The Washington Trail District gathered Saturday at the B.P.O. Elks Lodge No. 219 for its ninth annual Boy Scouts of America-French Creek Council Patriot’s Day Awards Ceremony.
Six local Patriots were honored for their service to the community and the nation. They are:
James J. Duratz
James J. Duratz has made a positive impact on all organizations that have had the great fortune of receiving the gifts of Jim’s time and involvement. A native of the small coal-mining town of Grindstone, Duratz has led a life of generosity and leadership.
Alter serving in the South Pacific and Europe during World War II as a member of the 37th Infantry Division, Duratz returned to Pennsylvania in 1948 where he pursued a childhood goal of becoming a state trooper. He was stationed in Meadville with the Pennsylvania State Police and after a few years he earned an economics degree on the G.I. Bill at Allegheny College and became employed at Westinghouse in Pittsburgh. But soon enough his future father-in-law offered an opportunity that he couldn’t refuse and he joined the Barco family business in the fledgling cable television industry. The Barco family was renowned in the Meadville and Titusville communities for their generosity and this was a natural fit for Duratz’s giving spirit.
During the early 1950s Duratz began managing the family’s business, Meadville Master Antenna, a pioneer in the cable industry. Other family members worked on the legislative and policy side of the business to help make cable television what it is today. By 1963 Meadville was operating the first aluminum sheath cable system in the United States, boosting frequency strength and allowing more channels.
The incredible success of Meadville Master Antenna, sold to Armstrong Cable in 1987, has allowed Duratz the opportunity to support numerous organizations in a leadership-giving role. A primary focus of his philanthropic activities has been in higher education. In 1987 he established the Barco-Duratz Foundation with the mission to advance continuing and higher education. At the University of Pittsburgh, the Barco Law Building bears a family name in honor of his father-in-law and sister-in-law, who both earned law degrees at Pitt. The Barco Law Building also features the online resources of the Barco Law Library and future attorneys can take advantage of innovative communication training in the James J. Duratz Courtroom Technology Center. One of Duratz’s passions is Pitt athletics and he has funded the Duratz Athletic Complex, endowed five athletic scholarships, and funded the Duratz Locker Room at Heinz Field used by the Pitt football team. A short drive north leads you to the Pitt-Titusville campus where the Helene Barco Duratz Plaza is the center of campus and the George J. Barco Center for Continuing Education provides a place for management trainee programs. All told, the Barco-Duratz family has donated in excess of $20 million to the University of Pittsburgh.
Gannon University in Erie has also been fortunate the have the personal involvement of Jim Duratz. As a member of the Board of Trustees he has served to guide the university and made personal investments in the university’s success. He was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from Gannon in 2001 and the Archbishop Gannon Medal of Distinction in 2005 for exemplary service to the University. In 1995 Duratz established three endowed scholarships at Gannon and in 2002 made a gift of $100,000 that helped support research opportunities for Gannon students.
Jim Duratz currently serves as chairman of the Pennsylvania Educational Communication System, which does business as the Pennsylvania Cable Network. PCN is a nonprofit, nonpartisan cable television network that is responsive to the needs and interest of the people of Pennsylvania as state version of C-SPAN with live, unedited coverage of Pennsylvania Senate and House floor proceedings, committee hearings, press conferences, speeches and other public forums. Not only has Jim served in a leadership role with the organization for many years, he is a leading benefactor for PCN as well.
As a veteran with an avid interest in how the past affects the future, Duratz has taken on an active role with the Gettysburg Foundation, which works with the National Parks Service to preserve Civil War artifacts and present educational opportunities at Gettysburg National Battlefield. Duratz serves on the National Council of the Gettysburg Foundation as has contributed $250,000 to the new museum currently under construction to house decaying and scattered Civil War artifacts.
Recently, Duratz served as the campaign chairman for the Meadville Medical Center Foundation’s Capital Campaign to build a new outpatient cancer facility. It is the largest fundraising campaign in the organization’s history with a goal of $3 million. He made a personal gift of $350,000 to the campaign and his volunteer time and leadership brought the campaign to a successful conclusion. He currently serves as treasurer of the Meadville Medical Center Foundation’s Board of Directors.
There is hardly a nonprofit organization in the Meadville area that has not benefited from Jim Duratz’s generosity in some way, large or small. For many years he has been a lead donor to the local United Way campaign; in 2003 he donated $500,000 to the Meadville Area High School for a complete renovation of its outdoor athletic facilities. At the time he was quoted as saying, “We’re very fortunate to have success with Meadville Master Antenna and feel strongly that giving back to our community is the most important endeavor we should do.”
William L. Peiffley
William L. Peiffley grew up in the community of Saegertown. As a youth he was very much active in sports, playing football in junior high school through senior high school. He also enjoyed playing basketball and baseball. He also found time to be a member of Boy Scout Troop No. 254 where he earned the rank of Life Scout. He also was nominated and elected by his fellow Boy Scouts into the Order of the Arrow Lodge.
After graduating from Saegertown Junior/Senior High School, he went on to Edinboro State College and earned a degree in teaching. He returned to Saegertown High School to teach in the English department for 33 years before retiring from PENNCREST School District. At Saegertown, he coached junior high football for 20 years. He also coached wrestling for 26 years, where as head coach he sent numerous boys including his own son, Bob, to the PIAA State Championships, and had Dick Braymer bring home a state championship in the mid 1960s.
He is a member of the Meadville Sportsman’s Club, Black Ash Sportsman’s Club and the Edinboro Sportsman’s Club. He is a member of the Meadville B.P.O. Elk’s Lodge No. 219 and volunteers at numerous fundraisers.
Kathie Roae has been involved with the American Red Cross for approximately 13 years, first as a volunteer at the Meadville Elk’s Lodge blood drives and for the past nine years as a Red Cross employee. These blood drives cover Crawford, Venango, Erie and Forest counties, which covers almost all of the French Creek Council. Included in the thousands of American lives that are made better by these drives are countless service personnel, as the American Red Cross is charged with the responsibility of supplying the American military with its blood supply.
Roae averages six blood drives a week. So in nine years she has run approximately 3,000 blood drives that average 35 units, which totals 10,500 pints of blood. The blood is converted into three products — red cells, platelets and plasma. As a result, she has helped over 30,000 Americans.
In the past nine years Roae has worked with many community organizations, including the Elks, local volunteer fire departments, veterans’ organizations, various church groups, the Masons and the Knights of Columbus. She recently presented the B.P.O. Elk’s Lodge No. 219 with a plaque for its blood drives, which have collected 2,340 units of blood, helping 7,020 people and contributing 2,092 volunteer hours.
Roae would be the first to say her work with high schools and colleges were left out. With those groups, she not only gives the students practical lessons in sharing but she also teaches good citizenship and responsibility. Her favorite thing to tell the kids is “There are three things you need to do when you turn 18: Register to vote, get your driver’s license (if you don’t already have it) and donate blood.”
Roae is very visible in the community. She works on many committees and many know her, even out of town. She was eating lunch in a Pittsburgh restaurant one Sunday afternoon and one of her blood drive sponsors was seated at the next table and yelled over at her. Last year when she was recuperating from heart surgery, she received many well wishes from sponsors and donors alike, and, incidentally, she has had two other major surgeries and didn’t even need any blood during any of those operations.
Through her hard work and devotion to her job she has truly earned the title most know her by — the one local DJ Keith Allen Austin gave her during his radio show on WMGW on Tuesday mornings — “Bloodlady.” Even her license plate says it!
Joseph M. McDonough
Joseph M. McDonough was in born on Sept. 26, 1929, in Saegertown and has been a resident all his life. He was a member of Boy Scout Troop No. 254 during the 1940s. He served his country in the U.S. Navy in 1948 and as a member of the Navy Reserves for six more years. When he returned to Saegertown he became an adult leader for Troop No. 254 and served throughout the 1950s.
McDonough became a member of the Saegertown Volunteer Fire Department and has been an active member for the last 65 years. He served as fire chief for 25 years. During that time he also served his community as its emergency manager. He was one of the founders of the Crawford County Fire School. He was also recognized by his community as Citizen of the Year.
In 1960 he and his partner opened Saegertown Pattern Company. Then he was one of the original owners of the Fame Manufacturing Company.
Then, seeing the need for fire equipment in tri-state area, McDonough and his partner with Saegertown Pattern Co. founded Pennsylvania Fire Equipment, dealing in anything from fire fighting apparatus for firemen to wear to fire trucks.
McDonough is a life member of the Saegertown American Legion Post No. 205. He is also a life member of the B.P.O. Elk’s Lodge No. 219.
At the age of 80 he still serves his community as an active member of the Saegertown Volunteer Fire Department — mostly taking photos and working fundraisers. He also is semi-retired at U.S. Bronze and Foundry, working part time in the pattern department.
David Birchard is a life-long resident of the Cambridge Springs area. He attended Penn State University where he received a associate’s degree in wildlife technology at the DuBois Campus. He went on to attend Edinboro State College where he received a bachelor of science degree in geology with a minor in environmental geology. When he was at Edinboro College he was awarded the Senior Superlative Award through the geology department.
Birchard is a life member of the National Rife Association. Through the NRA he helped to initiate the Dead Eye 4-H Club and served as a 4-H leader for approximately 10 years, working with children up to the age of 18, taking them to state, regional and national shooting competitions in air rifle, shotgun, muzzleloader and archery. He has also organized the NRA Sportsfest for youth.
Birchard is a member of the Springs Rod and Gun Club, where he has served as its treasurer and president. Through this club he helped with initiating the Eddie Eagle program into local schools, which teaches youth the proper way to handle all guns and ammunition only with adult supervision. The program then merged with the Edinboro Sportsmen Club. He has also served as a hunter/trapper education instructor for 12 to 13 years.
Birchard has helped get numerous grants for the Springs Rod and Gun Club for projects.
He is a member of the Geological Society of America. And a member of the National Ground Water Association.
William T. Lavery
William T. Lavery is a lifelong resident of Waterford, where he attended the Fort LeBoeuf School District. Not new to the area, but as a new family resident in the mid 1990s, he started getting more involved in community activities. He was key organizer for the Waterford Flag Football Program, which encompassed youth from the communities of Waterford, Mill Village and Summit Township. This program is still very vibrant to this day.
Due to other commitments he did not accept an Adult Leader position with either Cub Scout Pack No. 58 or Boy Scout Troop No. 58. However, he attended all the meetings with his son Brandon, who has achieved the Cub Scout rank of Arrow of Light, which is the equivalent to the Boy Scout’s Eagle Scout rank. His son also has achieved the Eagle Scout Rank. During these years, William Lavery could be counted on to support to these units wherever needed. On a winter camping trip he purchased many bails of straw for tent matting just to keep all of the Troop members warm and cozy in the middle of an open field in a blizzard. He also purchased and grilled steaks for all the members of the troop on a stop over in Tidioute during a Troop trip down the Allegheny River.
As a business owner and operator, he owns Lovely’s Convenience Store in Waterford. His generosity can be viewed frequently as his donates his store and its facilities to many youth organizations so they can conduct car washes for fundraisers. He also donates to the many sport organizations in the Fort LeBoeuf School District. He has given freely his financial support to so many of the local teams and booster clubs. He has served his community as a Little League coach for many years. He also has been a volunteer for the Fort LeBoeuf Bison baseball team as well.
As a local businessman and as a school bus driver for the Fort LeBoeuf School District, he took on the added responsibilities as president of the Bus Drivers Union.
For anyone driving through Waterford on a random evening when the inky black sky suddenly explodes in a brilliant color and light accompanied by decibel shattering booms, it is undoubtedly the pyrotechnics of Bill Lavery and Company.