FOLLANSBEE - The community spirit of Follansbee is the cause for celebration during the annual Follansbee Community Days festival, which will be held Friday through Sunday.
And each year the event's kickoff dinner offers the festival's organizers and area residents an opportunity to recognize those who have played an active part in the community.
During the dinner Tony Paesano, outgoing mayor and president of the Follansbee Chamber of Commerce; and newly elected mayor David Velegol Jr. teamed to present plaques of appreciation, medals and keys to the city to the marshal and honorary marshal of the Follansbee Community Days parade, the 2010 Follansbee Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year and the clergy of several local churches.
A?TIME?FOR?RECOGNITION — Many community members, including the pastors of several local churches, were honored at the Follansbee Community Days kickoff dinner at the Follansbee Community House. Taking part were, from left, front: 101-year-old Joe Prest, marshal for the Follansbee Community Days Parade; Mary Andriano, honorary marshal for the parade; Nina Meca, 2010 Follansbee Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year; and guest speaker Ted Arneault; and back: Kathy Kunkel, clerk of session for Follansbee Presbyterian Church, who accepted honors for the Rev. Colleen Molinaro; the Rev. Joe Cuomo, pastor of Follansbee Christian Assembly; the Rev. Penny Calmbacher of Follansbee United Methodist Church; the Rev. Jonathan Absher of Follansbee Church of Christ; the Rev. John Keener of Follansbee Church of the Nazarene; Tony Paesano, outgoing mayor and Follansbee Chamber of Commerce president; and Mayor David Velegol Jr. The Rev. Pete Giannamore of St. Anthony Catholic Church also was among clergy honored, while the Rev. George Wilson of Mount Zion Apostolic Church was unable to attend.
Serving as marshal for the parade, which will begin at 1 p.m. Saturday on Main Street, is Joe Prest Sr., who celebrated his 101st birthday on March 6.
Paesano said Prest, the son of Italian immigrants, was born Joseph Anthony Prestia, but the family's name was shortened, perhaps by immigration officials who didn't understand their accent.
He noted it wasn't the only part of Prest's name that was Americanized, as his mother often called him a name neighbors heard as "Juice" but was actually a shortened version of Guiseppe, the Italian equivalent of Joseph.
Prest worked as a meatcutter for a local grocery before owning his own store for a time as well as a racehorse he said won at least two races.
He said he tried to enlist in the military during World War I but was turned away because he was too young. When World War II began, he was the father of three children but was pleased to at least support the war effort as a worker at Follansbee Steel.
Mary Bruzzese Prest, his wife of 64 years, died in 1995. He also lost a son, also named Joseph, but has two daughters, 11 grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.
Asked if he ever thought he'd live to be 100, Prest quipped, "Never in a hundred years."
Asked the secret to his longevity, he said he has consumed a shot of whisky, which he also gargles, and a glass of wine each day.
Over the years Prest was a member of St. Anthony Catholic Church and Follansbee Moose and Eagles lodges; St. Anthony School football coach and Little League baseball umpire.
He said of Follansbee, "It's the best little town in the world. It's a nice town."
Serving as honorary marshal is Mary Andriano, a lifelong Follansbee resident known for helping many residents, particularly the elderly; and for 40 years has assisted clergy at St. Anthony Catholic Church at weddings, funerals and other occasions as an altar server.
Andriano said of the latter role, "As long as God lets me, I'll keep on doing it."
Andriano also works four days a week at the Brooke County Opportunity Center and has been a Brooke County Special Olympics athlete and volunteer.
She said she's honored to be chosen to serve as honorary marshal, adding, "It's something I'll cherish for the rest of my life."
Also recognized was Nina Meca, who was named the Follansbee chamber's 2010 Citizen of the Year, for community service that includes co-chairing Community Days in each of the 18 years it has existed; and volunteering through Valley Hospice, the Friends of the Follansbee Library and Theta Chi Alpha sorority.
After working in the city's utilities department for 26 years and as a temporary city manager when the city was seeking a new one, she put that experience to use as a Follansbee councilwoman.
Recognition also was given to the following clergy: the Rev. Jonathan Absher of Follansbee Church of Christ; the Rev. Penny Calmbacher of Follansbee United Methodist Church; the Rev. Joe Cuomo of Follansbee Christian Assembly Church; the Rev. John Keener of Follansbee Church of the Nazarene; the Rev. Pete Giannamore of St. Anthony Catholic Church; the Rev. Colleen Molinaro of Follansbee Presbyterian Church; and the Rev. George Wilson of Mount Zion Apostolic Church.
Velegol noted that a number of Follansbee's churches are as old or older than the city itself, and they and their clergy have played an active role in the community.
Short biographies given for the clergy revealed their influence extends beyond the pulpit, as the ministers and priests have involved themselves in such diverse tasks as visiting the sick, coaching youth sports teams, assisting with an after-school children's program and overseeing a state church camp.
Serving as guest speaker was Ted Arneault, whose many hats have included former chief executive officer of MTR Gaming Group, current CEO of Braneault Enterprises and co-host of KDKA radio's Black and Gold Sunday.
Arneault said while the media gives much focus to professional athletes, rock stars and other celebrities, such individuals will be largely forgotten in the future and have relatively little influence on one's life.
Our teachers, clergy, parents and others who affect us most are the ones we'll remember most years later, he suggested.
"These are the people who mean the most in our lives and the ones we need to celebrate with regularity and greater intensity," Arneault said.
During Arneault's tenure as CEO at Mountaineer Race Track and Gaming Resort, its yearly revenue rose from $24.9 million to more than $407 million, Paesano noted.
Arneault suggested that while some have made much of the area's aging population, the experience and wisdom of its older community and business leaders is an asset that should be tapped by younger ones.
He suggested successful older residents have learned lessons from their mistakes that can be passed on to a younger generation.
"If we don't draw upon that asset, it will be extremely wasted," Arneault said.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)