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Community lends a hand to Keno Beezer

PHILIPSBURG — When Philipsburg legend William “Keno” Beezer, 80, had some health and financial difficulties, the community stepped up and helped him out.

Beezer, who is a bachelor and lives alone, fell outside his house and injured his arm last April, according to his friend Faith Macguire, of Philipsburg.

Beezer said he was letting his dogs out when he fell.

Macguire said he was found outside by some friends, and despite objections from Beezer, they called an ambulance, which brought him to Penn Highlands Clearfield for treatment, where it was discovered he was also suffering from an infection for which he hadn’t sought treatment. She said his infection was so bad he probably would have died in a day or two if he hadn’t been taken to the hospital.

And when he was released from the hospital he still wasn’t healthy enough to walk.

Like many retired people, Beezer had been struggling with his bills and health and she realized that the person who helped countless people over the years, now needed help.

Beezer was the director of the Philipsburg YMCA from 1973 to 2010. While there, Beezer and Judy Sinclair, who Beezer said was a secretary in title, but in reality was more of an assistant director, ran the successful after school program where they helped numerous area children.

And when a child needed help, for example if they didn’t have enough money to buy shoes for school or to play sports, Beezer would pay for them out of his own pocket.

“Keno was always taking care of kids in the area,” Maguire said. “He would use his last two pennies to help a kid.”

And if a student needed help getting into college, Beezer would write letters and call college administrators to help them and work to get them scholarship money.

And when the YMCA was struggling financially, Beezer didn’t take a salary for months, maybe years, so the other employees would get paid, Macguire said.

Because he was helping so many people out, people erroneously assumed he had a lot of money, Maguire said.

But Beezer gave much of the praise to the dedicated employees and the volunteers at the Philipsburg YMCA, many of whom have been there for decades.

“They are amazing,” Beezer said.

He also said the community always supported the YMCA and donated generously to the organization.

But now, Beezer who never asked for help in his life, had health problems and a lot of bills, and needed help himself so Maguire said she set up a GoFundMe account on the internet so people could donate money to Beezer to help him out in his time of need.

She said the response was overwhelming. And Beezer, who turned 80 last month, received so many calls and birthday cards from people who Beezer had helped over the years, Maguire said.

“The first two months we cried every day reading these stories” Macgure said.

She said he was getting cards from people he hadn’t spoken to in 35 years

She said at first she set the goal for the GoFundMe account at $2,000. The first donation on the GoFundMe account was $1,000 from a former player he helped get into college.

“He did everything he could to get kids into higher education,” Maguire said. “And boy did they come back and thank him.”

“The money kept pouring in,” Maguire said.

At last count the GoFundMe page raised more than $28,000 for Beezer and that doesn’t include the many who sent money to Beezer directly.

She said Beezer was definitely in need. He lived alone and because of his health his house needed a lot of work.

“His towels had more holes than Heinz has pickles,” Maguire said.

She said 10 women who were once in his after school program as children came over and spent all day cleaning his house. And when Pizza Hut found out what they were doing they sent pizzas over to them free of charge.

People began showing up at his house to help out. They installed new carpets, new furniture and appliances, installed new screens on his windows, etc.

“It was crazy how many people were showing up and asking to help,” Maguire said.

Beezer became emotional when talking about what people have done for him.

“I am very lucky,” he said.

Beezer said he always loved baseball but he wasn’t a good player. But because he sat the bench so much he would sit by his coach and picked his brain during the games. He said he learned a lot from his coaches and became a coach himself at the age of 17.

His first job, he said, was working for the family funeral home. He later became an accountant working for several local companies. And in 1970 he became a scout for the Montreal Expos.

He was a scout for the Expos from 1970-1973 and was a scout for the Major League Scouting Bureau from 1977 until three years ago. He said he got his start with the Major League Scouting Bureau when the athletic director at SCI-Rockview, who was from South Philipsburg, asked him to take a look at a 27-year-old inmate who was a good baseball player and about to complete his eight-year prison sentence.

So Beezer said he went to Rockview and watched him play and saw that he was a terrific baseball player and wrote a letter of recommendation to a scout he knew. The scout came over and watched him play and agreed.

The player was about to sign a contract with a Major League Baseball team when the commissioner of baseball intervened and wouldn’t allow it because of his criminal record.

“I thought he should have been given a chance,” Beezer said. “He served his time and had turned his life around.”

But the scout he had written to offered him a job with the Major League Scouting Bureau.

As a scout for the bureau, he would study talent in Pennsylvania and write reports on them that would be read by all 30 Major League teams and based on those reports the teams would send their own scouts to look at the players.

And from 1980 to 2017 Beezer held a tryout camp at the baseball field at Philipsburg Osceola Area High School where many of the top young baseball players from all over the country would come to play. Some of whom would go onto sign multi-million contracts with Major League baseball teams, including Philipsburg’s own Matt Adams, who recently played for the Atlanta Braves, Ian Happ who plays 2nd/3rd base for the Chicago Cubs and pitcher Brandon McKay who was the fourth overall pick in the 2017 MLB draft and plays for the Tampa Bay Rays.

He said usually about 25 Major League Baseball teams would send scouts to Philipsburg to watch players at the camp. Baseball stars too would come to the camp to speak with the kids including people like Steve Blass, Chuck Tanner and Brooks Robinson, Beezer said.

He said the best player he ever saw play at the camp was a 16-year-old player from Williamsport named Mike Mussina. He said Mussina could hit, pitch and play the field. He was also being recruited to be a kicker on the Penn State Football team.

“That kid could do everything,” Beezer said.

Mussina was drafted in 1987 by the Baltimore Orioles but he instead decided to go to college at Stanford University where he would play in the College World Series. After gradating from Stanford in 1990, Mussina was an ace pitcher for the Orioles and the New York Yankees, a five-time All Star and a seven-time Gold Glove winner and was inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame last year.

These days Beezer said he takes it day by day, sees his doctors and tries to take care of his health. And several friends like Maguire come over every day to help out.

But Beezer said he still watches baseball on television, usually the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are currently one of the worst teams in Major League Baseball.

“Apparently I like to watch the Pirates lose,” Beezer said with a laugh.

Flag waving ceremony in St. Marys commemorates Sept. 11

ST. MARYS — Community members gathered on the Diamond in downtown St. Marys Friday to commemorate Sept. 11 and all of the lives lost on that day 19 years ago.

Wreaths Across America of Elk County Founder Dolly Wehler said this is the first time the flag-waving ceremony has been held on Patriot Day.

WAA members, Elk County Catholic and St. Marys Area school students, police officers and others were seen waving American flags at the same times the planes hit the Twin Towers in New York City in 2001 – 8:46 a.m. and 9:03 a.m., while church bells also rang across town.

The St. Marys Servicemen’s Burial Detail led the ceremony.

Mayor Lou Radkowski, the first speaker, said Sept. 11, 2001, is a day no one will ever forget.

“May we never forget the thousands that died on Sept. 11 across the country, may we never forget the families affected by that, may we never forget the military and the veterans who have gone off to protect us in the course of the after effects of 9/11,” he said.

Elk County Catholic School System President Sam MacDonald said he can remember where he was on Patriot Day 19 years ago — Washington D.C. It took him hours to figure out what was going on, he said, and he was in a building that had to be evacuated.

“Events like this are so important — these kids weren’t born at that time,” he said of the students in attendance. “Thank you to Dolly Wehler for putting this together and keeping this memory alive.”

ECCS student Mara Lecker sang the National Anthem, and other students also spoke about the day.

Wehler said this is the perfect time to display “unity” and American pride.

Wehler thanked everyone for coming, and told the audience about a personal friend of hers who was in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, and still suffers the impact of it today, having been diagnosed with cancer.

“Those are the people who are heroes today,” she said. “I hope we do this every year. It’s a great way to honor those who are gone, and those who survived.”

Wehler noted that St. Marys Catholic Elementary School also was hosting a flag ceremony at the school, featuring a local fire truck, singing and commemorating the day.

For more information, visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.

Punxsutawney Area Hospital partners with UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

PUNXSUTAWNEY — The Punxsutawney Area Hospital is proud to announce a new partnership with UPMC Hillman Cancer Center that will bring world renowned cancer care to the region beginning September 14th.

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center is one of the largest integrated cancer networks in the nation with nearly 80 cancer centers throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland and internationally. It’s also the only National Cancer Institute designated comprehensive cancer center in western Pennsylvania and one of just 51 such centers in the United States.

Now, as a partner with the Punxsutawney Area Hospital, residents in this community will have access to the highest level of cancer treatment without having to travel.

At Punxsutawney Area Hospital, patients come first, “We are elated to offer the expertise of leading physicians, researchers, and programs in our community while providing optimal care in this partnership with UPMC.” said Daniel Blough, CEO of Punxsutawney Area Hospital.

Joining the Punxsutawney Area Hospital team will be two board certified hematology oncologists. Boriana Kamenova, M.D. and Gopala Amarnath Ramineni, M.D. both have years of experience in cancer treatment caring for patients most recently at the nearby Indiana Regional Medical Center.

“The UPMC Hillman Cancer Center model of care provides the highest level of cancer treatment, the same that patients receive if they traveled to our flagship center in Pittsburgh, without having to make that trip,” said Stephanie Dutton, vice president and chief operating officer at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. “This means patients will have access to groundbreaking research, hundreds of clinical trials and medical oncologists who are right in the Punxsutawney area.”