Jeannette's heroes grace calendar


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What does a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, a pair of twin sisters who were radio stars in the 1940s and a female jockey have in common?

They all have direct ties to the city of Jeannette, and they are among those featured on a 2014 calendar, the first of its kind being sold as a benefit for the Jeannette Historical Society.

The 2014 Who's Who Calendar includes folks from the immediate Jeannette area who have gone on to achieve a level of prominence either statewide, nationally or internationally, said John Howard, society president and founder.

The calendar, which will go on sale for $10 at the end of the month, is not meant to be a complete collection of those from the town who have gone on to bigger and better things, Mr. Howard noted. Rather it is the first in what will become an annual publication, he said.

According to Mr. Howard, many hours of detailed research through history books, newspapers and the Internet as well as interviews with residents past and present went into organizing the calendar.

Among those featured is John E. McLaughlin, who served as CIA director under President George W. Bush. Although Mr. McLaughlin was born in McKeesport, his grandmother, Jeannette Lavelle, was the first baby born in Jeannette in 1888.

Then there are the Newcomer twins, Maxine and Eileen, born in 1925 in Jeannette. The girls, who lost their vision in childhood, excelled in school and had a gift for singing. In 1941, their talent earned them an appearance contract with radio station WWVA in Wheeling, W.Va., which had a 50,000-watt signal that could be heard along the East Coast. The Newcomer twins appeared on the radio station during the 1940s and were part of the WWVA's live Saturday Night Jamborees.

Another Jeannette notable is horse racing jockey Diane Zippi. Born in 1955, Miss Zippi graduated from Greensburg Central Catholic High School and eventually became one of the top 10 women jockey's in North America. From 1973 to 1985, she raced at Churchill Downs, Saratoga and Aqueduct race courses in New York and at Takasaki Race Course in Japan.

These notables are joined on the calendar by Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge John Bender; singer Vaughn Monroe; ice skater Patricia Clohessy, who performed in the Ice Capades; actor/writer Dave Orange; Dave Carey, a Vietnam War prisoner of war; U.S. Air Force Gen. Jack Merrell; Hollywood makeup artist Joe Blasco; Adolphe Kalbfleisch, a decorated World War II pilot and inventor; Lt. Col. William Shomo, U.S. Navy pilot and Medal of Honor recipient; and Chuck Dent and Leo Simmons, known as the comedy team of Chick & Lee.

"They were the Rowan and Martin of their day," Mr. Howard said, referring to the stars of the TV show "Laugh-In," which first aired in 1968.

Others are: John Dent, who served as a state representative and U.S. congressman; former state Reps. John Laudadio and Tom Tangretti; actresses Angela Jones, who had a role in the movie "Pulp Fiction," and Monica Lee Gradischek, who is featured in film and on television as well as numerous commercial voice-overs; writers Randy Miller and Heather Abraham; and Stephen "Fred" Berk, who was a technician on the lunar module that landed on the moon and went on to become the director of security for the Tennessee Titans football team.

Jeannette, of course, could not forget to include at least some of its star athletes, such as former Steelers coach and running back Dick Hoak; professional baseball players Buster Clarkson and Ralph "Socks" Seybold; professional basketball player Claire Cribbs; and professional football players Stephen August, who played for the Seattle Seahawks, Terrelle Pryor, who is starting quarterback for the Oakland Raiders, and Brooklyn Dodgers football coach Mike Getto, who as assistant coach at the University of Kansas inspired his hometown to adopt the Jayhawk mascot for its football team.

While their stay in Jeannette lasted for just four years early in their career, Moe and Shemp Howard of the iconic Three Stooges are given a special mention in the calendar, Mr. Howard said.

"I'm sure there are so many out there who need to be recognized," Mr. Howard said. "The subjects selected for this calendar were chosen from a larger group of names of folks submitted by members of the historical society and from an Internet survey."

Mr. Howard said he and the society welcome suggestions for future consideration.

The calendars will be sold at various locations in the city. Proceeds benefit the Jeannette Historical Society.

Details: 724-787-9070.

Linda Metz, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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