Two dads from northern suburbs receive Father of the Year awards


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By his own account, Ronald L. Violi “constantly spoils” his five granddaughters.

At age 74, Mr. Violi was surprised to learn he was selected to receive Father of the Year accolades from the American Diabetes Association. “Grandfather of the Year at my age, yes, I could understand. But, I was surprised at Father of the Year,” Mr. Violi, of Hampton, said.

Sharing in the Father of the Year honors is another dad from the northern suburbs, Jason Ross of Harrison. 

“This award emphasizes what I believe is important,” Mr. Ross said. “I have a very demanding job and spend a good deal of time making sure I do a good job, but being a really good dad is the most important aspect of my life.” 

John Paul of the Presto section of Collier also received the honor, which is given by the American Diabetes Association of Pittsburgh and the Father’s Day Council to honor fathers for outstanding commitment to their families and to the values of fatherhood, for success in their careers and for their involvement with the philanthropic community, according to Julie Heverly, executive director of the American Diabetes Association of Pittsburgh. The partnership makes perfect sense, she said.

“Fatherhood touches everyone and diabetes affects everyone. Whether it is you or someone you know or love, diabetes is wide-reaching,” she said.

Mr. Violi of O’Hara is CEO of Wheeling Hospital and a former Navy SEAL. He is the former president and CEO of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and was co-founder of The Appliance Store. He is married to Pat, and they have three children.

His two daughters said their 74-year-old father is well-deserving of the honor for the role he has filled as father and grandfather.

“As long as I can remember, he has always put family first and that means all of us,” said Vicki Violi of O’Hara, Mr. Violi’s youngest daughter.

Her sister, Valerie Satkoske of Hampton, agreed.

“Growing up, there was always a sense of being safe, protected and supported. That sense of being safe and supported, no matter what, has given me the room and encouragement to try, grow, fail and succeed,” she said.

Ms. Satkoske told the story of her father rescuing a young child who fell into a pool during a party.

“Everyone was laughing and having a great time when all of a sudden there was splash. A few seconds later, my dad was coming out of the pool fully clothed and carrying a small child. He saved that child's life,” she said.

“Even though I was very young, I already knew my dad would be there for me if I needed him — even if I didn't know I needed him,” she said.

It isn’t his heroic acts that have made Mr. Violi a special dad, but the fact that he has his always being there for his daughters and and their older brother, Victor of Shaler, despite his busy schedule.

“I knew that he would always answer the phone if I really needed him, whether or not there may be 20 executives in his office, he would answer,” Ms. Violi said.

His efforts as a grandfather also don’t go unnoticed.

“My dad's interactions with his granddaughters are my fondest memories. He spent hours in the pool with each of my girls teaching them to swim. He texts with my kids more than I do,” Ms. Satkoske said.

“My family is everything, absolutely everything. They are the driving force in my life,” Mr. Violi said. “At first it was Pat and my three, but then the grandchildren. They are truly everything.”

Mr. Ross also said his family is of the utmost importance to him. He is executive vice president, chief financial officer, chief operating officer and treasurer of Allegheny Valley Bank of Pittsburgh.

Mr. Ross, 40, and his wife, Jennifer, are the parents of 12-year-old Charlie.

“Both Jennifer and I have busy schedules, but the key is to make time for Charlie. We are lucky enough to be able to adjust our work schedules to make sure we are able to make him the priority,” he said.

Mr. Ross said they often play golf as a family and that he and Charlie play ball and go fishing.

“We have also decided that we are going to start a ‘Charlie and Dad’ night where just the two of us go out to dinner and other things,” he said.

The three fathers selected for the recognition for 2014 are “exemplary examples of good fathers,” according to Coleen Czyzewski, chairwoman of the Pittsburgh Father’s Day Council. “They are great candidates in so many ways. They are excellent role models as fathers but also as business leaders.” 

The three honorees will be recognized at the annual Father of the Year Awards Dinner on Friday at the Westin Convention Center hotel, Downtown. The event is the major fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Camp for children.

“It is a one-week-long camp where children with diabetes can go and just be a normal kid. It is fitting that the Father of the Year Award Dinner helps fund this camp since the focus is children,” Ms. Czyzewski said.

At the dinner, each of the awardees will receive a video tribute featuring their families, of course.

“It’s a very emotional event with lots of tears,” Ms. Czyzewski said. “There usually isn’t a dry eye in house when these are over.” 

Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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