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Area veteran honored on his 100th birthday

HOLLIDAYSBURG — The Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs honored an area veteran on his 100th birthday Tuesday.

“Your depth of accomplishments in service to our country, experience with horses and farming, and work in the steel and iron industry and with the Veterans of Foreign Wars reflect the best of Pennsylvania,” Gov. Josh Shapiro wrote in a letter to Hollidaysburg Veterans’ Home resident Russell R. Stiffler, who turned 100 Tuesday.

“We hope this time is a moment of reflection for you on your past achievements, your hopes for the future, your loved ones, and your many blessings, even those that lie ahead,” the governor wrote on his behalf and that of First Lady Lori Shapiro.

Stiffler was born on March 14, 1923, in Strongstown, and spent most of his childhood and adult life in the Seward area, with his last address being in East Wheatfield Township.

He entered the Army in 1944 during World War II, serving until 1946 and obtaining the rank of staff sergeant. He worked in a military warehouse and drove a truck.

“Staff Sgt. Stiffler is part of a group known as the Greatest Generation,” Dysart-based VFW District 26 Commander David V. Seymore wrote. “They grew up in the throes of the Great Depression only to be forged into adulthood in the fires of war. His generation built this nation into one of the greatest in the world.”

Stiffler’s military decorations and citations include The Army of Occupations Medal (Europe), World War II Victory Medal, and the European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one bronze star.

“An easy path was not laid before you on your journey to this day,” Seymore continued, “but we thank you for your service and dedication to preserving liberty on this celebration of your centennial year.”

Post-war, Stiffler worked as a steel and iron works laborer until retiring in 1977.

Commonplace releases collaborative coffee blend to support Indiana parks and trails

Indiana County Parks and Trails has partnered with Commonplace Coffee to release a collaborative coffee blend, the Blue Spruce Park Blend, that will be available online Tuesday, March 21, and in Indiana Commonplace Coffee locations Thursday, March 23.

Commonplace Coffee, headquartered in Pittsburgh, will donate a portion of the retail and wholesale proceeds from coffee sales to Indiana County Parks and Trails, a nonprofit organization tasked with operating Indiana’s 15 park and trail sites.

This is the first time the two entities have partnered to release a donation coffee blend, which will run for eight weeks through May 9.

The funds raised from this project will be used to construct an accessible pathway to allow persons of all abilities to reach the bird-feeding site in Blue Spruce Park, according to a Commonplace Coffee press release.

“I love enjoying the local Indiana parks and trails with family and friends,” said Commonplace Coffee founder TJ Fairchild. “A few years ago, I found this magical place where you can feed the birds, and through this project, I was able to meet Ray Winstead, who first trained the birds at Blue Spruce Park.”

Winstead, a former Indiana University of Pennsylvania biology professor, began training chickadees to eat from his hand in 2012 at Blue Spruce Park along Getty Run Trail. What started as a personal project quickly became a popular attraction at the park, where people can hand-feed curious chickadees, nuthatch birds and tufted titmice looking for a good meal in winter and early spring.

The Blue Spruce Park Blend features an image of a chickadee eating seeds from a person’s hand in the park.

“It has been an honor to work together on this collaborative coffee,” Fairchild said. “It is even more special, as Commonplace Coffee celebrates its 20th anniversary, to have the chance to give back to an organization that means so much to me personally.”

Commonplace Coffee will host a kick-off tasting event from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday at the Lakeside Center at Blue Spruce Park. The event is free and open to the public, who can learn more about the blend and taste samples of the coffee before its official launch.

Those who wish to learn more about the coffee or purchase a 12-ounce bag for $18.50 can visit Indiana’s Commonplace Coffee locations in University Square or along Hospital Road or go online at

The Blue Spruce Park Blend will also be available for purchase as brewed drip coffee at all Commonplace locations on Friday, March 25, and Saturday, March 26.


ALBRIGHT, Bernard Charles, 76, Penn Run

TAYLOR, Lisa Dawn (Massey), 52, West


WILSHIRE, George H. “Duck,” 71, Cherry Tree

Late death

ASHBAUGH, Violet Jean (Ferguson), 84, Clymer


“My respect for Westerns have gone way, way up. It’s hard and treacherous work. It’s hard to find people these days who can ride horses like that and jump onto trains.” Gore Verbinski, American film director, born on this date in 1964

Smith ready to introduce bill moving deer season back to Monday start date

State Rep. Brian Smith, R-Punxsutawney.

When state Rep. Brian Smith, R-Punxsutawney, introduces legislation to return the opening day of antlered deer rifle season to the Monday after Thanksgiving — possibly later this week or early next week — there will be a companion bill in the state Senate.

“The annual deer rifle season is special in Pennsylvania,” state Sen. Lisa M. Boscola, R-Northampton County, wrote in a Senate co-sponsorship memorandum she began to circulate on March 8. “My office received a number of letters and phone calls regarding the impact of moving opening day to the Saturday after Thanksgiving.”

Her reasons are similar to those expressed by Smith in what now is his second memorandum on the subject, following an initial circulation on Dec. 13, 2022.

“When the Pennsylvania Game Commission changed the opening day of antlered deer rifle season to the Saturday after the Thanksgiving holiday, they disrupted the positive economic impact that many small businesses and volunteer organizations experienced in years past,” Smith wrote in that first memorandum. “They took away the family time that was traditional for many that weekend, as hunters now have to leave earlier for deer camp.”

The Punxsutawney Republican, whose district also covers northern areas in Indiana County, has 16 co-sponsors currently, from both parties, including some from the Pittsburgh area, as well as locally Rep. Mike Armanini, R-Clearfield County, and Rep. Donna Oberlander, R-Clarion (whose district also includes much of Armstrong County).

Both Smith and Boscola pointed to how local business owners and hunters seem aligned that the move of opening day has hurt businesses and many of the traditions associated with the longstanding original opening day.

Smith said he heard from many of the fire chiefs in Jefferson County, who said they “wholeheartedly wanted Monday back.”

However, Smith said, between then and March 8 — the same day Boscola began circulating her memorandum — he needed to tighten his legislation to one line.

Both also stressed, as Boscola wrote, “this legislation will not affect Sunday hunting, nor will it determine the duration of the season.”

“I shouldn’t dictate the length of the season,” Smith said Wednesday. “I won’t deal with Sundays and I won’t deal with the length of the season.”

Smith said Boscola asked if a companion bill would be OK, and he said yes.

A Sunday hunting bill is in the offing from Sen. Daniel Laughlin, R-Erie, whose Senate Bill 67, repealing the Sunday hunting prohibition in Pennsylvania, was referred to the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee on Feb. 21, co-sponsored by Sens. Devlin Robinson, R-Pittsburgh, and James R. Brewster, D-McKeesport.

In advance of his introducing a bill, Smith said “one more reminder” is sent out for would-be co-sponsors.

Burrell Township continues search for road worker
  • Updated

BLACK LICK — Expecting to hire a worker for the Burrell Township road crew on Wednesday evening, just in time for the spring cleanup and maintenance cycle, the township supervisors learned it may be another month before they can bring the work force up to full complement.

Brett Hebenthal, of Grafton, was chosen for the post by the supervisors during their monthly business meeting, but declined to accept the position when contacted about the appointment following the meeting.

Supervisor Chairman Dan Shacreaw didn’t say why Hebenthal turned down the offer.

The job will remain open until April 19 unless the supervisors call a special meeting in the interim.

The supervisors reported nine people applied for the job but Shacreaw reported three of the candidates lacked a commercial driver’s license and weren’t qualified for the job. Supervisor John Shields said the six who interviewed all were fit for the position.

The supervisor voted to keep the remaining applications on file to consider for any road crew opportunities “in case something doesn’t work out,” according to Shields. That happened sooner than they expected.

In other business, the supervisors appointed two residents to volunteer positions and learned of an impending improvement project in Pine Ridge County Park.

At the recommendation of Library Director Jen Van Hannak, the supervisors appointed Terri Sisitki, of Palmerton, to the library board of directors. They also named Lucy Walls, of Black Lick, to the recreation and parks board, as recommended by board member Robert Palmer.

In a progress report of the construction of the new municipal building and library on Main Street, the supervisors said a rain garden and other drainage control features will soon be built, the furnace has been delivered but has yet to be installed, the flooring needs to be finished, and the parking lot would be paved when area asphalt plants begin their production season.

The move-in date for the township offices has not been set.

John Emerson of Gibson-Thomas Engineers, of Latrobe, told the supervisors that his firm has designed a renovation of a maintenance building on behalf of Indiana County Parks & Trails.

“They’re going to tear a section of it off, add onto both ends, redo the inside with new lighting, and possibly hook up to sewage, and get better restrooms in there,” Emerson said.

The supervisors assured Emerson that a drawing signed by an engineer would be accepted rather than a comprehensive architectural design for the project.

Emerson didn’t mention a timeline for the project in Pine Ridge Park.

The supervisors announced that Black Lick Volunteer Fire Company would hold its next fundraising hoagie sale on the morning of April 1; the office would be closed Good Friday, April 7; and the annual spring cleanup program is set for 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 19 and 20.