Several residents are honored at Follansbee Community Days dinner

MANY HONOREES — Several community members were recognized for their accomplishments and service to others during the Follansbee Community Days dinner Wednesday at St. Francis Centre. Honorees and participants included, from left, front, Mary Santilli-Kimberland, Judy Raveaux, guest speaker Raymond "Boom Boom" Mancini, Gabe Arlia and John Pizzuti, who introduced Mancini; and back, Mayor David Velegol Jr., who was master of ceremonies; James Rosso and Raymond Prantil. -- Contributed

FOLLANSBEE — As he opened the Follansbee Community Days Dinner Wednesday, Mayor David Velegol Jr. noted the festival, which returns next weekend, means many things to many people.

Some think of its parade, free nightly entertainment or fantastic fireworks display, he said, while others see it as an opportunity for family and friends to gather together.

Velegol noted it’s included a time to honor fellow citizens and Follansbee natives for their accomplishments and service to others, which was the dinner’s purpose.

Serving as guest speaker was Raymond “Boom Boom” Mancini, former lightweight boxing champion, who spoke of growing up in an ethnically diverse community in Youngstown and encouraged everyone to dream big while striving for good character.

Honored on Wednesday were:

≤ Judy Raveaux, who retired earlier this year as executive director of C.H.A.N.G.E Inc., ending a 39-year association with the community action agency, which provides health care, housing and other assistance to residents in need.

Under Raveaux’s direction, the agency’s budget grew from $50,000 to more than $17 million and its services were extended throughout the Northern Panhandle and Jefferson County.

Velegol noted C.H.A.N.G.E. Inc. provides free lunches to children at Follansbee Park and other local parks through a federal grant it’s received and offers medical and pharmaceutical services to those who are uninsured or underinsured.

He said in addition to serving on the state boards for the West Virginia Community Action Partnership and West Virginia Primary Care Association, she was the first female president of the Weirton Heights Rotary Club.

Raveaux was presented the Anthony Paesano Making a Difference Award, which is named for the former Follansbee mayor, chamber of commerce president and educator who established it.

– Raymond Prantil, a graduate of St. Anthony High School, where he was named all-conference in football, basketball and baseball, and West Liberty University, where he was first baseman on the school’s national championship baseball team in 1964.

He was named to the Athletic Hall of Fame for being named all-conference twice and an honorable mention all-American twice and set school records that stood for more than 30 years.

Prantil went on to coach at Dillonvale, Wheeling Central Catholic and Penn Hills high schools, serving at the latter school as lead assistant and defensive coordinator for four consecutive championship teams.

He also has owned an accounting business.

Prantil was presented the Lou Holtz Silver Spoon Award, which is named for the highly successful college football coach and sports commentator. Holtz said while his family had been poor, he felt he had been born with a silver spoon because he learned, as a Follansbee native, a strong work ethic and high moral principles.

– Mary Santilli-Kimberland, who has organized the Follansbee Youth Basketball League for eight years, raising funds to ensure all children could participate and raising its participation to more than 300 players.

She has volunteered her time to such efforts as a children’s Halloween event at Follansbee Park, a church-based distribution of Thanksgiving dinners to those in need and the Follansbee Community Days Committee, which she has served for 10 years.

She also has coached girls basketball for five years and baseball for four years while pursuing her studies, recently earning a master’s degree in special education.

– James Rosso, president of Waldorf Distributing and the third generation of the Rosso family to oversee the business, which distributes Anheuser-Busch and other beverages.

Velegol noted Waldorf was started 83 years ago in Follansbee by Rosso’s grandfather, Jimmy, an Italian immigrant; and was continued by his late father, Frank, with whom Rosso worked closely.

He added Rosso and his wife, Mary Margaret, have been active in the community through local schools and St. John Catholic Church, and he arranged for the Budweiser Clydesdale horses to appear at Community Days in 2006 and 2007.

Santilli-Kimberland and Rosso were presented Thank You for Shining awards. Velegol said the awards were inspired by the comment by President John F. Kennedy that “The sun does not always shine in West Virginia, but the people always do.”

– Gabriel Arlia, who came to the U.S. from Italy in 1936 and served from 1946 to 1949 in the Marine Corps and for 28 years in the Marine Corps Reserve, retiring as a master gunnery sergeant.

Velegol noted Arlia had expressed his pride in his country and military service through his role as unit commander of the Tri-State Young Marines for more than 20 years and the American Legion Post 10 Honor Guard.

“Gabe has a total of 56 years giving back to the community,” said Velegol, who presented to him the Major Benjamin Follansbee Award.

The award is named for the late Maj. Benjamin Follansbee, an Army Green Beret, Army Ranger and special forces commander in Iraq and Afghanistan and the son of Dr. William Follansbee, a descendant of the Follansbee brothers who operated the steel mill from which the city developed.

Velegol said the award bears the words, service, integrity, humility and courage, and Arlia epitomizes those qualities.

He added Arlia will serve as grand marshal of the Follansbee Community Days Parade, which will be held at 1 p.m. July 9 on Main Street (state Route 2).

Velegol also reflected on the volunteer efforts of the late Anthony “Butch” Rotellini, who stepped in to organize Community Days’ Howard “Howdy” Verner Car and Motorcycle Show after Verner died.

It was among many car shows Rotellini organized, with the help of others to raise funds for various charities including children’s hospitals supported by the Osiris Shrine, of which he was a member.

Community Days committee member Don Layburn said the event’s Best of Show award will be named in Rotellini’s honor.

Hosted by Lyle’s Auto Sales, the show will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 10, with registration to begin at 10 a.m. Food will be sold, and proceeds from the event will go to aiding those with juvenile diabetes.

The three-day festival will begin at 5 p.m. Friday in the Follansbee Community House parking lot by Follansbee Park, where assorted food, craft and other vendors can be found through Sunday night.

There will be inflatable attractions for children.

The entertainment lineup includes Twice as Nice and The Jersey Beach Boys’ tribute to the Four Seasons, the Beach Boys and others, Friday beginning at 6:30 p.m.; The Fantasies and Pittsburgh 50s greats The Skyliners Saturday beginning at 6 p.m.; and oldies rock and roll group The Fabulous Gemtones, British Legends Tribute, a Canadian group that performs songs by the BeeGees, Elton John and others, July 10 beginning at 6 p.m.

The last night will conclude with a fireworks display at about 11 p.m.

The festival is co-chaired by Tom Ludewig and Nina Meca.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com.)


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *


Starting at $4.73/week.

Subscribe Today