The year 2011 was a memorable one in the Northeast, with political changes, drama in the Catholic and public school systems and, sadly, the loss of a bunch of the area’s finest citizens.
First, the good news.
Chris Ferguson, a St. Martha Elementary School and Archbishop Ryan High School graduate, was the commander of the final space shuttle flight. He later visited students at Ryan to discuss the experience.
Happy retirement wishes went out to David and Trina Losinno, who led Special People In Northeast Inc. for 40 years.
A fond farewell was also given to the Rev. Paul Andell, who retired as pastor of St. James Lutheran Church in Northwood.
Andell had been at St. James since 1972.
The state enacted a law that makes changes to driving laws, all in the name of teenage safety. It’s named “Lacey’s Law” in memory of Lacey Gallagher, the Little Flower High School senior who died in an accident on the Pennsylvania Turnpike following her senior prom. Lacey’s family and friends lobbied lawmakers for the stricter measures, and legislators such as
Rep. Mike McGeehan made it happen. The Gallagher family traveled to Harrisburg to watch Gov. Tom Corbett sign the bill.
McGeehan was also in the forefront of the effort to oust controversial School District of Philadelphia Superintendent Arlene Ackerman. She went away after being given a $905,000 buyout. She is now making ends meet on unemployment compensation.
The big news for Catholic high schools was a teachers’ strike that disrupted the start of the school year. Students, parents and staff have circled Jan. 6 on their calendars. That day, an Archdiocese of Philadelphia blue ribbon commission will make recommendations about the future of Catholic education. There is certain to be school closings based on declining enrollment.
Congratulations are in order for Somerton resident Steve Devlin, who coached Archbishop Wood High School to the PIAA Class AAA championship. How dominant were the Vikings? They won their state semifinal by a score of 70-14 and the championship game 52-0.
In the business world, there were various comings and goings. Among the most prominent newcomers is Giant supermarket. Among those going away was Ilona Keller’s Dugan’s, the catering hall on Roosevelt Boulevard that closed abruptly. A Bottom Dollar is being constructed on the site.
Politically, Democratic voters rejected City Commissioner Marge Tartaglione’s bid for a 10th term in the primary. Commissioner Joe Duda, of Parkwood, fell in the general election. Councilman Jack Kelly and Councilwoman Joan Krajewski retired. Replacing Krajewski in the 6th Councilmanic District will be electricians union political director Bobby Henon. Replacing Kelly as an at-large member will be another “newcomer” — state Rep. Denny O’Brien, who has spent 33 years in Harrisburg.
Rep. Kevin Boyle is spending his first year in Harrisburg, while the man he defeated — John Perzel — pleaded guilty to corruption charges and is awaiting sentencing.
Following redistricting at the city, state and federal levels, many Northeast residents will have to adjust to new representatives.
The 2012 election season will feature races for state and federal offices. Holmesburg’s Dan McCaffery will be on the ballot as a Democratic candidate for state attorney general.
Locally and nationally, Americans marked the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Family and friends of Northwood’s Peter Ortale and Alisha Levin of Castor Gardens held remembrances in their honor. Both were killed when terrorists crashed airplanes into the World Trade Center.
The deaths of the following local people in 2011 saddened their families, friends and the larger Northeast community:
• U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Michael J. Strange, a 25-year-old Wissinoming native killed in the war in Afghanistan.
• U.S. Army Pfc John F. Kihm, a 19-year-old Lawndale resident killed in the war in Afghanistan.
• Mark Keeley, a 19-year-old Philadelphia Gas Works employee killed in an explosion in Tacony. He and Kihm were both 2009 graduates of Cardinal Dougherty High School.
• Virginia Knauer, a former Torresdale resident and city councilwoman who served in the administrations of Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan.
• Tony Zecca, a Far Northeast resident who was deputy mayor under James Tate and Frank L. Rizzo.
• Nina Cohen, director of the emergency food and home-delivered meals program at the JCC Klein Branch.
• Bruce Conner, an historian and steering committee member for the Northeast Philadelphia Hall of Fame.
• Mike Stack Jr., a longtime Somerton resident, prominent lawyer and former Democratic leader of the 58th Ward.
• Butch Ballard, a longtime Frankford resident, jazz music legend and member of the Northeast Philadelphia Hall of Fame.
• Al Dunkleberger, a Bustleton resident and Republican leader of the 58th Ward.
• Terry Tobin, the longtime executive director of the New Frankford Community Y and officer with the Frankford High SchoolAlumni Association.
• Ken Hyers, a 35th Ward Republican committeeman and the dedicated president of Lawncrest Town Watch and vice chairman of the 2nd Police District Advisory Council.
• Bernie Reidenberg, a committeeman and first vice president of the East Torresdale Civic Association.
• Paul Kauffman, an executive board member of Upper Holmesburg Civic Association.
• Bob DiFlorio, boys basketball coach at Northeast High School.
• Chad Enos, a city official who trained and counseled local Town Watch members. ••
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or firstname.lastname@example.org