When I was growing up in Brockway, my dad was driving a ’40 Ford coupe that he had purchased from Clarence “Red” McKinley who had a repair shop in the building that was the former site of Paris Manufacturing and later became the foundation for the VSI headquarters along the DuBois Road. My dad dealt at Carl Fiddler’s Garage on Main Street just west of the intersection of Routes 28 and 219 in a building that became part of Brockway Pressed Metals and has now been replaced by a modern two-story office building as part of the Varischetti Holdings.
Although I began my car-ownership career with a Chevy from a dealership in DuBois, I soon followed my family tradition and bought a Ford from John Verne who had his business in the building across from the Gankosky’s Esso Station, which was purchased by a group led by industrialist Marshall Jetty to become Brockway Pressed Metals and currently the site of Phoenix Sintered Metals. The Ford franchise was relocated to a new building just out of town along the DuBois Road, which is now the home of Apple Tractor. The new Ford garage was owned by John Coxon for a while and later by Cameron Dungan. I started to deal there and even bought a new pickup from that location.
I became well-acquainted with the staff as I had my car and truck inspected, greased and the oil changed that included mechanic Bud McKinley (son of the salesman who sold my dad his Ford); Lindo Cristini who ran a small body shop in one corner of the building and went on to develop an “Automobile Recycling Yard” up on Route 153 above Brockport and expanded into sales of used vehicles, where he now displays quality, good-looking used vehicles in his lot at the corner of Maple Avenue and Shaffer Road in DuBois; and a salesman named Fran Morelli.
A frequent visitor was contractor Frank Varischetti who stopped in for parts to keep his backhoe in working order. The last three of them and I were about the same age and school contemporaries – they were from Horton School and Ridgway High School while I had come through the Brockway School System. Over the next 60 years or so, I followed their lives and careers
It has been easy to follow the career of Fran Morelli because he has been everywhere out in the public eye. Before his job at the Ford garage, he had done mechanic work at Bob Schuckers’ Gulf Station on Main Street. He partnered with Joe Capetta to service and sell International Scout vehicles at Crenshaw. That job led him into the sales position at the Ford garage and on to ownership of the Quaker State Gas Station on east Main Street, now Snyder’s Mufflers and More. There he opened his own car sales lot, and soon relocated along the DuBois Road in a place he called “Fran Morelli Sales and Service.”
In 1984, he purchased a fast food stand that was next door and restyled it into “Morelli’s Family Restaurant; and assumed the role of bus contractor that he called “Morelli’s Bus Lines.” All have become major businesses for him while serving on a variety of community and church organizations. Now somewhat retired as is his good friend Lindo Cristini, Fran can sit back and watch his kids run the business while buying and selling classic and antique cars, hunting, golfing, traveling, working around his own house and lawn, and spending time with his wife Linda and their grandchildren.
Meanwhile, right out of high school, Frank Varischetti had found a job as operator of a road roller for the contractor building the new Route 153 road over the mountain from Brockport to Penfield. After obtaining an old Ford backhoe and a small Studebaker dump truck, he began digging ditches and hauling dirt. With a little cash in his pocket, Frank bought George Morrison’s garbage truck and a customer list and started Varischetti Sanitation, working out of the old Olmsted Barn, which stood midway between the current Teener Baseball field and the site of the former Bedner Apartments.
It was somewhere during this time-frame, that I became better acquainted with Frank, and met his older boys in school. As our dairy business grew, we contacted his company to tear out some of the existing cow stalls for renovation of our dairy barn. One evening as this was underway, Frank pulled in to check the progress. Although wearing his good clothes and shoes, he couldn’t resist temptation and I walked in, to discover Frank running the jack hammer with a big smile on his face. That’s the way he was – never ask anyone to do any job that he could not or would not do himself.
As the demands for garbage disposal grew, so did the business until it moved into the site on the big curve along Route 219 south of town. He successfully developed and opened the Greentree Landfill in Elk County. Never one to turn down a good business deal, Frank eventually accepted the purchase offer of Browning-Ferris Industries, Inc. and stepped down from the day-to-day grind of the business, only to ease into a variety of all-new ventures that would provide ample jobs for his boys as needed over their lifetimes.
Frank’s own lifetime turned out to be short as he passed away on August 22, 2002, at the early age of 63. His sons became leaders of the family operation with the guidance and support of his widow Barbara. Most people will identify with the “Frank Varischetti All-Star football game that began in 2016 and the Sunday evening concert series at the Legion Stage in Taylor Park, which started in 2017. Having recognized the fine recreational facilities in and around Brockway’s Taylor Memorial Park, the Varischetti Family Foundation has sponsored a variety of family activities this summer including Sunday evening music programs from the Legion Stage and an annual “Family Day.”
Family Day was held this year on Saturday, August 11, with steady entertainment in the park from sun-up to sun-set; local non-profit food stands with all favorite food items and drinks; acrobatics and high actions on pogo sticks; and a whole ballfield’s worth of giant inflatables to bounce, climb and slide for kids. What a wonderful family day!
The former Paris Manufacturing Building, after extensive remodeling and renovation, is known as the VSI Building and houses the corporate offices of Guardian LTC Management Inc. Doing business as Guardian Elder Care, the company operates a total of 65 healthcare communities and skilled nursing facilities in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia offering services in the areas of independent living, long-term care, short-term care, personal care, home and community care, rehabilitation, Alzheimer care, and pharmacy.
Along with everyone else from the Brockway area, I have seen the results of the creation of the Frank Varischetti Foundation, established in 2007 to commemorate the late Frank Varischetti while carrying on his vision of bettering communities and helping others. There has been the construction of a new canoe launch near Little Vinyard along Little Toby Creek in collaboration with the Toby Creek Watershed Association.
We have all witnessed rehabilitation, renewal, and creation of several key industries; cleanup of blighted areas around town; sponsoring a beautiful “Brockway History/Heritage” mural by the bridge over Toby Creek; retrofitting the former office building of Brockway Glass into a highly useful building with modern housing units and space for a variety of educational facilities; transforming a worn-down mansion on Main Street into the beautifully renovated and landscaped Maple Shade Mansion; and construction of a modern office building along Main Street to house “Varischetti Holdings, LLC”.
Fran Morelli and the late Frank Varischetti all came from humble beginnings up in Elk County and they drifted down into the Brockway community where they were shaped into the kind and generous men who people remember today. Now the Morelli and Varischetti families have all taken the business ventures that were begun by the fathers, and are running them with success leading into the future of the Brockway community. The heritage of their families, begun in Horton Township of Elk County, have spread throughout the whole area and even into some neighboring states to benefit us all. We express our thanks to all of them!