CARL KOLOGIE: Ceremony brings out emotions
October 13, 2013 1:50 AM

What a touching ceremony in Blairsville on Friday where Purple Heart award recipient Cory Howard was honored for exemplary service while a member of the United States Marine Corps.

An Iraq war veteran, Howard was wounded in his final deployment when an IED went off under his vehicle, resulting in serious injuries that left him hospitalized for five months until he was medically retired after seven years of military service.

Gazette reporter Julie E. Martin covered the ceremony in a Page 1 story in Saturday’s edition.

A light rain fell, which turned heavy at times, while the ceremony was held under a tent that was set up in front of the Howard family home on West First Street.

RenovatingHope, a nonprofit organization founded by Paul Hoffecker, of West Chester, Chester County, was responsible for directing organizations, construction companies, retailers and businesses who together teamed up to provide extensive renovations to the Howard home, and most of them donated labor and materials.

Among the speakers at the event was Ed Shock, an Indiana native who retired as a colonel from the U.S Air Force last year and is currently a vice president with the USO in charge of Warrior and Family Care programs.

Shock currently resides in Virginia with his wife, Mary Ann, and their six children.

Friday’s event was very emotional, especially for the Howard family. Cory is a transplanted Californian and was attending WyoTech when he met his wife, Risa, of Blairsville.

Hoffecker, who coordinated the program and praised all those who made the project possible, is the person who deserves the recognition.

A retired businessman, Hoffecker is passionate about his commitment to give back to the community and is dedicated to RenovatingHope, where he spends his time seeking out the Cory Howards who need help and support.

As Howard stated, “You have given me my life back.”

o o o

The numbers were down but the congeniality remained at a peak level.

It was last Saturday evening at the 20th semi-annual Saltsburg School Reunion held at the Ramada (formerly the Sheraton) in Greensburg.

It was 40 years ago that a group of Saltsburg alums got together and organized the school reunion that is held every two years. Bob Whitesel, a 1957 graduate, is the kingpin behind the reunion, which was first held in 1973 with upward of 500 in attendance.

A little more than 300 attended the event Saturday, which Whitesel said was down 350 from the previous reunion.

His concern, he said, was that the response from the classes invited for the first time this year, 1978-1981, was minimal.

Saltsburg native Jim Wilson, a retired school superintendent from Delaware, was the emcee for the event and acknowledged Annabel Maguire, class of 1935, as the oldest grad at age 96.

It was a fun evening and always a great time renewing acquaintances.

And as for my class, I was a little disappointed that only five of the 41 in the graduating class were in attendance, especially since it was our 60-year reunion.

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