Friday, October 5, 2007

Love List #20

My Dad.

He has moved back to his hometown in PA and is the one making the difference! He had a goal to light up this kinda forgotten, steel mining city...and is very well on his way!

Published: September 21, 2007
Working tirelessly to improve city

Anthony Gergely inspired by former mayor
The Tribune-Democrat

Anthony Gergely’s bridge-lighting mission has been nothing short of amazing. Wednesday’s dedication program marked the official completion of his effort to light the Minersville Bridge west of downtown Johnstown.

Victorian-style lampposts and matching sconces have been installed. It’s the seventh city bridge to be lighted in 21/2 years through his fundraising efforts.

What’s particularly noteworthy is that all the work has been done without tax dollars.

That’s almost unbelievable.

“I once turned down a $5,000 check from the lieutenant governor’s office,” he said. “I told the aide, ‘That would defeat the whole purpose.’ She wrote a personal check and gave it to me. I think that’s why a lot of people are willing to donate.”

Gergely figures he’s raised about $65,000. He estimates that each of his projects takes about $7,000 plus volunteer efforts from electrical contractors.

Still to be done are the Hornerstown and Woodvale bridges, a bridge on Central Avenue near Greater Johnstown High School and the Inclined Plane bridge.

Those projects could be done as early as the end of October, he said.

Adding to this heartwarming story is the fact that the 74-year-old Gergely, who contracted polio at a young age, gets around with crutches and a motorized scooter.

He credits former Johnstown Mayor Don Zucco for getting his civic juices flowing.

“I saw the mayor cutting grass (at the parklet near the Bedford Street exit of the Johnstown bypass.) It started the whole thing. I thought, if he could do something, I could do something.”

The former chief executive has also been a mentor: “I’ve checked with Zucco over the years on my ideas and he’s kept me on track.”

Gergely’s fundraising includes a lot of letter-writing.

“I write about 50 letters a week,” he said. “I’ve gotten money from as far away as Ireland and Canada and from 39 states.”

The names of those who help or donate are included in plaques installed on the bridges.

Other projects this visionary has talked about over the years includes planting vines along the city’s river walls, a fountain in the Stonycreek River at Sandyvale Cemetery, and building a parking platform over the Stonycreek behind the War Memorial Arena.

His next project? “I’m still looking for a job,” he said. “I’ve applied for two jobs and never got an interview. I like to work and I want to work.”

He also says he’s on a mission to make Cambria County more handicapped-friendly as far as the aspect of mobility.

Does he ever get discouraged raising funds?

“The negative aspect never enters my mind,” he said.

Gergely was named the Kiwanis Club Man of the Year for 2004. After 30 years away, Johnstown is fortunate to have him back home.

I am fortunate to have him as a dad and a grandfather to my daughter.

No comments: