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Ross Township naming new service award after Tree of Life shooting victim and his wife

Tony LaRussa
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BARRY WERBER
This is an undated photo of Richard Gottfried, center, who was one of 11 victims killed at the Tree of Life synagogue on Oct. 27, 2018. Ross officials are naming the township’s new distinguished service award after Gottfried and his wife, Peg Durachko. The Ross couple will be the first recipients of the honor.

Ross Township officials know that each year, countless residents quietly use their time and talents to make the community a better place to live.

The board of commissioners think acknowledging some of those people might be a good way to inspire others to community service.

The township’s inaugural Distinguished Service Award is tentatively scheduled to be awarded on May 20 to Richard Gottfried and his wife Margaret Durachko of Ross.

Gottfried , 65, was one of the 11 people killed Oct. 27 when a gunman opened fire at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood.

The township also plans to name the annual award after Gottfried and Durachko.

“When we spoke to Peg (Durachko) and told her we were naming the award after her and her husband, her response was that she was surprised because they are just ordinary people,” said Commissioner Joe Laslavic. “But she and her husband are exactly the type of people who deserve this award. They meant so much to so many people. They are among the unsung heroes in our community that we want to recognize.”

Gottfried graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1974 with an undergraduate degree in English literature, according to a biography posted to his dental practice’s website.

He went on to receive a dental degree from Pitt in 1980, the same year he married Durachko, also a graduate of Pitt’s dental school.

The two started their own practice in Ross in 1984 and were planning for retirement when the shooting occurred.

Gottfried and Durachko volunteered with the Catholic Charities Free Dental Clinic and served as marriage mentors at St. Athanasius Roman Catholic Church in West View.

“Copies of the plaques and a photo of the people who get this award will be placed in the township community center,” Laslavic said. “I think over time, it will be interesting to be able to go there see some of the people who helped make this such a great community. Hopefully their achievements will inspire others to continue the good work they have done.”

Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tony at 724-772-6368 or [email protected] or via Twitter @TonyLaRussaTrib.