Blue Mountain’s Best | A Retrospective: 2013-14

A new year is a time for reflection. One of my favorite parts of being editor for the Gazette has been bringing you, the readers, inspiring stories from people in your own neighborhoods. Before I start bringing in new ones for 2015, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at the people who have made the feature what it is now, by going all the way back to its inception in October of 2013. If you’ve missed any of these people’s stories along the way, here’s everything you need to know, plus where to find them on our website.


Who: Darin Weidner

What: Volunteer firefighter

Where: Klecknersville Vol. Fire Co. in Bath

When: October 2013

Why: BMB kicked off during National Fire Prevention Month, so we decided to introduce the community to a man who has devoted his entire life to putting himself literally in the line of fire.

On his experience as Pit Fire Supervisor at Pocono Speedway: “You’re right in the middle of it. Guys are throwing wheels over your head. When a car drops down, if you turn your head for a second, there’s a chance of catching a lug nut to the face. It’s the excitement.”—Darin Weidner

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2Who: Anthony George

What: 15-day summer trip with People-to-People

Where: From Cherryville to Sydney and back

When: November 2013

Why: Anthony’s mother Jeanine contacted us and I thought his story was one other kids might use to become involved with P-to-P themselves.

On making friends in a foreign country: “Kids there are really the same as us, just from a different place with a different accent.”—Anthony George

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3Who: Jake Marunich

What: A high school student with a championship title in drag racing.

Where: Slatington

When: December 2013

Why: His sister, impressed with his achievements, reached out on his behalf.

On the advantage of racing at Numidia Dragway: “You meet so many people from all around the country at each race. People will travel the whole weekend just to come to this track, because it’s the nicest location in the area.”—Jake Marunich

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4Who: Nick Pope

What: A runner tackling monthly races in the name of brain-injured children.

Where: England originally, now Pen Argyl

When: January 2014

Why: Nick’s selfless dedication to running marathons to raise money he’ll never see was truly inspiring.

On how he keeps moving: “It’s willpower; you either have it or you don’t. This was never on my bucket list, it’s not something I dreamt of. But I have to do it. You either want to or you don’t. You’ve got to do it, because if you stop, it’s like anything else—you can’t just not feel like it.”—Nick Pope

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5Who: Robert Berger and Michelle Raber

What: Northern Lehigh Community Center

Where: Slatingon

When: February 2014

Why: A decades-long project is finally approaching fruition.

On why they’ve been working so hard for so long: “When I came here and saw the kids who don’t play organized sports; they have nothing to do. That drove me to work on this project, to help them.”—Michelle Raber

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Who: Ned Richards

What: WALN radio DJ

Where: Allentown

When: March 2014

Why: Celebrating 45 years in radio broadcasting

On bringing rock-and-roll to radio: “There was a Presbyterian minister who said ‘the devil has arrived in Belfast’ when I started. He complained week after week that I was some long-haired hippie from Woodstock. So three weeks later, I went to his church in a shirt and tie with my short hair and I sat and listened to his service. Afterward, he came up to me and said, ‘young man, this is the first time I’ve seen you here, can I ask you your name?’ And I said, ‘Satan.’ He didn’t know what to say!”—Ned Richards

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7Who: Roger “Corky” Sell

What: Owner/operator of Slatington Airport

Where: Slatington

When: April 2014

Why: Corky has an extensive aviation background that started with his first solo flight at age 16.

On owning his own plane: “I can fly whenever I want, that’s what’s nice about it. I’ll take a plane out and fly around for 20-30 minutes over the Poconos. I call them mental health flights, because you come back and life’s great.”—Corky Sell

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Who: Scott Ellis

What: Devoted biker aiming to raise $100K for multiple sclerosis

Where: Danielsville

When: May 2014

Why: Scott participates in 4-5 bike rides a year to raise money for MS research.

On continuing to bike even past his dad’s death: “Everybody has their connection to whatever disease and mission in life and MS is just mine. It took my dad at 65. It took him long before that. The first year I don’t do it is gonna feel weird; I’ll feel guilty as hell. That’s the way I am.”—Scott Ellis

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Who: Gene Salvatore

What: President of Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 855

Where: Slatington

When: June 2014

Why: Gene advocates strongly for the EAA Young Eagles program … and has been known to give a Gazette editor a joy ride now and then.

On why small planes and airports still matter: “When you create a mile of roadway, you can go a mile. When you open up a mile of runway, the entire world can come to you. And people don’t realize this, that you still have to learn to fly the little airplanes before you can fly the big airplanes.”—Gene Salvatore

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Who: Becky’s Drive-In

What: One of the longest-running and most popular drive-in movie theaters in the Lehigh Valley

Where: Walnutport

When: July 2014

Why: The history of the Beck family and how Becky’s got to be what it is today was a perfect summer story.

On the ever-lasting appeal of a drive-in: “First, we’re cheaper than most indoor houses with reasonable prices both for tickets and food. Then you’re getting two movies for the price of one. And I also think it’s nice that kids can come in their PJs. During the first movie, they might be a little rambunctious, but by the second one, they’re passed out and Mom and Dad can enjoy some quiet time.”—Cindy Beck-Deppe

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11Who: Slatington Public Library

What: A place for book lovers to meet since 1936

Where: Slatington

When: August 2014

Why: Slatington’s librarians are always trying to find ways to make ends meet in order to keep books available to the community.

On why libararies are still relevant in the digital age: “I think we’re accessible and user-friendly and free and it’s so varied. That’s what keeps it interesting. On any given day, I could be doing IT or cataloging or checking people out … and I want to find homes for all the books. I just want to get books into hands.”—Louise Bechtel

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Who: Martin Guitar

What: The guitar-making legend and pride of Nazareth

Where: Nazareth (and Africa)

When: September 2014

Why: The music mogul partnered with The Nature Conservancy in an admirable attempt to slow the demand for ivory and spread awareness about elephant protection.

On their progress and impact so far: “The key is, we can get all excited in America and we can give all this money, but we can’t legislate what goes on in Africa. What has to happen is, the people in Asia have to realize where the ivory’s coming from. Right now, they’re in denial. It’s a work in progress, but I am hearing that word is getting out in China that you should be embarrassed for using ivory.”—Chris Martin

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13Who: Fiorella Reginelli-Mirabito

What: Mayor of Bath

Where: Bath

When: October 2014

Why: As a breast cancer survivor herself, Fi orchestrated Turn Bath Pink, a month-long volunteer-driven fundraiser.

On her love for her little town: “This is where my parents made their money, this is where I grew up, this is where I became involved with Girl Scouts and the choir. And when you go through something like breast cancer, everything changes, especially what you’re thankful for. I’m thankful for this. I’m thankful for my business, that I’ve raised two sons here. I am eternally forever grateful for this place.”—Fi Mirabito

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14Who: Humble Hearts of Hope

What: Nonprofit organization that sends monthly care packages to deployed troops

Where: Nazareth

When: November 2014

Why: HHFH is committed to providing soldiers, as well as their families left at home, with the things they need for daily life.

On what they do and how they’re able to do it: “Many of these women don’t want their husbands to worry when they’re away; we helped someone who had lost her job by giving her groceries. When he came home for the weekend, the kitchen was full. We’ve paid rent, utilities, given gift cards for food. We post these stories on Facebook and the community is just so generous.”—Brenda Detweiler

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Who: Carbon CART (County Animal Response Team)

What: Carbon chapter of a state-wide emergency animal service

Where: Carbon County

When: December 2014

Why: Many people aren’t aware that there is someone to call if, say, a car accident has both human and animal victims.

On how their situational impact relies on teamwork: “You have to be confident in your group. We’re getting to see our goals of working with different organizations in the county come true, with our fire and police and rescues. It’s just starting to happen for all of us. Part of helping people and their animals is having the confidence of knowing what we’re doing, otherwise it’s just chaos. We work to serve. You have to work with people if you work with animals.”—Michelle Beckett

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DO YOU KNOW A PERSON OR NONPROFIT DESERVING OF COMMUNITY RECOGNITION? Email me at and tell me about them. They could be featured in an upcoming issue!


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