livery and undertaking service from his home in the 800 block of 5th Avenue. And, it has been in their family for 4 generations. Bob Welch is currently the owner and operator along with Mike Hileman who joined him a few years ago as a funeral director and Kirby Welch, the original founder of the funeral home, also operated a dairy. He employed people as assistant morticians and as bottlers of milk – which I found rather interesting. The funeral home celebrated its 100th Anniversary in 2012 and they continue to do marvelous service for all the people of our area in moments of grief and need for funeral services.”
Charney said the local Ford City area is steeped in tradition that dates back to many different heritages.
“I would say that it’s the American melting pot idea of the early 20th century and throughout the 20th century. Each culture and ethnic group was determined to preserve their own heritage and their own traditions and yet meld with the others. So, I would say that it’s probably a co-mingling of cultures and, traditions and heritage that we can all enjoy each other’s background and perspective on things. It’s very common to have people attending each other’s church services. It’s very common to have food distribution throughout the different cultural foods: pierogies from the Ukrainian Church, the pasta from the Italians in town, the ribs that are the mainstay often times of the black celebrations. We could all enjoy each other’s heritage in that.”
“Ford City may have had its problems and may still have problems. It has gone through unemployment issues, depression issues, recessions, and various problems that arise for one reason or another; and yet the people can all still come together and work together to create a hospitable and enjoyable environment for each other. And, everyone’s heart seems to be in the right place. We want to just recognize the people that are responsible for that -the people in organizations, in groups, and activities that take place. And that’s one of the reason that we don’t think that we will every run out of inductees for our Hall of Fame.”
Doors open at 5PM and dinner starts at 6PM. This is the last weekend to purchase tickets for $20 each. The dinner choices are Baked Chicken Breast or Stuffed Pork Chop. To reserve tickets, call Karen at 724-763-2767.
“If anyone wants to designate the inductee for whom they wish to attend, there’s a space on the ticket to do that and we will do our best to seat them at a table closest to the inductee,” Charney added.