Monroeville community navigated significant change in 2018 |

Monroeville community navigated significant change in 2018

Dillon Carr
Bob Adams, 95 and Wes Piros, 95 share memories and stories about their days in the US Army Air Force during WWII. Bob found a photograph of his unit during training and shared it with Wes. To their surprise, both men were in the same picture and they soon discovered they spent time together training for the US Army Air Force unit. The two gentlemen currently reside at Beatty Pointe in Monroeville and have reunited some 70+ years later. Lillian DeDomenic | For The Tribune Review
A standing room only crowd attended a Sunday morning gathering of unity, peace and support at Temple David in Monroeville on Oct. 28. Lillian DeDomenic | For The Tribune-Review
The Healing Center opens on Monroeville with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday, September 25. Making it official co-founders Jay Richards, his wife Amber, Chris Kohan and his wife Melanie cut the ribbon at the Mall Boulevard center. Lillian DeDomenic | For The Tribune Review
Brandon Markosek sweeps the house. Monroeville Mayor Nick Gresock calls Brandon Markosek (D) the winner over Steve Schlauch (R) for Pennsylvania State Representative of the 25th District at Markosek headquarters, Garden City Hall, with the majority of the districts reporting on Tuesday evening, November 6, 2018. Lillian DeDomenic | For the Tribune Review.

In Monroeville, the one constant throughout 2018 was change.

Here are the biggest stories impacting the community in 2018, starting with a tragedy intended to tear the community apart that ended up bringing everyone a little closer together.

Tree of Life shooting

In the aftermath of the Oct. 27 shooting that took the lives of 11 people at the Squirrel Hill synagogue, Monroeville’s community — religious and otherwise — came together to grieve, reflect and support one another.

The day after the shooting, Monroeville residents gathered at Temple David for a Peace, Unity, Prayer vigil. Several religious leaders of various faiths took turns addressing the grieving crowd of around 250.

In the following weeks, the tragedy sparked discussions of amping up security in temples and houses of worship.

But what stood out the most was the support for the Jewish community. A shining example of such support were the 100 decorated mezuzahs and sentimental cards students from a Jewish school in New Jersey sent to the Chabad Jewish Center of Monroeville. The gesture was part of a Chabad Lubavitch of Pittsburgh campaign seeking 1,100 of the Jewish symbols of faith from around the world. Turmoil at St. Bernadette

St. Bernadette Catholic Church parishioners — and the world — experienced shock in August when a state grand jury report revealed how 300 “predator priests” sexually abused at least 1,000 children over seven decades and how a hierarchy of clergy leaders conspired to cover it up.

Two of the disgraced priests, William Yockey and James Graham, served at St. Bernadette during their tenures.

Yockey, 66, was recently named in a lawsuit filed against the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, Bishop David Zubik and former Cardinal Donald Wuerl.

In the fall, St. Bernadette’s roughly 7,500 parishioners also said goodbye to a priest who had served the church for nine years. As part of the diocese’s strategic planning initiative aimed at reconfiguration, the Rev. Tony Gargotta moved to St. Peter’s Parish on Pittsburgh’s North Side.

Further, the church’s school was bracing for change as it merged with North American Martyrs to make Divine Mercy Academy, making it the only parochial school in Monroeville .

Political changes

In politics, Democrat Brandon Markosek cruised to victory in his race against Republican Steve Schlauch to become elected representative in the 25th State House District. The 25-year-old from Monroeville will follow in the footsteps of his father, Joe Markosek, who was elected to the same position for 35 years and announced his retirement earlier in 2018.

Gateway School District raised property taxes in order to fill a $1.2 million gap in its $75.3 million spending plan. The tax rate of 19.8675 means the owner of a $100,000 home pays an additional $54 in taxes annually.

Also affecting bank accounts was Monroeville council’s decision to create a $3.2 million Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System , also known as MS4. The system allows Monroeville to levy a fee of $120 a year against residents. Owners of larger properties, such as businesses and houses of worship, also will face a fee based on a calculation of the property’s size. The Monroeville Mall will face the largest fee at nearly $223,000, and the school district will owe $91,920.

Gateway School District

In March, former School Director Steve O’Donnell came under siege for what were perceived as anti-Semitic comments directed at Rabbi Barbara Symons. He ultimately apologized and resigned, though he said his stepping away was unrelated to the verbal skirmish. His resignation paved the way for a new school board member to be appointed, Jack Bova, who lives in Pitcairn and previously served as that community’s council president.

In other district happenings, Student Transportation of America secured a contract through June 2026 that will result in 61 new vehicle purchases and a new-and-improved GPS tracking system in all the buses. STA also agreed to donate $315,000 for the purchase of a scoreboard for the high school stadium, which had some residents taking to social media to question whether the renewed contract and the scoreboard purchase were linked. School officials denied such a claim.

Daily life

Errand routes look slightly different for some in Monroeville as two groceries announced closures in the year’s first two months.

Giant Eagle on Old William Penn Highway shuttered after being in business more than 40 years. Its last day was Feb. 3.

Just a couple of weeks later, McGinnis Sisters Special Foods Stores announced closures of its locations in Monroeville and Brentwood.

Other businesses in Monroe­ville followed suit, including Burton’s Total Pet , Babies R Us and a local amusement center .

There is good news for the local business community, though. So far, Monroeville will see construction of 13 new projects in the new year . Some already have started, including the Penn Monroe Shops along William Penn Highway. There are four projects including new housing, a mixture of townhomes, apartments and houses on Evergreen and Infinity drives and Fox Plan Road.

And residents who used to drive out of Monroeville to purchase medical marijuana no longer had to travel far when The Healing Center opened up a spot on Mall Circle Drive in September.

Lighter moments

A pair of World War II veterans reunited this year after being photographed together over 70 years ago at Army Air Corps training in Indiana. After meeting at Beatty Pointe Village, the two learned they live just a few doors down from one another.

Some children, from Monroeville and other communities around Pittsburgh, rode a bicycle for the first time in their lives this year. Just in time for Christmas, they were able to mount their very own alternative bicycle at Forbes Hospital when Charlie LaVallee of Variety gave five of them away to families who have children suffering from mental and physical disabilities. The organization also gave away strollers and tablet communication devices.

Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review
staff writer. You can contact Dillon
at 412-871-2325, [email protected]
or via Twitter @dillonswriting.

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