BILL HASTINGS' INSIDE INDIANA: Novak, Hodak, Adam, Bob, Jerry ...
June 21, 2013 10:49 AM

To whom it may concern —

THE SECOND Evergreen Award from Evergreen Conservancy was recently awarded to the late John Novak, a “lifetime advocate of the natural world,” according to information from the organization.

Dubbed “The Consummate Volunteer,” Novak helped the state Game Commission with creating habitat on game lands through his planning of shrubs, fruit and nut trees, in addition to helping with the stocking of rabbits, pheasants and ducks.

He also helped the state Fish and Boat Commission in stocking trout and building fish habitat.

In addition to those roles, Novak was also an outdoor education, teaching hunter safety, fishing, trapping and firearm safety to youths and was proud to introduce his children and grandchildren “to the joys of the outdoors,” the organization reported in a news release.

Other accomplishments of Novak’s are numerous and include:

• Serving as an officer with the Ford City Sportsman Club and an associate director on the Armstrong Conservation District board. He was also active with the Federation of Sportsman Clubs.

• Becoming the first treasurer for Crooked Creek Watershed Association in 1981, a position he held for 10 years.

• Participating in every watershed clean-up and being active in habitat building projects at Keystone Lake and Crooked Creek Lake.

• Being influential in the Cambria Co-Gen project to reclaim 300 acres of coal refuse in Ernest.

• Actively participating in the building of the passive treatment system at the Tanoma Bore Hole site, ironically where his family received the award in his honor.

“This site was significant to the history of Evergreen Conservancy because the need for some organization to take ownership of the property was the reason Evergreen Conservancy came to exist,” according to the news release.

Novak, a veteran of the Korean War who was active in the American Legion, lost his battle to cancer in 2012.

He was represented at the ceremony by his daughter Katherine Ashford; wife Mary Novak; daughter Theresa Fetterman; brother James Novak; sons Andy, Nick and Joe; and grandson Jim Ashford.

The first Evergreen Award was presented last year to Lee Roy Vatter.

According to Evergreen Conservancy, the group is made of “committed volunteers who work to raise the quality of life of the citizens in and around Indiana County, by preserving and protecting our resources.”

The group has the role of a land trust, and holds property in the public interest or community benefit.

Current projects include countywide stream monitoring, providing environmental education at the Tanoma Wetlands and other locations, working with local groups to enhance community parks and continuing to work on cleaning up abandoned mine discharges. Want more information on the organization? Call (724) 349-4333 or visit www.evergreenconservancy. org.


Adam Stiffler, 32, of Homer City, will be in Vermont this weekend to participate in the 2013 Spartan Death Race that began this morning in Pittsfield.

A Marine veteran, he will run to bring awareness to Team Red, White and Blue, a nonprofit organization that connects veterans to opportunities through social and physical activities.

The 48-plus-hour endurance race includes mud and trail runs, obstacles and physical and mental challenges.

According to Death Race organizers, 90 percent of participants will not complete the race.

To learn more about the organization being promoted by Stiffler, visit


Bob Vargo, who has served as executive director of the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity for about nine years, recently retired from the position.

Vargo’s duties included fundraising, coordinating with other agencies, public relations and more.

While serving in the part-time position, Vargo was also active as a board member of the Community Guidance Center and was an honorary member of the local Rotary Club after many years as a regular member.

He is believed to be the first person to hold the executive director position in Indiana County.


Steve Hodak, owner of the popular Hodak’s Lounge in Clymer, is in the midst of celebrating his 20th year in business and has added an outdoor, covered deck at the lounge at 490 Franklin St. The outside of the lounge also recently received a facelift.


The recent obituary columns included some well-known personalities, including:

• Milton Leonard Roumm, 99, of Indiana and Key West, Fla., who passed away Sunday.

Milton was a scrap dealer and co-owned RSM Co. on South 13th Street with his late brother, Art. The business is now owned by son Dennis Roumm.

Also known for his great sense of humor, according to his obituary, Roumm was a lover of classical music and the big bands of the 1930s and ’40s. He was also active in the community with the Indiana Arts Council, Indiana Historical and Genealogical Society, AARP, PA Retired State Employees and Indiana Free Library Association.

• Gerald “Jerry” Blair, former executive director of IndiGO, who headed the Indiana County Transit Authority for more than 20 years.

He had retired in 2009, and was honored by the naming of the ICTA headquarters in recognition of his service.

Under Blair’s watch, the authority expanded its routes, improved its bus fleet and moved to modern headquarters.

A devout Christian, Blair was 68 when he died Monday. He had served as a pastor in Methodist churches, but with his wife, Ruth, as late-life converts to Roman Catholicism, had become active at St. Bernard of Clairvaux Parish in White Township.


Check out Mark Garrick and Sean Moran at this week’s Concert in the Park at Memorial Park in Indiana, where the duo will be playing a variety of musical selections from 5:30 to 7 p.m. … Gas prices locally are hovering around the $3.53 level for a gallon of regular unleaded. … Willie, our ex-shoeshine boy, agrees that author Henry James said it best: “Summer afternoon — summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”

Good evening!

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