2011 Year in Review, January through March

Jan. 1
• Natasha Tinnette Adams, daughter of Joe and Rhonda Adams of Marion Center, was born at 9:55 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 1.
Weighing 6 pounds, 4 ounces, and 18 1/2-inches in length, Natasha was the first baby born for 2011 at Punxsutawney Area Hospital.

Jan. 4
• By a unanimous vote, state Rep. Sam Smith of Punxsutawney was elected speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, while state Sen. Joe Scarnati of Brockway was sworn in as President Pro Tempore of the Senate for a third time.

• Despite the fact there had been little to no snowfall in Punxsutawney, representatives of some downtown merchants spoke to the Punxsutawney Borough Council’s Public Safety Committee regarding the possibility of snow removal.
Shirley Sharp and Joe Ferraro of PRIDE made good on a promise to bring a plan to council regarding the removal of snow from the parking meter zones in the borough.
Sharp said PRIDE had been researching how two other boroughs — Brookville and Clarion — handle snow removal from their downtown business districts.

Jan. 6
• Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives — with John Boehner of Ohio as the new speaker — as the 112th Congress convened in an era of economic uncertainty.

Jan. 7
• Less than a month shy of the 125th Groundhog Day, the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, in partnership with Punxsutawney Phil’s Official Souvenirs, released the 2011 plush Phil — and for the first time ever, his better half, Phyllis.
“We felt that the role of Phyllis, Phil’s wife, in the tradition of Groundhog Day has been overlooked. It seemed like the right time to honor her support of Phil,” said Mike Johnston, vice-president of the Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle and plush development coordinator.

• The PAHS senior class chose Megan Muth as the Winter Queen and Taylor Powell as the Winter Princess.
They were accompanied by their escorts Adam Murdock and David Roberts, respectively.

Jan. 10
• The new SchoolReach notification system in the Punxsutawney Area School District worked well in its first attempts to communicate important messages to the public.
Superintendent Dr. Keith Wolfe pointed out that thankfully, the district had to use the system only once.

• Punxsutawney Borough Council voted to place Mary Ann Bosak on the life membership list with the Station 20/Central and Punxsutawney Fire Departments after 20 years of being an active member.
She grew up at the fire hall with a family of firefighters, including her father, the late J. Don Bosak, former Central chief.

Jan. 11
• Former Punxsutawney Borough Police officer Sean Weaver extended an olive branch in the form of a settlement to Punxsutawney Borough Council.
In August 2010, council did not offer Weaver and Pat Renwick full-time police employment at the end of their probationary periods.
But during its Sept. 13 meeting, council hired Renwick, but not Weaver.
In January, Weaver spoke to council regarding a lawsuit he filed against the borough for not hiring him full-time.

• The state Department of Tourism and the Groundhog Club announced that in 2011, Punxsy Phil would utilize Foursquare, a location-based, mobile platform that makes cities easier to use and more interesting to explore. By “checking in” via a smartphone app, users share their location with friends while collecting points and virtual badges — such as the PA Groundhog Day badge.

Jan. 15
• The Punxsutawney Fire Department had a very busy 2010, as firefighters responded to 183 calls.
Chief Paul Hense reported to council that firefighters responded to 20 structure fires in 2010 — the two biggest being a house fire Nov. 2, 2010, on Graffius Avenue, and the New Anchor Inn fire Nov. 8, 2010, on Route 310.

• Ralph August announced that he would retire from the Reynoldsville Borough Police Feb. 4.
It was the first time in 39 years that he was not be on the force.
August, known as “Tucker” to most people, had served as chief since 1987, and as an officer in the borough since 1972.

Jan. 18
• Tom Corbett was sworn in as Pennsylvania’s 46th governor in Harrisburg.

Jan. 19
• The shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Jan. 8 in Tucson, Ariz., shocked many people around the world and caused other public officials to possibly be more cautious when they made public appearances.
U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, who served in the House in Washington with Giffords, said he wouldn’t allow that incident to stop him from meeting constituents.

Jan. 21
• Only two drivers suffered minor injuries in a 10-vehicle accident in Union Township that closed down westbound lanes of Interstate 80 until about 5:30 p.m.

Jan. 22
• Even though the contract didn’t expire until the end of the school year, members of the Punxsutawney Area School Board of Directors and the Punxsutawney Area Education Association (PAEA) had been meeting to begin negotiating a new contract.
The current contract, which was approved in June 2007, and was retroactive to July 1, 2004, and had expired June 30.
Board President Gary Conrad said the state must be notified six months in advance when the contract will expire.

Jan. 25
• Construction on the new Graystone Court-Punxsutawney was to begin as soon as late spring, following approval from the Punxsutawney Zoning Commission regarding five appeals requested by the project developer.
Tony Miller, senior project engineer for Stiffler McGraw Engineers of Hollidaysburg, presented a preview of the new apartment complex to be constructed at the site of the former Mary A. Wilson Elementary School, 407 East Mahoning St.

Feb. 1
• Charlotte S. Fye was named the Woman of the Year, and Thomas R. Chelgren was named the Man of the Year at the annual Groundhog banquet, which featured guest speaker Jim Koch, the founder of the Boston Brewing Company/Samuel Adams Beer.
“The whole world looks to Punxsutawney to see what the weather will do,” Koch said.

• Both the National Weather Service and AccuWeather prognosticated a very wintry Groundhog Day, just a few days before Punxsutawney Phil made his own prediction.
Before Groundhog Day, the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh placed Jefferson and 11 other counties in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Maryland under a winter storm warning that was to run through a few hours after Punxsy Phil emerged from his stump to make his annual prognostication.

• The invitation was there, but the trip was postponed: President Barack Obama would not be a guest at Groundhog Day 2011.
After reports that Obama would visit Penn State the same day as Groundhog Day, Inner Circle President Bill Deeley said he extended an invitation to the president through U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson’s office.

Feb. 2
• With the crowd having seen snow, wind and freezing rain at Gobbler’s Knob, Punxsy Phil saw no shadow, thus predicting an early spring for only the 16th time in 125 years.

• The Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center inducted AccuWeather’s Elliot Abrams and The Weather Channel’s Dr. Greg Forbes into its National Meteorologist Hall of Fame.

• Morgan Riggie, daughter of Matthew and Tiffany Riggie, was crowned Little Miss Groundhog, and Mason Fairman, son of Gary and Jennifer Fairman, was named Little Mr. Groundhog at the Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center.

• As the dawn of the Gov. Tom Corbett administration began, state Sen. Joe Scarnati said the atmosphere in Harrisburg was positive.
“We view it as an opportunity to put in conservative policies to give long-term Pennsylvania benefits,” he said. “There was some pain in this budget.”

Feb. 6
• Seven Can Wait: Pittsburgh Steelers played in its eighth Super Bowl, but could not overcome three turnovers, falling to the Green Bay Packers 31-25 in Dallas, Texas, in Super Bowl XLV.

Feb. 10
• In December 2010, the Pennsylvania Utilities Commission announced plans to divide the 814 area code — and create a new code, 582 — affecting Erie, Crawford, Warren, Venango, Forest, Clarion, Jefferson, Elk and McKean counties, as well as parts of Clearfield, Armstrong, Mercer and Indiana counties. The changes are scheduled to take place Feb. 1, 2012, but there is growing opposition to the plan.

• In a plea bargain negotiated by her attorney and the district attorney, a former Brookville Junior-Senior High School math teacher and coach pleaded guilty to three charges of aggravated indecent assault.
Karin Hetrick, Summerville, submitted her resignation to the school board after the mother of the then-15-year-old girl with whom Hetrick was involved contacted police March 25, 2010.

Feb. 17
• The Punxsy Rotary Club revealed the first part — a replica of the former Punxsy public library — of an ongoing project to complement its Circle of Trees.

Feb. 18
• A fire destroyed the former Little Canada Bar & Grill, setting the stage for a string of arson investigations that would not be solved for months. There were no injuries in the fire.

Feb. 20
• Richard Beck reported that in the beginning of 2012, he would retire from District Court 53-3-03 after more than 30 years as a Brookville Borough Police officer and district judge.

March 1
• Charlie Sheen, fired from his hit CBS series “Two-And-A-Half Men,” went on almost-daily rants pertaining to “Vatican assassins,” “Tiger blood,” “gnarly gnarlingtons” and, of course, “Winning.”

March 3
•  Punxsutawney Borough Council continued to discuss the possibility of appealing Judge John Foradora’s ruling regarding the reinstatement of terminated Punxsutawney Borough Police Officer Brian Andrekovich.
In a written opinion, Foradora denied council’s appeal of the Punxsutawney Civil Service Commission’s order to rehire Andrekovich.

March 5
• The official grand opening of the $79 million, 150,000-square foot Kolvalchick Convention and & Athletic Complex included references to a classic film and even an impromptu, a cappella version of a Frank Sinatra standard by a state senator.
The new KCAC was built on the site of the Kovalchick Corporation, which operated a metal salvage yard for more than 50 years on 33 acres of property.
The family sold the property to IUP to accommodate the development and, through a gift that names the complex, honors the memory of Nick and Fannie Kovalchick, who founded the salvage business.

• The Jefferson County History Center opened “Drumbeat to War,” its first exhibit in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. A new exhibit is scheduled to open every six months for the next five years.

March 10
• Four students from Punxsutawney Area High School took first place in the 24th annual DuBois Area Senior Scholastic Challenge  at PSU-DuBois’ Hiller Auditorium, the first time that a Punxsy team has taken top honors in the event.
The team members — seniors Lucas Burke and Joe Long, junior Kendall Neal and freshman Kevin Hughes — garnered 135 total points in the final two rounds.

March 11
• For more than two terrifying, seemingly endless minutes, the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in Japan shook apart homes and buildings, cracked open highways and unnerved even those who have learned to live with swaying skyscrapers. Then came a devastating tsunami that slammed into northeastern Japan and killed hundreds of people.

March 12
• After learning about proposed budget cuts to school districts presented by Gov. Tom Corbett, Punxsutawney Area School District Superintendent Dr. Keith Wolfe said Corbett’s proposed cuts may have placed all-day kindergarten in jeopardy.
Wolfe said he had just returned from a superintendents’ meeting at Riverview Intermediate Unit No. 6 in Clarion, and the amount of concern was astronomical.

March 13
• An Emporium man facing charges for the double murder of a Snyder Township couple in 2010 requested a new judge for his trial, because the presiding judge resided in the same area.
Steven Patrick Rebert filed a petition in the Court of Common Pleas to have Judge John H. Foradora, who resides in Brockway, removed from the case.

March 15
• The Borough of Brookville, its population listed at 3,924 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, looked at the possibility of losing Community Development Block Grant funds, because the state Department of Community and Economic Development grants funding only to boroughs with a population of 4,000 or more.

March 17
• On the luckiest day in March, the spring peepers peeped.
John London, the official Frog Man of Big Run, reported that while walking through the Big Run swamp, he heard the frogs peep around 5:47 p.m. Thursday — St. Patrick’s Day — thus heralding the arrival of spring, according to legend.

March 18
• Punxsutawney Borough Council approved the purchase of a new fire engine for the Elk Run Fire Company.

March 23
• One of the last great Hollywood icons, actress Elizabeth Taylor died at age 79 in Los Angeles.

March 26
• Demolition of existing buildings began to make way for Grace Place, a 24-unit housing complex for moderate-income seniors at the corner of Pine and Gilpin streets on the site of the former Parente’s Pool Hall, directly across from First English Lutheran Church.

March 27
• The Soldiers & Sailors Hall of Valor held an induction ceremony, and among those inductees was Stanley Nogacek, the first casualty of World War II from Jefferson County.
Nogacek’s induction into the Hall of Valor followed nearly a decade of research by Tom Nogacek, Stanley’s nephew, and Mary Greb, his niece.
The research unveiled the story of a man who died while manning a machine gun that allowed his platoon to retreat in relative safety. For his courage during combat, Stanley Nogacek received the Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

March 29
• State Rep. and House Speaker Sam Smith introduced a bill that would reduce the 203-member House by 50 representatives.
The proposal requires a constitutional amendment, so to take effect, it would have to be approved by both chambers in two successive legislative sessions and then by voters in a statewide referendum.

March 30
•  The PAHS Class of 2011 prepared to present the 60th Variety Show, titled “Long Live Our Dreams.”
Over the past 60 years, the annual show has continued to benefit the Margaret C. Boles Foundation, which provides scholarships to college-bound students in need.