The Spirit’s 2012 Year In Review: April - June
(Editor’s note: Each year, the editorial staff at The Spirit dives into the stacks from the past year’s papers to bring you a Year In Review, highlighting some of the biggest news stories to take place over the year. Today, Editor Zak Lantz brings you the top news stories from the months of April, May and June.)
• The Annual Run/Walk for Someone Special, despite a bit of rain, has record-breaking totals of 524 participants and $65,000 raised.
• PAHS Ag Club members are hitting the road and heading to Longview Elementary School to show the students there exactly where their food comes from.
• After four friends pooled their money together to purchase a shot at the coveted Mega Millions lottery prize, The Spirit reported that the group won $250,000 on the split ticket, which was sold at Mike's BiLo in Reynoldsville.
• The Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted 140-49 to cut their own ranks from 203 to 153 and to reduce the number of state senators from 50 to 38 — a bill pressed by House Speaker Sam Smith of Punxsutawney.
• The small, Wyoming town of Buford, population one, is sold for $900,000 at auction to an unidentified man from Vietnam.
• The Spirit features a pair of birthdays for local women — Helen Caylor and Elsie Goss. Caylor would turn 100 years old on that Sunday, and Goss had recently celebrated her own.
• Mike Wallace, former "60 Minutes" interviewer, dies at the age of 93.
• Newt Gingrich, while still in the running for the Republican party's presidential candidacy, admits that Mitt Romney is the likely candidate to earn the GOP nomination.
• A wave of bomb threats at the University of Pittsburgh leaves the entire campus on edge.
• Rick Santorum drops out of the race for the Republican presidential candidacy, paving the path for Mitt Romney to take on incumbent President Barack Obama in the 2012 election.
• Diners at Joe's Drive-In in Punxsutawney are "Saved by the Phil," as the giant wooden groundhog outside the restaurant is struck by an IAV Stryker National Guard all-terrain vehicle that had lost its brakes coming down Indiana Hill into town.
"A special thanks goes out to my dad, Joe Sikora Sr., who had the steel beams buried deep in the ground," said Joe Sikora Jr., who owns the drive-in and the groundhog. "We always asked him why he built things so sturdy. Now, we know why."
• Punxsy Phil meets The Four Aces, who performed the last show of the Punxsutawney Area Concert Association's 2011-12 season and wanted to meet the famous groundhog before leaving town.
• Members of Punxsutawney Borough Council vote 7-0 to award Borough Police Officer Det. Brian Andrekovich an undisclosed amount for lost wages and health care costs after he had been fired, but approved to return to work Jan. 16.
• "American Bandstand" host Dick Clark dies at age 82.
• The Spirit runs an article expressing the concern for 911 dispatchers, as they are vulnerable to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). "People don't really realize that the dispatchers are truly the first responders to any incident," Says Tracy Zents, director of Emergency Services for Jefferson County. "A lot of times, they feel the emotions that people are putting off onto them."
• An oddly-timed snow storm across the state forces Gov. Tom Corbett to declare a disaster emergency, allowing the National Guard to call soldiers to duty if needed to help with the response.
• The Spirit highlights an Indiana couple — Buddy and Carrie Orr — who won a pair of Toyotas in a national contest.
• Cris Dush shocks many by defeating incumbent Jefferson County 66th District Representative Sam Smith by 107 votes in Jefferson County on Primary Election Day. Mitt Romney goes on to win the state in the Presidential candidate race, pushing him to a big lead in the race for delegates.
• Updated, but still incomplete, totals from April 24's primary election show an even narrower margin than first anticipated between Dush and Smith, but Smith appears to carry the necessary Indiana County precincts to win.
• Newt Gingrich announces he'll bow out of the presidential race within the next week.
• The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission announces that it will drop the plan to split the 814 area code.
• PAHS seniors who did not present their projects during the fall semester do so to complete their graduation requirements.
• The Spirit reports the Class of 1951 meets with the Boles Foundation committee and the Class of 2012 officers and donates $2,516 to the Boles Foundation. The Variety Show benefits the Boles foundation, and the class of '51 was the first to hold the show.
• Robert Reesman resigns from Punxsutawney Borough Council and the council begins seeking a new member, as Reesman's family plans to move from the borough.
• Jefferson County residents gather at the Big Run War Memorial to honor the annual celebration of the nation's Loyalty Day.
"Loyalty Day has become a permanent fixture on this great nation's calendar," VFW Post 9044 Commander Jim Pallone says. "Though the Communist threat has subsided, Loyalty Day has continued to be a day worth recognizing."
• One World Trade Center, the monolith being built to replace the twin towers destroyed in the Sept. 11 attacks, claims the title of New York City's tallest skyscraper, as the unfinished skeleton reaches over 1,250 feet high.
• Despite overcast conditions, the day is filled with fun and laughter for those taking part in the DuBois-Jefferson County Special Olympics.
"Today, May 2, is a glorious day," says Brookville Area Schools Superintendent Sandra Craft. "Although it's not sunny, it's a glorious day."
• IUP-Punxsy students put the chalk to the ground on the eve of finals, drawing different scenes portraying aspects of health, diversity political and societal issues.
• The final count is announced for Jefferson County's April 24 general election, with Sam Smith defeating Cris Dush, as the 239 write-ins prove to not be enough.
• PAHS' SADD Club holds its annual mock crash the day before senior prom to teach students about safe, responsible driving.
• After a major fire destroyed Big Run Carpet on June 19, 2011, the store re-opens officially with a ribbon cutting for the new store.
• At the PAHS prom, "A Starry Night," Landon Kauffman and Sara Jane Depp-Hutchinson are named Prom King and Queen.
• The Spirit highlights Big Run Mayor Joe Buterbaugh for his 30-plus years of continued service to the community of Big Run.
• State police, federal and other officials announce the arrest of a number of local individuals involved in an almost-two-year-long investigation into the trafficking of both methamphetamines and Oxycodone.
• Paradise Gardens & Farm owner Dr. J. Stephen Cleghorn stages a rebellion against natural gas drilling beneath his property at an event held at the farm.
• Mayor James Wehrle administers the oath of office to Jamie Sherry, who is appointed to fill a vacancy on Punxsutawney Borough Council made by the resignation of Robert Reesman.
• Jefferson County Children & Youth Services honors two couples — Lou and Cheri Kerr and Bill and Lori Adamson — as the Foster Parents of the Year at the annual Foster Parent Appreciation Dinner at the Punxsutawney Country Club.
• Punxsutawney Area School Board President Gary Conrad confirms that the Jeff Tech Joint Operating Committee has voted unanimously to discontinue the lumbering and marketing/retailing programs, but plans to offer other shops in their places.
• Punxsutawney Borough Council OKs a rezoning request for a one-stop medical facility.
• Judge John H. Foradora sentences former Big Run Volunteer Fire Department member Anthony Overbeck, who was arrested Aug. 10, 2011, to 19-1/2 to 40 years in a state correctional facility on numerous arson charges.
• PAHS hosts its annual Class Night program, where Sierra Milton was named valedictorian; Anna Monyak was named salutatorian; and Cassandra Cook received the title of third honors student. Landon Kauffman was chosen as the recipient of the Class Hearts award.
• The Spirit reports on some "changes in the circle," as the Groundhog Club's Inner Circle welcomes a new member — Tom Dunkel — promotes an existing member — Jeff Lundy — to vice president after former vice president, Mike Johnston, accepts emeritus status.
• Punxsutawney Borough Council honors longtime police dispatcher Joe Steiner, who has put in 25 years of service as a borough dispatcher, at its monthly meeting.
• PAHS teacher Rodney Thompson, PAMS teacher Alan Major, and Punxsutawney Christian School teacher Kerin Mesanko are honored as The Spirit's Teachers of the Year for their service to the children of the community.
• Holocaust survivor Shulamit Bastacky visits PAMS and is presented with teddy bears by the students after explaining that when she was a young girl in Lithuania, she didn't have toys or teddy bears to comfort her. Years later, Bastacky donates her huge collection of teddy bears to those needing comfort today.
• Edith Altman, 104, is recognized as Jefferson County's oldest resident by the Jefferson County Area Agency on Aging after county residents were implored to come forward with names of those they thought might fit the description.
• Jefferson County-DuBois AVTS Class of 2012 looks forward to its opportunity to "take over" as it graduates its 93 seniors.
• Punxsutawney native Devin Mesoraco lifts the Cincinnatti Reds over the Atlanta Braves with a grand slam in the team's 9-3 victory.
• PAHS' smallest class — made up of just 164 graduating members — holds its commencement ceremony at the Punxsutawney Area High School. Dr. Frank Bizousky, whose daughter Erika was one of the graduating seniors, addressed the class and encouraged them by saying, "It goes to show you, even though I ended up as valedictorian of my class, I made some mistakes. We've all made mistakes, but own up to them, apologize and learn, so you don't make the same mistake again."
• State Representative Sam Smith offers lessons and "NCIS" tips for the three graduating seniors at Punxsutawney Christian School, quoting Ronald Reagan and telling them that "Education is not the means of showing people how to get what they want. Education is an exercise by means of which enough men, it is hoped, will learn to want what is worth having."
• A Sunday windstorm toppled trees and electric lines, with winds gusting to 60 mph.
• Punxsy salutes its veterans with a Memorial Day Parade, and Big Run honors fallen at its own program.
• In what's become a bit of a normal occurrence, the PAHS baseball and softball teams claim the District IX titles with victories over St. Marys. For the boys, it was their ninth-consecutive district title, and the championship was the girls' fifth straight.
• Staff and students across the Punxsutawney Area School District are all smiles as they head for the exits and the buses on the last day of the school year.
• Members of the Punxsutawney Rotary Club salute Jeff Tech graduate Stacy Ishman, of Summerville, with the Glenn M. Means Award, which is given to the Outstanding Vocational Technical Student at Jeff Tech.
• Former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky asks the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for a delay in his quickly approaching trial for 52 criminal counts of the alleged abuse of 10 boys over 15 years.
• A large storm dumps a sizable amount of rain onto Jefferson County roads, washing out some and closing others temporarily.
• In a pair of tragic weekend events, a 32-year-old Smicksburg man is charged with criminal homicide for allegedly shooting his estranged father-in-law on the same day an Indiana County man is tied to the deaths of three family members — including his estranged wife and his two daughters, one adopted one biological — in a pair of fires.
• Jury selection begins with nine jurors being seated in the case against Jerry Sandusky.
• The Spirit reports the Punxsutawney Career Women's Club names Stacy A. Volchko as its 2011-12 Woman of the Year at its June 2 breakfast at the Elks in Punxsutawney.
• Jury selection concludes in Sandusky's trial with a PSU-heavy jury set.
• An Ohio woman is cited for abandoning 17 dogs in early may in the woods near Stump Creek.
• A barn and a Jeep parked next to it are destroyed in a rapidly spreading fire in the afternoon on Airport Road in McCalmont Township.
• For the second consecutive day, fire crews respond to a local fire, this time a blaze in the afternoon on Pine Street, Punxsutawney, where a house was heavily damaged. None were injured.
• The Spirit reports a $1,400 donation made to the Animal Hospital of Punxsy, which took in the 17 abandoned dogs found in the woods near Stump Creek May 12-13, by Lynn Porada and her niece Audrey Johnson, who sold "Stop Animal Cruelty" shirts to raise the funds.
• The Punxsutawney chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution names Katie Laska the recipient of its Community Service Award.
• In honor of Flag Day, VFW Post 9044 hosted its annual observance with seven guest speakers and the American Legion Montgomery Post 17 Band.
• The trial of Pittsburgh's Christopher Thornhill, who allegedly shot two Punxsutawney men in September 2011, is set to begin June 19.
• Big Run Borough Council accepts the resignation of Councilman John Niver and appoints former council member Rick Rinehart as his replacement.
• The 2012 Western Pennsylvania Laurel Festival Queen's Pageant is held at Brookville Jr.-Sr. High School, with Kathryn Steele, a Brookville graduate, crowned queen.
• On the first day of summer, temperature records fall across the state, with temperatures in the high 90s.
• Lifeguards at the George C. Brown Community Pool hold a mock rescue drill to ensure they are prepared for any kind of emergency.
"It can be boring in those chairs sometimes, but safety is the No. 1 thing down there," says Jeff Overly, co-manager of the pool.
• Jerry Sandusky is convicted of sexually assaulting 10 boys over 15 years, found guilty on 45 of 48 accounts.
• Punxsutawney Phil makes a guest appearance in the 2012 Laurel Festival Parade with co-handler Ron Ploucha.
• An oven fire fills a personal care home in Rossiter with smoke in the early hours of the morning. Residents are evacuated, and no injuries result.
• J&J Amusements make their way into town as the Punxsutawney Fire Department's Old Home Week kicks off behind the west side of the Punxy Plaza.
• Firefighters and J&J Amusements welcome members of Camp Friendship to the carnival for a special, free event.
• Indiana County District Attorney Patrick Dougherty announces that a June 1 homicide suspect faces further charges of arson and animal cruelty after allegedly setting two trailers on fire — killing three — and slaughtering several animals.
• The Punxsutawney Rotary Club gathers at the country club for its banquet to honor award winners, including Brian A. Smith, the new club treasurer, as a Paul Harris Fellow.
• Ridin' Shotgun wraps up the final evening of Old Home Week's carnival in Punxsutawney with a concert.
• Old Home Week closes with the annual Parade, and Groundhog Festival festivities kick off in Barclay Square.
• Punxsy's 11- and 12-year-old softball All-Stars claim the District X title with victory over DuBois capped by a walk-off single by Tessa Winebark.