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YEAR IN REVIEW: APRIL • MAY • JUNE

December 29, 2011

This summer, long-time Inner Circle member Ron Ploucha (right) took on a new assignment: Serving as Punxsy Phil's co-handler with John Griffiths (left). (Photo by Tom Chapin)

APRIL
April 5
• Director Christopher Nolan announced that parts of the next Batman film, “The Dark Knight Rises,” would be filmed in Pittsburgh.

April 10
• Participants and supporters raised more than $45,000 for Camp Friendship and the ARC of Jefferson County during the 32nd annual Run/Walk for Someone Special in Sykesville.

April 11
• Punxsutawney Borough Council approved hiring attorney Jay Lundy as the borough’s new solicitor to succeed Timothy Morris, who resigned and moved to California.
Morris had served as the borough’s solicitor since 1999.

• Punxsutawney Borough Council learned that the ATA building project along North Findley Street was been placed on hold indefinitely, due to higher-than-expected bids coming back from contractors.

• At nine years old, Brett, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department’s K-9 unit, may be close to retirement, but his master and handler Sheriff Carl Gotwald Sr. told the Punxsy Area School Board that he would like to see him perform a few more sweeps — ideally, in Punxsutawney area schools.

April 12
• With shots — albeit fake — being fired again upon Fort Sumpter, S.C., the United States officially began its 150th commemoration of the Civil War.

April 13
• Following final approval in the House of Representatives, House Speaker Sam Smith, of Punxsy, signed legislation — his first as speaker — repealing the mandate for sprinkler systems to be installed in all new residential homes.

• As part of a movie by filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, the City of Altoona officially changed its name to “POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” for 60 days.

April 15
• The Punxsutawney Radio Emergency Associated Communications Team — better known as REACT — celebrated 35 years of being on call for Punxsy residents in emergency situations.

April 16
• The Punxsutawney Sports Hall of Fame welcomed its 11th class: Gary Astorino, Dominic “Mickey” Barilar, Roger Raybuck, William Vassallo, George Work and Bruce Chambers (posthumous).

Les Shoop was the guest speaker during the induction ceremony.

April 25
• Powerful winds damaged property, toppled trees and downed power lines in Oliver Township, but according to the National Weather Service, the strange weather pattern was not officially deemed a tornado.

April 27
• Confronting growing doubts that could undermine his re-election bid, President Barack Obama delivered a rebuttal to those questioning whether he was born in the United States and eligible to hold office, producing a detailed birth certificate and pleading for the long “sideshow” — stoked mostly by billionaire Donald Trump — to end.

April 29
• Before a TV audience of billions around the world, Prince William and Kate Middleton exchanged wedding vows at Westminster Abbey before exchanging a few kisses in front of the crowd at Buckingham Palace.

MAY
May 1
• In a late-night address, President Barack Obama reported that following a mission in Pakistan, American military and CIA operatives cornered Osama Bin Laden — the mastermind behind the Sept. 11, 2011, terror attacks — and killed him in a firefight during which he resisted capture.

May 4
• Judge John Foradora sentenced former Brookville Junior-Senior High School teacher and coach Karin Hetrick, Summerville, to no less than five to a maximum of 10 years in a state correctional facility for the first count of aggravated indecent assault of a person less than 16 years of age.

Hetrick submitted her resignation to the Brookville school board after the mother of the then-15-year-old girl Hetrick was molesting reported the incidents to police March 25, 2010.

May 5
• With the help of state Sen. Don White, officials designated a bridge on State Route 3011 over the Chest Creek in Clearfield County as the “Sergeant Major Morton Shea Landy Bridge,” in honor of the 32-year Marine, Landy, 82, of Mahaffey.

Landy entered the U.S. Marine Corps in 1946 and is a highly-decorated veteran. When he retired after serving for 32 years and 30 days, he had attained the rank of major and was only the second person to serve two years beyond the 30-year limit.

May 9
• The Jefferson County Children & Youth Services (CYS) Advisory Board saluted foster parents from across the county during its annual Resource Parents Appreciation dinner, naming Cathy Riggie, of Punxsy, as its Foster Parent of the Year.

“I think I’ve gotten a lot more out of helping them than they got from me,” she said, while looking on was her foster daughter of the last five years, Lisa Tinker.

May 11
• Jessica Smochek — a 1999 graduate of Punxsutawney Area High School and daughter of Richard and Sharon Smochek — was among those testifying before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, which is investigating the Peace Corps’ alleged handling of more than a thousand cases of female volunteers who were raped or sexually assaulted over the last decade.

Smochek was brutally attacked and raped while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in 2004 in Bangladesh and told her story in an ABC News “20/20” segment that aired in January.

• Ben Levy, who served as vice-president of Jefferson Wholesale Grocery Company, confirmed that his family was closing its doors after more than 100 years as a family company and almost 50 years as the Jefferson Wholesale Grocery Company known today.

May 20
• The family of Stephen Obbish would receive $250,000 through the settlement of a lawsuit filed against the Borough of Punxsutawney, the mayor and two employees, according to the mediation settlement with Obbish’s family.

The mediation agreement between the borough and the family members of Obbish, who died Aug. 15, 2009, in the back seat of a borough police cruiser, was by Punxsutawney Borough Council and the family’s counsel, Chad A. Wissinger, Esq.

A major part of the agreement was for the borough to appeal the rehiring of Det. Brian Andrekovich — the officer who took Obbish into custody Aug. 15, 2009 — as determined by the Civil Service Commission.

May 21
• Despite the claims of Family Radio founder Harold Camping about Judgement Day occurring May 21, the day generally came and went without major incident.

May 27
• In conjunction with Clarion County Career Center and Charlie Schrecengost Trucking (CST), the Jefferson County Firemen’s Association gathered goods to send to tornado victims in Joplin, Mo.

May 31
• Two-hundred-and-twenty-eight members of the PAHS Class of 2011 earned diplomas during commencement exercises at Jack LaMarca Memorial Stadium.

JUNE
June 1
• Bad day for St. Marys: On the same day, the Punxsy baseball team won its eighth consecutive District IX Class AAA Championship over St. Marys in Brockway, 10-5, while the Punxsy softball team won its fourth District IX Class AAA Championship in a row over St. Marys in Brockway, 6-4.

June 2
• Former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Jon Kolb offered words of encouragement to Punxsy Christian School’s three graduating seniors, valedictorian Isaac J. Fugate, salutatorian Charles C. Higgs and Michael A. Neal.

“We don’t like to have a squeaky-clean life,” Kolb said. “But when you serve God, there will be lots of messes going on. Maybe, He wants you to take the messy way, because that’s what He has in store for you.”

June 3
• Punxsy native Michael Cherian began his two-month, 2,000-mile canoe journey to New Orleans to benefit the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

Cherian traveled in a custom-modified canoe dubbed “Steady Eddie” in honor of his grandfather, Edward H. Burrows, who died of Parkinson’s disease when Cherian was 13.

• Federal prosecutors charged former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards with using $925,000 in under-the-table campaign contributions to hide his pregnant mistress during his 2008 run for president.

June 7
• Nick Gillung, a 2007 Punxsutawney Area High School graduate and left-handed pitcher who spent four years playing for Mercyhurst College after winning a state title with the Chucks, was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 19th round of the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft.

June 10
• The Inner Circle welcomed two new members — Jason Grusky and Dr. Jon Johnston — as well as a new co-handler for Punxsy Phil, Ron Ploucha, and new Groundhog Day events coordinator, Katie Bullers.

June 13
• The Area Transportation Authority (ATA) board of directors finally approved the construction of a terminal in Punxsy on North Findley Street.

June 14
• The Punxsutawney chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution named Thomas R. Chelgren the recipient of its Community Service Award during its annual Flag Day Dinner. The chapter also saluted The Punxsutawney Spirit and Editor Tom Chapin with its first-ever Certificate of Appreciation for the newspaper’s continued coverage and support of the chapter.

June 15
Tom Poore, of Florida, took a specific trip to Punxsy to return a 1944 Punxsutawney High School class ring that his father found near West Palm Beach, Fla., in the early 1970s. The ring belonged to Blair Richards, who said he believed he lost the ring while serving in the military.

June 17
• Jefferson County Commissioners reported that they were investigating the elimination of jury commissioners’ position, which they said would save the county $12,000.

Mabel “Sis” Dunkle, who is the Republican jury commissioner, said she, along with Democrat Frances Tattersall, was upset about this possibility.

“They have been trying to do this for years and years,” Dunkle said. “Jury commissioners are honest people. We do not show partiality. If they eliminate us, who’s going to choose the peers so that those being tried get a fair trial?”

June 18
• Clarence Clemons, also known as “The Big Man” and saxophonist in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band since 1972, died due to complications following a stroke. He was 69.

June 20
• A violent fire destroyed Big Run Carpet, but owner Jeff London started picking up the pieces right away, selling his products from sheds located on the property.

The fire was declared arson, as Chief Todd Peace asked Big Run residents to keep their eyes open for suspicious behavior.

June 23
• Peter Falk, best known as TV’s detective “Columbo,” died at age 83 in his Beverly Hills, Calif., home.

June 27
• Turning 75 years of age, Donald Trautman, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Erie, submitted his mandatory resignation to Pope Benedict XVI. Trautman has served as bishop of the diocese since 1990.

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