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USMC Ret. Sgt. Major Parisi laid to rest in Arlington with full military honors


ARLINGTON, Va. — USMC Ret. Sgt. Major Todd Parisi of St. Marys made it to his final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery Wednesday.

Approximately 200 family, friends and members of the military came together to mourn and to watch Parisi, 49, buried with full military honors in Section 55 of the sprawling Virginia cemetery, where the rolling green hills are covered with rows of white tombstones marking the graves of more than 400,000 people, including active duty service members, veterans and their families.

Members of the USMC band marched at the head of the funeral procession, which included a horse-drawn caisson from the Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment, or the Old Guard, that helped carry Parisi’s flag-draped casket. There were also the body bearers, a six-man Marine casket team, a four-man color guard, an escort platoon, a rifle-firing party, a bugler, and U.S. Navy Chaplain Lt. Commander Brian Arant, who would lead the service.

Parisi’s family walked at the head of the column of mourners who came behind the casket.

Military funeral honors are usually reserved for officers, according to Director of Public Affairs Barbara M. Lewandrowski. But because Parisi was a retired Sgt. Major, an E-9, the highest enlisted man in the Marine Corps, he was entitled to full military honors.

“It’s very unusual that we have that here, it just doesn’t happen very often. It’s pretty grand,” Lewandrowski said.

Following the 20-minute funeral service, the members of the firing party fired three volleys, and a bugler played “Taps.” Other music played during the service included “Onward Christian Soldiers” and the Marine Corps Hymn.

The flag draped on Parisi’s casket was then beautifully folded and presented to Parisi’s son, U.S. Army Private First Class Dylan Parisi, by USMC Sgt. Major Matthew Hackett.

“We conduct 30 funerals a day at Arlington each day Monday through Friday, plus six to eight each Saturday,” Lewandrowski said.

How many attend each funeral service varies, she said.

“I’ve seen a thousand people at a funeral. I’ve seen nobody at a funeral,” Lewandrowski, who has worked at the cemetery for more than 20 years, said.

She noted that Section 55 is also the area where Vietnam-war era Medal of Honor recipient retired Marine Col. Wesley Fox is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Parisi, who was also a highly esteemed motivational speaker, died on March 29 at his home after a battle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A memorial service was held April 5 in the Sacred Heart Parish Center gymnasium, where hundreds gathered to pay their final respects.

He was also the co-founder of the local youth group, The Spartans. That group would come to grow, within a short time, beyond 300 members, spreading good deeds throughout the area.

Sgt. Maj. Todd M. Parisi enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in October of 1985 and entered recruit training in September 1986 at 2D Battalion, Company F, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina.

Upon graduation as a private first class, he attended the Infantry Training School at Camp Geiger, North Carolina, and graduated as the Bravo Company Honor man and was assigned the MOS of 0311 and promoted to lance corporal. After completing training as an infantryman, he was assigned to Marine Barracks Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines, for Security Force duty where he served from March 1987 until September 1988.

He then transferred to 1st Battalion 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, where he served as a scout/scout-sniper. He remained there until September 1991.

During his assignment with 1st Battalion 7th Marines, Parisi served as a scout-sniper team leader during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm with Task Force Ripper. He was selected the 1995 Rookie of the Year, Recruiter of the Year in 1996, and was the Centurion Award recipient in 1997. He also served in support of Iraqi Freedom. In 2011, he assumed duties as the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, deploying forward as the senior enlisted advisor for the theater response force in support of real world contingencies.

Parisi’s personal awards include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal (with gold star in lieu of second award), Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal (with three gold stars in lieu of fourth award), Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal (with gold star in lieu of second award), the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, the Combat Action Ribbon, and he was also the recipient of the Major General Clayton B. Vogel Award for leadership excellence in the 2nd Marine Division.

THE PERFECT BLEND: Curwensville coffee shop considers every customer 'a friend'

CURWENSVILLE — Two best friends and Curwensville coffee lovers have found the “perfect blend” in their downtown business.

Shelby Woodring and Kristy Goodman have only been friends for a few years, but say they feel like they’ve known each other forever.

Both women moved to Curwensville for different reasons, and met through their former jobs. They bonded over both being “outsiders” in town, and agreed they needed a place to go for a good cup of joe.

My Friends Coffee Co. on State Street will officially open Monday, and have its grand opening celebration Saturday, Aug. 11. The grand opening will include “Coffee with the Queen,” featuring this year’s Clearfield County Fair queen, a “craft and sip” walk-in event and drawing the winner for their free coffee for a year prize.

Throughout the past nine months, “the stars have aligned” for these two women, and everything fell into place for their new business. The shop is made up of separately-bought furniture pieces that somehow fit together perfectly. The colors of the walls, tables and chairs are cheerfully bright and inviting.

“People bond over a cup of coffee,” Goodman says. “It’s that warmth and comfortability you feel when you’re drinking it with someone. We wanted people to be comfortable and cozy and to feel good here.”

The residents of Curwensville have opened their hearts to a new business, and more importantly, to new friends. Everyone has been willing to lend a hand to see each other succeed, and they’re surrounded by “that hometown feel,” Woodring says. Their landlords renovated the shop space for them, and other area business owners have donated items or shared encouraging words of support.

Woodring and Goodman both say the risks they have taken to open the shop have been nothing compared to the blessings.

Several small openings were held throughout the month of July, where the women ran a fully-functioning coffee shop and took in all the feedback and first impressions the community had to offer. The response was “invaluable” when it comes to making the shop what it is today.

They both share a love for coffee and community, and their first priority is making sure their customers know they’ll be treated like family, the women said.

Even prior to their official opening, My Friends Coffee Co. has welcomed back many regulars – people who stop in for their cup of joe in the morning, and again later in the day.

“Our customers were strangers and have become our friends – it’s in our name,” Woodring said. “We know their lives and their stories and where they come from. We see them walking down the street and we know they’re headed for our shop. It’s an amazing feeling. This is what we wanted.”

They are now known locally and recognized around town as “the coffee girls,” the women said. It has become much more than a business – it’s who they are.

“We are taking the time to get to know people and faces,” Goodman said. “We take the time to get to know them like they got to know us.”

The women have similar upbringings and core values, which helps them as business partners. They work on empowering and understanding each other to make the business, and their friendship, stronger, and “compliment each other in the greatest ways,” Goodman adds.

They also plan to give back to the community, since the community has been so receptive and kind to them. They have held a Chinese auction and donated proceeds to the fire department, and will offer discounts for first responders and military personnel.

Once it was decided to open a coffee shop, Woodring and Goodman dedicated themselves to doing it right. They even attended a three-day coffee convention in Baltimore, where they took classes and studied the importance of good, freshly-ground coffee.

Customers can enjoy a cup of coffee in a variety of ways, including hot or iced or a frozen frappe. They can also try a flavored Italian soda or frozen hot chocolate.

The shop will offer everyday food items, like flavored dips, homemade chicken noodle soup, baked goods, wraps and fruit. Products will be available for people with celiac disease, diabetics, vegans and vegetarians and people with dairy allergies. New menu items will be introduced in the future after they’ve been sampled, tested and perfected.

“We are here for you as people, friends and as a business,” Woodring said. “We truly take the steps to do the right things and make sure people are taken care of.”

For more information, visit My Friends Coffee Co. on Facebook.

Friend remembers Parisi: "Everyone needs a Todd"

ARLINGTON, Va. — Dean Erich of DuBois, and his wife, Kristy, were among the couple of hundred people who traveled to Arlington National Cemetery Wednesday to pay their final respects to USMC Ret. Sgt. Major Todd Parisi of St. Marys.

Having been great friends with Parisi for the last 40 years, Erich said the Marine has always been the most unselfish person he’s ever met.

“He knew how to light up a room, no wonder he was voted class clown in school,” Erich reflected shortly after full military honors were rendered for Parisi at Arlington.

“I could always count on Todd to be a true friend and speak the truth, even when it hurt, and follow that with a laugh,” Erich said. “He learned his unconditional love and loyalty from the best, his Dad, Louie, who is here today walking in his son’s procession while challenging cancer.”

Erich said he came to Arlington with a picture in his pocket that Parisi had given him.

“On the back he (Parisi) wrote that I am like a brother and I’ve given him inspiration,” Erich said. “Wow, that’s probably the best compliment I’ve ever received, because it was from him.”

An emotional Erich continued, saying that “everyone needs a Todd and I was blessed to have him, but I am heartbroken that he left us so early.”

But as Erich looked up, he saw a huge U.S. Flag.

“It’s Todd. He is still with me,” Erich said.

Woman, boy killed in crash

MADERA — State police say a woman and a 7-year-old boy were killed in a two-vehicle crash in Bigler Township, Clearfield County, Friday.

Clearfield-based state police report that around 11:30 a.m., Sara J. Shaw, 29, Houtzdale, was driving a 2009 Chevrolet Cobalt north on Route 53 (Main Street) when she lost control of the vehicle on a left turn and it traveled into the path of an oncoming 2005 Peterbilt truck driven by John E. Skebeck, 64, Patton. Skebeck was unable to avoid a collision; the truck’s front end struck the left side of the Cobalt.

Police said Shaw was pronounced dead at the scene. The child was taken to UPMC Altoona, where he was later pronounced dead. Skebeck was not injured.

Police are continuing their investigation.


Redbank Valley hires former Brockway administrator as interim superintendent

NEW BETHLEHEM — A former Brockway Area School District administrator was hired earlier this week as the interim superintendent at Redbank Valley School District.

In a 6-3 vote during a special meeting called on Tuesday, July 31, the nine members of the Redbank Valley School Board officially hired Dan Hawkins as the district’s acting superintendent until a full-time chief administrator is hired. Hawkins retired from his post as Brockway Area School District superintendent at the end of the 2017-18 school year.

Explaining his no vote, school board member Dee Bell told his fellow board members that his decision was based solely on the expense the district will incur as a result of the hiring.

“We’re already running in place and never getting ahead,” Bell said, noting that his vote was not a vote against Hawkins personally. “I’m sure he’s a great guy. I’ll work with him and support him any way I can.”

During the course of his 37-year career, according to reports, Hawkins served as a special education and emotional support teacher at the Intermediate Unit, before moving to the position of special education supervisor where he managed 40 teachers in Brockway, DuBois and Punxsutawney. From there, Hawkins became an assistant principal at DuBois Area Junior High School. He then had the opportunity to move to director of special education, and eventually became the principal at DuBois Area Middle School. He served in that position until 2009, when he moved to the Brockway Area School District as the superintendent.

Hawkins takes the reigns at Redbank Valley following the unexpected departure of Michael Drzewiecki, who served as Redbank’s superintendent since 2010.

Drzewiecki’s departure came as a result of an agreement of separation between the district and the former administrator effective June 30.

Drzewiecki, who has been on family medical leave since April 24, issued a joint statement with the district last week, stating that it was likely that the leave would have to extend through next year.

“Both agreed that the need for continued leadership of the Redbank Valley School District and Mr. Drzewiecki’s long-term family medical needs were best served through the development of this agreement,” the statement reads. “Both expressed a mutual appreciation for each other moving forward and the continued dedication to provide quality learning opportunities for the students of Redbank Valley School.”

Drzewiecki’s current contract with the district was set to expire June 30, 2020.

The separation agreement was struck prior to the school board learning that Drzewiecki had been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol on May 31. The charges stemmed from an incident that reportedly took place in the early morning hours of Friday, April 27, at the Sugarcreek Borough Police Department in Venango County.

Since Drzewiecki’s departure, Redbank Valley High School principal Amy Rupp has been serving as acting superintendent until an interim could be hired. When Hawkins begins his duties at Redbank Valley next week, Rupp will return to her position as high school principal, but will aid in the transition.

According to the terms of Hawkins’ contract with the district, he will receive $500 per diem for up to 15 days per month.

Redbank Valley is accepting applications for a full-time superintendent through Aug. 24.