Westinghouse retirees clean founder’s memorial, give back to community
After working for years — and in many cases decades — for Westinghouse Electric Corp., a group of about 900 company retirees are using their skills to enhance local communities by volunteering at food banks, hospitals, Veterans Administration hospitals and even prisons, where they minister to inmates.
“Community service has been a hallmark of the retirees (group). It makes the retirement years of our members more rewarding,” said Dallas Frey, of Edgewood, who serves as membership director for Westinghouse SURE — Serving Uniting Retired Employees.
An estimated 2,000 members have volunteered 1.2 million hours since the organization was founded in 1989 and evolved into Westinghouse SURE in 1991, said Frey, an engineer who worked 37 years for the company at the Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory in West Mifflin and at its Pittsburgh headquarters.
The focus on service grew out of former President George H.W. Bush’s famed “Thousand Points of Light” in the late 1980s, Frey said.
The organization devotes about about half its efforts to serving the community and the other half serving its members, providing financial information and social outings, said Frey, whose office is at Westinghouse’s former East Pittsburgh Works along Turtle Creek in East Pittsburgh.
In continuing that community service, a group of about 30 Westinghouse retirees this week paid homage to company founder George Westinghouse by pulling weeds and clearing the landscape around the 88-year-old bronze Westinghouse Memorial in Pittsburgh’s Schenley Park. They worked in conjunction with Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, a nonprofit which partners with the city in maintaining Pittsburgh’s parks.
“We helped to restore this memorial” area a few years ago, said Rick Etling of Murrysville, a retired Westinghouse nuclear engineer. It had been overgrown with weeds, and the pond in front of the memorial was in poor condition, Etling said.
Angela Yuele, a conservancy horticulturist, appreciated the help removing the weeds from the garden area and invasive plants from a sloping hillside adjacent to the memorial.
“It’s really wonderful that this group has such a commitment to this site,” Yuele said.
A similar group of members assisted at a Murrysville food bank this summer. But most of the community service by the retirees is done on an individual basis, said Vaughn Gilbert of Elizabeth Township, a retired public relations director with Westinghouse who fills the same role for the retirees group.
The group of managers, professionals, administrators, technicians and production workers has room for growth as the region has about 10,000 retired workers from the company’s headquarters and its many offices and plants in Western Pennsylvania.
The willingness for the retirees to join together and do community service under the Westinghouse name is not surprising to those involved in the organization.
“It’s the way (Westinghouse) treated his employees — with dignity and respect. They model themselves after George Westinghouse … and how he treated his communities,” said Susie Barbour, a Westinghouse retiree and radio personality who worked for KDKA for 18 years.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252 or [email protected]