Witkowski, Gerbo named to Weirton hall

WEIRTON – Rick Witkowski and Millie Gerbo are among this year’s inductees to the Weirton Hall of Fame.

Witkowski, who has been chosen in the category of music and fine arts, and Gerbo, who will represent the category of education, will be inducted into the hall during a dinner scheduled for 2 p.m. Aug. 4 at the Knights of Columbus Hall.

They will be joined by George Canei (sports), Emily Horvat (professionals), Tony Sellitti (business and industry) and Mary Binkoski Porter and John B. Sorrenti (public service).

Witkowski, 60, played drums and guitar for a number of local bands in the 1970s and was the co-founder of the progressive rock group Crack the Sky, for whom he continues to write and produce music.

In 1980, he married Deborah Kucan, with whom he wrote “Vitamin L,” which has been performed by B.E. Taylor. The song became a No. 1 hit in Pittsburgh and No. 66 on Billboard’s Hot 100. In the 1990s, he went on tour with contemporary Christian artist Kathy Troccoli where he opened for Pope John Paul II in Central Park in New York City in 1995.

On several occasions, Witkowski has performed with Bruce Springsteen and, with Crack the Sky, opened for bands from Journey to Supertramp.

According to hall organizers, Witkowski opened Studio L in Weirton in 1986 where he and his wife Deb wrote, produced and used local talent in a number of songs for local businesses including Gus’s Goodies, DeeJays, Hauser’s, the Health Plan of the Upper Ohio Valley and theme songs for WTOV-TV’s “What Would Deb Do?” “Sports Friday” and “Summer of Fun.” They sang the “Shop Around in Your Hometown” for the Weirton Area Chamber of Commerce.

National clients have included Old Navy, Nabisco, Spike TV, MTV, VH-1, Bravo Network, TBS, Razor and Tie and TNN.

Witkowski has done many book-to-tape projects for Macmillan and then Macmillan-McGraw Hill Publishing Co. and Scholastic Publishing using local talent. Studio L has also had a relationship with Nickelodeon, and Witkowski has written and produced theme songs and been involved with music and vocal talent for the Kids’ Choice Awards, “Guts,” “Global Guts,” “My Family’s Got Guts,” “Kablam!,” “Action League Now,” “Double Dare 2000” and “Family Double Dare,” “Figure It Out,” “U to U” and “The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius.” Two projects for Nickelodeon were also recorded at Studio L, “Peanut Butter Jam” and “Songs From the Backseat.” He was also a creative force for Nick at Nite and TV Land by creating a variety of theme songs using local talent for vocals and instruments.

In 2009, Witkowski teamed up with St. Paul School’s music director, the Rev. Larry Dorsch, to write and record an original musical written by Dorsch, “I, Paul.”

In 2010, he was involved in a project in Atlanta called “Elf Magic” where he and his wife created a CD of songs that became part of a package for a company’s Christmas elf tradition that is still popular today. He created the theme song and supplied music for the television series “Bar Karma” which aired on Current TV in 2011.

Witkowski created music and songs for the PBS pilot, “SCIENTASTIC.” In February, “Inocente” won the Oscar for Best Documentary Short. Witkowski and Vanessa Campagna, a native of Beaver Falls, Pa., wrote the music for that film.

He is a voting member of the ASCAP and votes on the Grammy’s and is a member of the Screen Actor’s Guild and votes on the SAG awards each year.

Gerbo’s interest advocating for those with exceptionalities came from having a child of her own with disabilities, according to organizers. She found there was little available for individuals with disabilities in the way of medical and mental health services, adaptive technology, education, community awareness, social activities, family training and even accessibility to the community.

In 1990, Gerbo took a job as Hancock County Schools coordinator for the parent educator resource center. There she began to educate herself and other parents in the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504, Individual Education Plan, Individual Disability Education Act, Title XIX Waiver, Family Support Funding, Guardianship, State and Federal laws, Early Intervention, Negotiation and Strategy Techniques and more.

Gerbo accepted a position with West Virginia Parent Training and Information. This expanded her area to Hancock, Brooke, Ohio, Marshall and Wetzel counties. Through these positions, she reached out to families in need by going beyond the job description, often opening up her own home and property for picnics, trainings and even social gatherings for those individuals with disabilities and continues to do so even though she is retired.

Gerbo found the need for socialization for the families of children with disabilities to be nearly non-existent and took action. She found funding sources, wrote grants, got donations from local merchants to host concerts, pool parties and many other fundraising events. Throughout the years, she has helped training thousands and given hope to many more. She started several support groups throughout the Ohio Valley and once parents were trained, she then became a resource of support.

Tickets for the fifth-annual dinner are available until July 31 for $25 each at the Weirton Area Chamber of Commerce, Marsh’s Pipe and Supply, R.E. Saxon Jeweler and the Weirton Municipal Building. Approximately 250 tickets are being sold and none will be available at the door. The event is open to the public.