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Year In Review: September - December

December 30, 2010

SEPTEMBER

• After seven years of war, President Obama formally declared the U.S. combat mission in Iraq to be over.

In contesting no victory, Obama concluded the war with 4,400 dead troops, in addition to tens of thousands injured and hundreds of billions of dollars spent.

He acknowledged the future of the nation with a commitment to fixing the exhausted economy.

• Sept. 2, following the explosion of an oil platform off the coast of Louisiana, all 13 crew members were rescued.

This marked the second disaster in the Gulf of Mexico within a five-month period.

• Chad Horner, of Oliveburg, was appointed to the Pennsylvania State Republican Committee in replacement of the late John Serian of Punxsutawney.

• After violating the league’s good conduct policy, Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension from the Pittsburgh Steelers was lessened from six games to four.

• Parishioners of the First Baptist and Punxsutawney Presbyterian churches concluded an 11-week side-by-side worship experience.

In an attempt to heighten the summer attendance record, the two churches combined services from June to September.

• An anti-Islamic pastor of a small Florida church continued to threaten to burn copies of the Quran on church grounds to observe the ninth anniversary of Sept. 11.

The tactic of the Rev. Terry Jones was met with pressure from the government, warning Jones that he would be endangering U.S. troops and Americans if he proceeded with his plan.

• Sept. 7, the community mourned the loss of local dentist Dr. William A. Cameron, 59, who had maintained his Punxsutawney practice for 18 years.

• Sept. 10, 10 suspects were arrested during a Punxsutawney Borough Police drug sweep.

The arrests stemmed from investigations by the Jefferson County Drug Task Force, which had been following the drug prevalence — specifically heroin — for quite some time.

• Sept. 14, an American hiker taken prisoner after crossing into Iran in 2009, Sarah Shroud, was released after a $500,000 diplomatic bail agreement.

Her fiance, Shane Bauer, to whom she became engaged while in prison, and friend, Josh Fattal, remained detained.

• Community members rallied in support of Punxsutawney Borough probationary police officers Pat Renwick and Sean Weaver after the borough failed to offer them full-time employment.

• The county greeted the explorations of Marcellus Shale. The natural gas drilling outfit, which drew the attention of protesters criticizing the adverse environmental aspects, also brought jobs to the area.

• Sept. 20, human remains found in a 55-gallon barrel discovered in the Conemaugh River near Blairsville, Indiana County, were confirmed to be those of 17-year-old Pittsburgh native Rodnell Donte Burton.

Thirty-two-year-old John Anthony Black, of Yukon, Ind., was charged with criminal homicide for the death of the teen, who was beaten with a baseball bat.

• Sept. 20, retired area eye doctor Dr. A.L. Mitterder died at age 83.

• Sept. 23, the U.S. delegation walked out on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during a U.N. speech after he commented that there are world speculations that Americans were behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

• Sept. 29, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives approved the state’s first-ever bill to impose tax on natural gas extraction.

The vote was the first attempt in collecting revenue from the drilling boom sweeping the state.

House Minority Leader Sam Smith, of Punxsutawney, voted against the bill, citing it as pro-goverment and pro-spending.
OCTOBER

• Oliveburg saw the closure of the Thomas P. Burkett General store, which had been in business since 1916.

Owner 82-year-old Lucille Burkett decided to close the family-run store, which was founded by her parents and had additionally served as the community’s post office since the 1920s, after working in it her whole life.

The mail of the post office’s customers was subsequently relocated to a “cluster box” location or rural delivery.

• The 2009 renovation of the Jefferson County Courthouse project earned state-wide recognition by the Pennsylvania Museum and Historic Commission with the 2010 Initiative Award for Public Stewardship.

The $5 million restoration project, spearheaded by the Jefferson County Commissioners, was executed due to the deteriorating condition of the building, which was originally constructed in 1868 and only once renovated in 1927.

• Oct. 3, Ss. Cosmas & Damian Roman Catholic Church concluded its year-long 125th anniversary celebration with a Sunday mass on the feast day of its patron saints.

• Oct. 5, a Hungarian ecological disaster threatened a half-dozen European nations after an alumina plant’s collapsed reservoir allowed red, toxic sludge to flood the Danube River.

• Eight Ss. Cosmas & Damian parishioners were recognized and rendered “hallmarks” of the church by Bishop Trautman and Msgr. Joseph Riccardo for their unsuppressed enthusiasm, energy and faith.

Elsie Roberts Gigliotti, Bill Roberts and Fred Roberts were recipients of the Pro Eclessia Award; Bob Burke, Jean Gigliotti, Frank Hetrick, Ann Smith and Lena Van Dyke were recipients of the Bishop Award.

• After re-voting on the issue of hiring probationary officers Sean Weaver and Pat Renwick, Punxsutawney Borough Council hired Renwick but not Weaver.

Weaver’s supporters again rallied on his behalf at subsequent meetings, but council said there would be no re-vote for Weaver, citing it as illegal, and that he would have to begin the police force process again by taking the Civil Service exam.

• Oct. 11, the former Mary A. Wilson Elementary School was purchased by a Tyrone businessman at a public auction held by the Punxsutawney Area School Board.

The former school, closed by the district in April 2009, will be the future site of Graystone Court Villas, independent living luxury apartments for residents age 55 and older.

• Thirty-three Chilean miners were rescued from 2,000 feet deep after being trapped for 69 days in the San Jose Mine, Copiapo, Chile.

The world watched live as a feed within the mine — where 700,000 tons of rock had collapsed — and above the surface, broadcasted the 22-hour, 37-minute operation of bringing up each individual miner in the 13-foot-tall Phoenix capsule through the 28-inch-diameter wide opening.

Rescuers, families, the Chilean President and the world rejoiced as the 33 miners were brought to the surface, wearing sunglasses to allow their eyes to adjust after living in complete darkness.

• Oct. 18, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger returned to the football field for the Pittsburgh Steelers versus the Cleveland Browns after his four-game suspension for violating league policy.

• Oct. 25, Indonesian volcano Mount Merapi erupted, killing 18 people. The eruption followed the warnings of scientists who were aware of pressure building underneath what is known as Indonesia’s most volatile volcano.

• Punxsutawney Area School District launched the SchoolReach notification program implemented to allow the district to reach parents via text message in the event of school delays and cancellations.
NOVEMBER

• Nov. 2, Marjorie Armstrong Diehl, 61, Erie, was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of her involvement in a plot that included the forcing of a pizza delivery driver to rob a bank wearing a metal collar bomb, which exploded and caused his death.

• Nov. 2, Republican Tom Corbett was elected Governor after defeating Democrat Dan Onorato by 74 percent. Republican Pat Toomey won the U.S. Senate seat over Democrat Joe Sestak by 70 percent.

• Two major fires with undetermined causes plagued Punxsutawney within one week.

The first destroyed a two-family residence, home to 14 people, along Graffius Avenue. The second gutted the New Anchor Inn restaurant.

In both instances, there were no injuries. The New Anchor Inn’s former owner, Rose Setree, who lived in the upstairs apartment, narrowly escaped unharmed by the help of her nurse, Carol Stevens, who brought the two to safety just seconds before the building was in flames.

Four-year-old Kolton Renegade Powers, who lived at the Graffius Avenue residence, was the “hero” of the duplex fire as he saw smoke seeping near a living room chair and quickly alerted his family.

• President Obama declared that the U.S. would defend South Korea against its adversary and neighbor North Korea, in a diplomatic response rather than a military one.

Citing South Korea as an ally since the Korean War, Obama pledged allegiance to the East Asian country in response to unprovoked attacks from the nuclear weapon-yielding North Korea.

• The First Church of God welcomed back its Living Christmas Tree program after a year of absence for rejuvenation. Armed with a new computer program, the church’s Christmas choir production was larger and more technologically advanced than before.

• The leak of a quarter-million sensitive files by online site WikiLeaks was declared an attack on the United States by President Obama.

Army Pfc Bradley Manning, 23, was suspected of stealing and distributing internal U.S. document files to WikiLeaks by conquering the Pentagon’s security system. Using a homemade Lady Gaga CD, Manning was able to erase his music files and easily download the nation’s most confidential data.

DECEMBER

• The controversy surrounding Jack Wisor’s Just for Jesus Homeless Outreach Challenge, in Brockway, began again as Sen. Joe Scarnati stepped in, claiming Winsor deliberately disobeyed a newly-enacted law.

Scarnati said the group home welcoming convicted felons failed to observe the law of notifying the county and municipal governments within 48 hours of a murderer’s arrival.

• The Punxsutawney Area School district was recognized by the state Department of Education for its use of technology funded by the Classrooms For the Future grant.

The first year of the high school’s “One-to-One” program accomplished every student in grades nine through 12 having their own laptop.

The district was one of only five in the state to be recognized.

• Dec. 7, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested and jailed without bail in a sex-crimes investigation.

In response, the WikiLeaks group released another round of U.S. secret cables.

• Dec. 8, during its annual reorganization meeting, the Punxsutawney Area School Board again returned Gary Conrad as president and Francis Molinaro as vice-president.

• Dec. 9, following a two-week public vote, area PAHS athletes Shawnna Cargo, volleyball, and A.J. Meterko, cross country, were named The Punxsutawney Spirit’s first-ever Female and Male Fall Sports Most Valuable Players.

• A “cyber-war” raged as WikiLeaks protesters lashed out on internet companies trying to block the group, citing them as limiting freedom of expression.

• Dec. 13, PennDOT’s traffic signal project was finalized and set to commence in late spring or early summer.

Each of the intersections along Mahoning street — Hampton Avenue, Jefferson, Findley and Gilpin streets — will receive new traffic signals, posts and mast arms.

• Dec. 15, Brookville Hospital announced it would close its intensive care unit due to little to no patient volume.

• North Korea backed off its threat to attack South Korea in response to the country’s 90-minute military drill.

North Korea’s action was the first positive sign of possible nuclear concession after weeks of heightening tension.

• Dec. 17, the Greater Pennsylvania and Southern West Virginia Make-A-Wish chapter concluded its 2010 “Light up a Child’s Life” campaign with a fund-raising total of $73,285, or enough to grant 21 wishes to area children facing life-threatening illnesses.

• Following the killing of a Crawford County corrections officer, the Jefferson County Jail Board approved a policy to add further restraints for inmates during the booking process.

• Dec. 22, President Obama signed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Repeal Act of 2010, the law that, for the first time in the nation’s history, will allow openly gay men and women to serve in the military.

Following a 17-year ban that rendered the dismissal of over 13,500 service members, the repeal acknowledges the service of all military members regardless of their sexual orientation.

Obama additionally encouraged all service members previously dismissed for being gay to re-enlist.

• Holiday travelers were left stranded after an East Coast blizzard caused nearly 7,000 flight cancellations.

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