Old military honor roll in Rocktown gets new life
When Ken Colbert of Ruffsdale was a young boy, he and his friends would ride the back roads in and around their hometown of Rocktown, a small, mining community built around 32 beehive ovens of the Meyer Coke Works.
One of the highlights of their afternoon rides was a stop at the Rocktown Honor Roll, a tribute to the town’s World War II veterans that was erected and dedicated in 1944.
“We knew a lot of the people whose names were on that honor roll,” Colbert said. “We would always stop and read them.”
When WW II broke out, 28 Rocktown residents went off to war. The fitting monument that was dedicated to them lasted for several decades before falling victim to Mother Nature and Father Time.
“It weathered the elements for years, but pretty soon it started to deteriorate,” Colbert said. “It was a shame to see it gone.”
On his long rides as a youth, Colbert was often accompanied by his good friends Butch Perkins and Paul Hodgkiss. The three remained friends and it was a conversation held many years later that led to a project that would, in itself, make history.
“We were just talking about doing something about the honor roll,” Colbert said. “We thought it would be great if we could ‘resurrect’ the honor roll.”
Colbert, who is a long-time barber in Ruffsdale, began to ask people about the honor roll and the other honor rolls that once graced all of the little coal mining towns in the Tarrs area.
“I started to get all kinds of things from people,” Colbert said of the information he gathered about the honor rolls and the history of the area in general. “People just started to come in and drop off things like photographs and clippings.”
Hodgkiss, who is also an East Huntingdon Township supervisor, contacted then-Senator Bob Regola for his help with securing a grant for the project.
“The other supervisors and myself applied for the grant and we were happy to receive it,” Hodgkiss said. “We were glad to be able to do something to help bring the honor roll back.”
A new monument was purchased and erected and was officially rededicated at 11 a.m. today, Veterans Day.
“We know that a lot of the area veterans were scheduled to be somewhere else, but we are expecting some local veterans to attend,” Colbert said.
Colbert is working on honor roll sites once located at Ruffsdale and Central. He also has information and material on honor rolls once located in Tarrs and Old Bethany, but is looking for another interested party or parties to take on those projects.
“Information I have, time I don’t at this point,” Colbert said. “If anyone is interested, they can stop here and I will gladly give them everything that I have on those honor roll sites. It would be great to see someone take on those other honor rolls. I’d like to see them all back one day.”
Anyone interested in pursuing the other sites for possible resurrection can stop at Colbert’s barbershop on Route 31 in Ruffsdale.