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Beginning this year, the Community Sports Service award will now be called the Cocolin Community Sports Service award in honor of Art and the late John Cocolin's public service.

Most people in the Meadville area need little — if any — help in recognizing the name Cocolin.

Whether it be Art, or his recently departed brother, John, the Cocolin name has been instrumental in Meadville athletics. For their part in donating time, sweat and money, each was awarded the Community Sports Service award by the Meadville Area Sports Banquet committee, with Art earning the honor in 2003 and John picking up the award in 2006.

Beginning this year, the award will now be called the Cocolin Community Sports Service award in the brothers’ honor.

“I was real choked up about it (when I heard),” said Art. “Mostly because of my brother, John.”

Surprisingly, Art, who is a sports banquet committee member, was one of the last to find out.

“We discussed it at the beginning of the year,” said sports banquet Chairperson Steve Kightlinger. “The funny thing is that Art was there and missed the discussion. We told him just a few weeks ago and he was surprised and actually humbled by it.”

The reaction is what those who know the Cocolins would expect, as both men have always been more comfortable doing their work behind the scenes.

Art was a board member of Meadville Little League Baseball for 18 years and a charter member of the sports banquet committee. His best work came on — err, rather off the golf course. He started and chaired an annual golf tournament to benefit the March of Dimes and the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program. He also formed a golf committee to raise money for the Special Olympics and Young Men’s Christian Association, and chaired the Women’s Services Inc. annual golf outing.

“I really enjoy doing this,” said Art. “I would rather do it than not do it. I feel very fortunate to be on the giving end. I know my brother John felt the same way.”

John was commissioner for the Sertoma slow-pitch league for 25 years and sponsored teams in the Sertoma league and Babe Ruth Baseball during the ’60s. In the ’70s, he sponsored and coached a modified softball team, sponsored an adult flag football team and sponsored baseball teams in the Crawford County baseball league. He was also the president of the Meadville Basketball Boosters Club for and operated the concession stand at Bender Field to benefit the boosters for 10 years.

But his crowning achievement came in 1976 when, five years after being appointed a charter member of the Meadville Recreation Authority by Meadville City Council, the Meadville Area Recreation Complex was built. John helped organize the kitchen and food services at the complex.

“He was very proud of being on the board when (the complex) was built,” said John’s son-in-law and sports banquet committee member Bill Chisholm, who also serves as Meadville Area Magisterial District Judge.

Sports wasn’t the only common link between the two brothers.

There was food.

The two first began their venture into the food business in 1955. They purchased a little spot on Chestnut Street and named it Campus Cove. But as each began to start a family, the little diner was no longer big enough to support two families and they went their separate ways.

Today, Art is still in the food business as owner of Kentucky Fried Chicken at the Park Avenue Plaza in Vernon Township. John was in the food business until his passing May 31, 2007. The scenery had changed — John sold hotdogs and lived in State College for the last nine years of his life — but the man didn’t.

“He went to games and was very active in the (State College) community,” said Chisholm. “They called him ‘The Hotdog Man.’ When he died, the students left flowers at the hotdog stand. That is the way it was pretty much everywhere he went.”

“His death made the front page of the State College paper and the student newspaper,” added Art. “They talked about how he was an icon.”

Both Cocolins are icons.

Their work will now forever be associated with service to local sports. And while neither looked for recognition, a long overdue thank you is being given to them. Art’s one regret is that his brother, John, would not be there to receive the honor.

“I’m disappointed,” said Art. “If John were here he would say, ‘it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.’ He did that once at a presentation.

“It brought the crowd down because they knew where he was coming from.”



YOU CAN GO

If you would like to attend the Meadville Area Sports Banquet, Feb. 28 at Meadville Elks Lodge on Route 86, you can pick up tickets at Fine Print, Shafer Law Firm, Mercer County State Bank and the Meadville/Western Crawford County Chapter of the Chamber of Commerce. Cost of tickets is $40 for adults and $20 for children under 18. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.; event begins at 6:30. There are also $100 tickets available for a 4:30 meet-and-greet with all the speakers and guests, including a private autograph session and preferred parking and seating at the banquet.



The Cocolin Community Service Award

n The recipient of the award shall be an individual who has contributed to community sports over the course of his/her lifetime. Recipient does not have to be an active participant or coach of the sport, nor does he or she ever have had to participate in sports. Instead, the recipient shall be a person who, through support, has promoted sports and sportsmanship throughout the local community by making contributions to the local sports scene.



Numerous speakers and award presentations are slated for the 2008 Meadville Area Sports Banquet, Feb. 28 at Meadville Elks Lodge. They include:



Featured Speakers

Greg Pruitt, former Cleveland Browns runningback

Elroy Face, former Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher

Gene Collier, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer

Jerry Sandusky, former Penn State defensive coordinator

Bill Hillgrove, Pittsburgh Steelers radio announcer

Craig Wolfley, Pittsburgh Steelers radio sideline analyst

Teresa Conn, player, coach and part-owner of the national champion Pittsburgh Passion women’s football team.



Honored Guests

Former Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Dick Groat, Man of the Year

Meadville golf coach Jon Flesicher, Coaches Award

The Gildea family, Richard Lang Corporate Partnership Award

Dave Kennedy, Cocolin Community Sports Service Award

Professional angler Paul Hirosky, Sportsperson of the Year

Don Weyel, Hall of Fame inductee

Note: The high school boys and girls athletes of the year have yet to be named.

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