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Allegheny County Bar Association
We often hear the name, Allegheny County Bar Association, associated with a public service program such as lawyer referrals or evaluating candidates for judgeship. But many of us may be surprised to know that the ACBA employs more than 70 people, expends over $7,500,000 annually into the local economy and runs multiple programs that directly benefit 6,600 practicing attorneys in Allegheny County and directly and indirectly benefit all 1.1 million of the county’s residents. It is considered to be one of the highest functioning such organizations and serves as a model nationally.
The Pittsburgh Bar Association began 1870 with a membership of 18 attorneys. It later became the Allegheny County Bar Association, often referred to as the ACBA or Bar Association. It was created to support the profession of law, to promote professionalism, establish standards for practice and ethical standards and afford protections. The Bar Association promotes those goals within the profession and with the courts and the state legislature. It has also established a benevolent fund to assist lawyers and their families. As far back is 1918, 25 cents of the annual $3 dues went into that fund. It is now known as the Lawyers Fund which assists lawyers and their families who are in need, awards scholarships, fellowships and grants for research and writing in the study of law and justice and makes loans to deserving law students.
In addition, the Bar Foundation was established by the ACBA to operate programs such as the Pro-Bono Partnership, wherein member law firms provide free legal assistance to individuals and for programs that promote the public good. It also runs the Family Law Project and the Juvenile Court Project, both aimed to assist the residents and legal practitioners of Allegheny County. The Juvenile Court Project provides advocacy for indigent parents through all phases of Juvenile Court dependency proceedings. The Family Law Project works similarly in Family Division. These are services and protections that could not otherwise be obtained by those families in need.
The Bar Association grew commensurately with the growth of our region and our country during the 1940s and was greatly assisted by the influx of attorneys educated after World War II by the G.I. Bill. Currently, 6,600 attorneys are ACBA members out of the 8,000 in Allegheny County. Non-members would include those employed in government, academia and by some corporations. While membership dues are an important part of the ACBA’s revenue, it also supports itself with programs and services. The ACBA has both a non-profit side as well as a separate, wholly-owned, for-profit corporation. As such, it provides services and programs to practicing attorneys within the county on an economical basis. As a result, member dues fund only 23% of the ACBA’s budget where the norm nationally is 60%. So a higher level of service is provided to members and the public within an economical cost structure.
One of the most visible manifestations of an ACBA resource is the Pittsburgh Legal Journal. It is published daily and lists all court proceedings as well as educational course offerings and matters of current law. This has become indispensable to practicing attorneys. In addition, the Bar Association acts as a forum for attorneys providing Continuing Legal Education courses and hosting networking functions and meetings on substantive issues in various legal disciplines. The Bar Association hosts sections and committees for each of the major divisions of the law. Lawyers specializing in those areas can meet regularly for study groups and to promote a better understanding within their specialized disciplines.
Finally, one of the most regularly visible services provided by the Bar Association occurs each year when county judges stand for election and reelection. A special Judiciary Committee of the Bar Association publishes judicial fitness ratings. The average voter has no other way to evaluate the quality of the men and women who may someday judge them or the merits of their case. This has thus become an invaluable service to the county’s citizens.
The Bar Association is distinguished by the sophistication of its staff and committee and board
structure. There are 35 committees, 12 sections and 2 divisions made up of members of the profession who volunteer their time and expertise to guide and, in some cases, govern the activities of the ACBA. The Board of Governors oversees the entirety of the ACBA’s activities. Then the Finance, Audit, and UBIT (Unrelated Business Income Tax) committees oversee their respective areas and report to the board. (UBIT is charged with keeping straight the relationship between the Bar Association’s for-profit and non-profit ventures.) Then the Investment Committee oversees the multi-million dollar pool of investment assets comprising the multiple, investment funds that enable the many programs and resources of the ACBA.
(Fragasso Financial Advisors is honored to have been chosen by the Investment Committee and ratified by the Finance Committee and Board of Governors to provide investment advice to that pool of investment assets. And we are equally pleased to have been chosen to handle the 401K retirement plan for the employees of the ACBA.)
The multifaceted activities, the multi-million dollar budget and assets, the more than 70 employees and the 35 committees are all coordinated by an adept management team made up of David Blaner, Executive Director and David Leonard, CPA Assistant Executive Director.
Dave Blaner joined the Bar Association in 1991 having been attracted by its business-like and entrepreneurial positioning. Dave had served as municipal manager in Clarion, PA and in Upper St. Clair after receiving his M.S. from Pitt’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA). He is married to Kelley, a nurse, who is the office manager for an Ophthalmology practice. Their children include Zack, age 20, attending Ohio University and Lexie, age 18, attending Moon Area High School.
Dave Leonard was also attracted by the entrepreneurial nature of the Bar Association and joined in 1999 after having worked for Sauereisen, Inc. for 20 years and serving as its CFO. Dave is married to Janice, who works in the office of the Register of Wills, and they are the parents of three grown children and the grandparents of seven. Dave received his B.S. in Accounting from the University of Kentucky and has held numerous accounting industry organizational offices and has received several industry awards, including one as Accountant Advocate of the Year when he wrote and shepherded through the Pennsylvania legislature a bill establishing Sub Chapter S corporations in the state.
The management team of the Bar Association can be justifiably proud of its accomplishments, but are not content to rest on those. When asked what is ahead for the ACBA, Dave Blaner said the management team wants to continue to provide its services while anticipating the evolution of the legal profession looking a couple of decades into the future. They are trying to fashion services in ways that may not be currently perceived by lawyers today. The Bar Association sees the growth of mediation as an example. The Bar Association is seeking ways to educate its members in this and other areas and to facilitate their transition to new methods. Another example of envisioning change is to facilitate alternate careers for attorneys after their primary legal careers are finished. This would be especially helpful in light of the much-predicted shortage of labor and thus harvest a lifetime of experience to continue to benefit the local economy and its many non-profits. The Bar Association also wishes to better educate the public in matters before the courts. One example would be regarding pro bono legal representation for the poor and another would be teaching the general public how to navigate the legal landscape and engage attorneys at their highest and best use. Dave foresees growth in legal areas that will coincide with the growth of our region. Those areas may include patents (think of our universities and research greenhouses) as well as environmental law and alternate methods of handling disputes. Adopting existing legal practices to these areas and new ways of operating will present challenges to the ACBA in helping to facilitate efficiency, competitiveness and productivity among its members while keeping the costs of doing so at a reasonable level. The ACBA is already researching and planning how to do just that. In all, the Allegheny County Bar Association is a powerful resource in our community that benefits many.
Originally published in our April 2008 Newsletter.
John and Dotti Bechtol
The owner of the company where they were employed thought they would make a nice couple, so he introduced them. He was right. Dotti and John Bechtol are an accomplished and interesting couple, and that prescient introduction by the company president resulted in a 28-year marriage.
John is the founder of Bechtol and Lee, a Pittsburgh labor law firm. After high school in New Castle, John attended Slippery Rock University and was employed by Rockwell International in its Human Relations Department. He worked in the same capacity for Granite City Steel in St. Louis and then Levinson Steel in Pittsburgh. That is where he met Dotti through that fortunate introduction by Aaron Levinson, who later wrote of it in his autobiography. While working full time, John attended Duquesne University’s School of Law in the evenings and was employed by Reed Smith Shaw & McClay as a labor lawyer upon graduation. He founded Bechtol and Lee in 1992.
Meanwhile, on the other side of town, Dotti attended Elizabeth-Forward High School and, later, Chatham University, where she was graduated summa cum laude with a dual major in Economics and Psychology. Her career path began at Consolidated Natural Gas Service Company’s Technical Department and continued through Eckert Seamans, Levinson Steel, and then in Hodgkins, Illinois, where she served as the General Manager of a steel fabricating company. Dotti became the Administrative Manager for Bechtol and Lee upon the completion of her assignment in Illinois.
So far, we have read of a stereotypical Western Pennsylvania, if not American, success story for both John and Dotti. In discussing this article with Dotti, we agreed that the children born of the World War II Greatest Generation are the most fortunate in their ability to have leapt far ahead of their parents’ stations in life because of educational opportunities and America’s unprecedented prosperity.
But now the story adds the elements of fun and Western Pennsylvania altruism. Dotti’s father, an electrician for U.S. Steel Corp., enjoyed all kinds of automobiles. Dotti’s mother worked as an operations officer for Western Pennsylvania National Bank. Dotti grew up with a love of cars; her first car was a British MGB. Coincidentally, John also grew up with a love of cars and raced sports cars. John sold a Jaguar to help fund law school. So it was natural for them to begin racing together. They now compete with their three autos in eight vintage grand prix races per year. They take their 1959 Lotus, 1969 Caldwell and 1959 Elva Mark IV and pit crew to races all over the east coast and Canada. Both race, and that puts Dotti in a select group of rarely more than four women who compete in those vintage races, and she may be the only grandmother. And don’t think of vintage as slow. Speeds hit 120 miles per hour!
But there is still more. John grew up playing music and, in response to a need for entertainment at a charity event several years ago, formed Johnny B and the Accelerators. The entire group sings and John plays lead electric guitar. While the genre is classic rock and roll, the repertoire is quite eclectic. They can be seen and heard at the Rivers Club, the Fox Chapel Yacht Club and at various restaurants and charitable events in the Pittsburgh area.
Dotti, in addition to work and auto racing, devoted her time to sitting on the Board of Governors of the Rivers Club, the Marketing and Admissions Committee of Chatham University, and the board of a stroke survivors’ resource program called Health Hope Network. When that organization needed new guidance, Dotti stepped in at the departure of its Executive Director to take over that role. It meant leaving Bechtol and Lee, but Dotti felt an obligation to put the organization back on track. And she did. Health Hope Network is solvent and fulfills its role of providing flu shots at multiple locations throughout Allegheny County in a program called “FLU B-GONE” and uses the proceeds raised through that effort to fund free physical, emotional and cognitive therapy at 30 locations in Western Pennsylvania for stroke survivors. See www.healthhopenetwork.org
John and Dotti live in O’Hara Township and round out their varied interests with Dotti’s cooking skills and their joint interest in rigorous daily exercising at the Rivers Club. But Dotti’s voice lilts when she speaks of their 5-year old granddaughter, Maya, and how she loves to see her grow. Maya and her parents, Maralee and Shawn Williams, are central to John and Dotti’s life. When asked about their future, the response is, “More music, more racing and more Maya.”
When asked to provide advice to other couples about their finances, the response is, “Start earlier than you think you should and, if you didn’t, still start,” referring to saving and investing. Dotti added that Fragasso Financial Advisors encouraged John and her to do that and offered complete financial planning service and guidance. She said FFA “took the complete picture and oriented them toward their goals.” For that confidence, and for the friendship of John and Dotti, Fragasso Financial Advisors is sincerely grateful.
Originally published in the October 2007 newsletter.
Henry and Susan DeLuca
Although Henry and Susan DeLuca lived three miles apart all of their lives, they met in college when they attended nearby schools in the rolling countryside of Western Pennsylvania. Henry’s friend asked him to keep his eye on his Pittsburgh girlfriend while he returned home to New Jersey for the summer following their freshman year. Henry kept a very good eye on her, they became great friends, and one year later, he and Susan were a couple. After their sophomore years, Henry transferred from St. Vincent and Susan graduated from Mount Aloysius Junior College. Both went on to the University of Pittsburgh, where they graduated two years later. In 1970, the young college graduates were married at St. Anne’s Church in Castle Shannon.
Henry grew up in the South Hills, living first in Mt. Washington, then Brookline. In the 1950s, neighborhoods were full of kids who played in the streets and had fun beyond the time when the “streetlights came on.” Susan had a similar happy childhood in Castle Shannon.
Henry’s father and his brother, Vince, founded Vince & Henry’s Restaurant in 1950. Upon his uncle’s retirement, Henry’s dad and his mother, Mary DeLuca, renamed it DeLuca’s Restaurant, a landmark in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. Almost all Pittsburghers fondly recall the experience of dining at DeLuca’s with their unique French toast (made with Italian bread), served with the banter of the cooks and the wait staff. Henry began working at DeLuca’s at the age of 10. He gained a strong work ethic and a sense of customer service under the watchful eyes of his dad, his uncles and his grandfather.
Susan’s father attended Carnegie Tech on the GI Bill. He graduated with a degree in Civil Engineering when Susan was three years old. He retired from Dick Corporation. Prior to that he worked for Dambaugh and Ross & Kennedy, engineering firms. He was well known as a concrete expert.
Susan’s mother, volunteered at school and the community library. She is an expert baker and seamstress—skills she taught her three daughters.
Henry and Susan have three children. Their first-born, Hank, is living in Shadyside. He'll receive his bachelor's degree in May. He is considering going to law school. Hank enjoys snowboarding in the winter, semi-pro motorcycle racing in the summer. He DJs and previously was co-owner of a young men's clothing store. Elise, their middle child, owns a house in Bloomfield. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a BFA and went on to get her teaching certification at Carlow University. Elise is an Art teacher in The Pittsburgh Public Schools. Maura, the youngest DeLuca child, graduated from Penn State University. After working in Manhattan for a year and a half, she was awarded a scholarship to study in Pisa. She attained her Masters Degree at La Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna in Pisa. She lives in the Bronx and works at Oscar de la Renta. She is active in The Socialist Worker's Party.
Henry and Susan both received strict, excellent educations under the diligent supervision of the good sisters and the Christian Brothers, Susan at St. Anne’s and St. Francis Academy, Henry at St. Pius X and South Hills Catholic. Henry still recalls two priests who ran the elementary school. They were brothers who had grown up as amateur boxers in a rough-and-tumble North Side neighborhood. That translated readily to a no-nonsense approach to early education at St. Pius and that early training still manifests itself in a strong Roman Catholic faith for both Henry and Susan today.
Henry’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh is in Microbial and Molecular Biology. He went on to pursue a Masters of Science Education, after which he began teaching science at Allegheny County Schools’ Warrendale Youth Development Center, known as “Thorn Hill.” This author recalls his mother threatening to send him to Thorn Hill when he misbehaved, as it was a reform school for delinquent and dependent students. Henry taught there from 1969 to 1975, when the school shifted emphasis to the prevailing practice at the time of integrating students into a mainstream school environment. Allegheny County Schools had become the Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU). This unit was charged with working with teachers throughout the county in a team-teaching model that was meant to integrate delinquent students into a more normal educational setting. In a coincidental twist characteristic of Pittsburgh, the AIU was led by Dr. Joe Lagana, another of our clients who was profiled in a previous issue of this newsletter. Henry worked as a teacher, an educational liaison and, finally, as the Coordinator of The Allegheny County Truancy Prevention Program, until his retirement from the AIU in 1999.
Henry also served at various times as teachers’ union president and chief contract negotiator. That experience served him well in his later business career as an entertainment producer when he had to negotiate many contracts.
Meanwhile, Susan began her teaching career at what was then Gladstone High School. After giving birth to three children in 1975, 1976, and 1978, she stayed at home with the children until the youngest, Maura, attended first grade. Susan returned to the teaching career she loved. She became head of the Business Education Department at Schenley High School. When Susan retired from teaching in 2003, the school district gave her the distinct honor of delivering the retirement speech to all of that year’s retirees.
All of this would have been a very full career for any husband and wife team. But Henry and Susan added an interesting angle starting back in 1978. They had always enjoyed the music of their generation and held song fests at their home centered around good food and friends. When they realized that the group that sang casually at their home was really very talented, they tried their hand at performing at a night club on Walnut Street in Pittsburgh’s Shadyside. It was then that Acappella Gold was born. After three years it evolved into the widely popular Pittsburgh group, Pure Gold. Current Pittsburgh residents are familiar with their frequent concert performances, TV appearances and even a featured show at the most recent First Night Celebration on New Year’s Eve in Downtown Pittsburgh. Henry has served for 30 years as the group’s manager. From the group’s inception, Susan has been the female lead voice in the group. Their genre is the distinctive “Doo-Wop” sound of the 1960s. Many of their renditions are considered anthems for the first half of the Baby Boomer generation.
As a producer and President of HJD Enterprises, Henry branched out to producing the Doo-Wop specials for public television with T.J. Lubinsky. This collaboration resulted in a total of 26 shows which were syndicated throughout the public broadcasting system nationally. These productions have been the largest fund raisers for the national network. The first production, Doo Wop 50, raised over $20 million for public television.
The Pure Gold performances and concert productions continue, the latest of which was a March 7th production of the 35th volume of the Roots of Rock and Roll, featuring Pittsburgh’s own Jimmy Beaumont in his 50th anniversary performance along with the Flamingos, Pure Gold, and many more stars of the era.
Henry and Susan remain the same family-oriented people they have always been since their marriage in 1970 and the purchase and remodeling of their comfortable Shadyside home in 1979. They completely renovated and remodeled the home to suit their preference for entertaining friends with home-cooked Italian meals, great wine and lots of laughter. They are proud of their grown children, Hank, Elise and Maura, who are 34, 32, and 30 respectively.
Henry and Susan are very active in an organization named Lucchesi Nel Mondo which is meant to preserve the heritage of descendants of Tuscany in Northern Italy. Lucchesi refers to the people who come from the medieval city of Lucca, central to the province and in easy driving distance to Florence and Pisa in that very picturesque region of Italy. The Lucchesi organization raises money to provide scholarships for the sons and daughters of the organization’s members to spend time in summer study in the Tuscan province to gain an appreciation of their heritage and, like all immigrant nationalities, gain an appreciation for the sacrifices that their forbearers made to provide them with the life we all now enjoy in America.
When asked to advise young couples beginning their lives now, Henry spoke for them both in saying that the secret is to work hard together and have fun along the way. “Look out for your kids”, he added, “and don’t be afraid to parent.” And, Henry concluded with the advice to stay optimistic as good times always follow the bad. He also counseled, “Don’t give up attending concerts!”
Henry credits both his and Susan’s parents for giving them the training and tools needed to navigate life. He was also kind in complimenting Fragasso Financial Advisors for its approach as a fee-based investment manager, free from proprietary product bias, in its guidance to its clients. He singled out the personal communication, the newsletters and the regular portfolio and financial planning review meetings for helping them stay on track and remaining aware. We thank Henry and Susan DeLuca for their confidence in us, and for their friendship.
Originally published in our April 2009 newsletter.
William P. Follansbee, M.D.
William P. Follansbee, M.D. is an accomplished man. He is the Director of Nuclear Cardiology at UPMC Presbyterian. His Curriculum Vitae includes 50 pages of professional and academic honors, teaching awards, chairs held, speeches delivered nationally, and learned professional articles written. But, with all of that, Bill is a down-to-earth, approachable and available nice guy to his patients, professional associates and friends. We are proud to claim him as one of our clients for the last 25 years.
Bill's family is rooted in our geo-graphic area. His family name was given to the town of Follansbee, WV as his grandfather and great uncle began the Follansbee Steel Company works there in 1910. Bill tells an interesting story of his grandfather's desire to build a second mill there in the 1920s and how he secured a then-princely loan of $1 million on a handshake from Pittsburgh's Mellon Bank. That transaction speaks to the relative simplicity of the times, but more so to the recognized character and demonstrated competence of the Follansbee family.
Bill has carried on that demonstrated competence in his many medical endeavors and has been recognized more times than we have space to recount. The designation of “Best Doctor” has been bestowed by Pittsburgh Magazine all four of the times that it has compiled peer recommendations for that honor and he was recognized again recently by WPXI-TV as tops in Cardiology in a physician survey in the Pittsburgh area.
Bill has recently completed a more than year long-project where he created a program to electronically manage every step in the scheduling, performance, interpretation and reporting of a patient's cardiac imaging study. It is mind bending to watch the program in action in a confidentiality-protected dem-onstration. Imagine a system that captures your entire relevant medical history, integrates it into the performance and interpretation of your diagnostic evaluation, and then instantly reports all of this back to the originating personal care physician through a common-access, security-protected computer program.
It is breathtaking to watch a beating heart reflected in multi-dimensional views
and dissections right in the computer program. All care providers see the same thing. Communications errors are greatly lessened as interpretations and conclusions are dictated via drop-down menus that have built-in safeguards. No more bad handwriting errors or conflicting information, as the program signals an error if that happens. And Bill Follansbee created this. We can be justifiably proud of Bill and his work as one of the best right here in Pittsburgh.
Bill and his wife Susan live in Fox Chapel where they reared their three children: Ben, Katie and Chris. Susan is the Head of the Cancer Registry at Allegheny General. Ben is an Army Ranger leading an infantry platoon in Baghdad. Our good thoughts go with Ben daily. Katie is a graduate of the University of Vermont, where she graduated 5th in her class, and is now conducting psychology research at Brown University. Chris is a graduate of Loyola College and is taking post-graduate, pre-med science courses at the University of Pennsylvania. The family is rounded out by Spinnaker, their 5-year-old Golden Retriever. Bill, Susan, Ben, Katie and Chris personify what is best in our region and we are proud to call them clients and friends.
Originally published in our January 2006 newsletter.
David Hirsh is a Pittsburgh story. He was born and raised in the Greenfield section of the city and attended Roosevelt Elementary School on Greenfield Avenue and Taylor-Allderdice High School. As David tells it, he lived “South of Forbes Avenue” which he saw as equivalent to “the other side of the tracks.” David is equally frank when he describes his father as “unskilled and itinerant” who constantly reminded David that he had little chance of succeeding in life. David’s grandfather had been a successful businessman and real estate investor who lost it all in the Great Depression. This further embittered David’s father when he was forced to drop out of the University of Pittsburgh for that reason. David’s mother did not work in his early years and did not even possess a driver’s license. David recounts several household moves within the Greenfield area during his childhood because of unpaid rent. That is a very stark portrayal and might excuse David’s failing in life. Yet, in spite of all of that, David succeeded resoundingly.
David worked beginning in elementary school for needed funds stocking shelves at Kalson’s Grocery on Murray Avenue and then on to Hirsh’s (no relation) Pharmacy behind the soda counter and Sladen’s Kosher Butcher and Grocery and then on to the French Art Furniture store on the South Side after high school, all of those jobs involving a six day work week. It was that grueling experience and the visits to classmates’ homes “North of Forbes,” that provided the vision of what he was missing and wanted that made David determined to succeed.
David took the college entrance exam at the conclusion of high school and applied to and was accepted at various colleges and universities. But, David’s father informed him there would be no financial help for college and David’s meager earnings didn’t allow for that level of tuition savings. So David entered the Business Training College that later became Point Park Junior College (now University) and studied accounting.
Armed with an associate’s degree in accounting in 1962, David took a junior accountant’s position with a local CPA firm. One of his areas of specialty was hospital accounting which made David realize his need for a bachelor’s degree. He began an entry level job at Western Psychiatric Institute in 1963 that provided the opportunity to work on his degree at the University of Pittsburgh for $5 per credit hour. At that time, there were no reciprocal agreements between the junior colleges and universities, so David had to repeat most of his 80 credits of previous course work. He took 120 credits at night school while holding down a full time job, graduating only four years later in 1967. Quite a feat! Meanwhile, he had grown from a cashier to business manager with full accounting responsibility at Western Psych and was then hired by Montifiore Hospital as their Associate Controller. Later, while at The Magee Women’s Hospital, David competed among 350 applicants and won one of 25 spots in Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health’s specialized hospital management program. He completed that program during 1971-72 while employed full time. He was then chosen by Shadyside Hospital for his administrative residency and also served as their CFO during their major rebuilding and expansion. At the conclusion of his residency, he was recruited by The Mercy Hospital of Pittsburgh as the Assistant Executive Director. He subsequently became the Associate Executive Director and, after 138 historic years, the hospital’s first Chief Operating Officer. He worked for Sister M. Ferdinand Clarke, R.S.M., Executive Director, who would become a life-long mentor to David and who provided multiple opportunities for him to learn and grow. David came to Sister’s attention while still in graduate school when he did an internship at Mercy. He remained at The Mercy Hospital of Pittsburgh as COO until 1983. While there, David had the chance to learn executive level interaction with a staff numbering 3000, over 500 physicians and a prestigious 30 member board of directors.
Let’s pause for a moment and reflect on how far David had come in only a few short years from the time his father had told him he could not afford to go to college.
After carrying the Mercy experience to its full dimension, David was recruited as the CEO of Doctor’s Hospital of Stark County in Massillon, Ohio and then four years later recruited once again to come back to Pittsburgh as CEO of Harmarville Rehabilitation Center and System where he remained for 10 years. This was an interesting assignment for David because, in addition to the employee, medical staff and board responsibility, he needed to effect a turn around in both revenues and profitability. He did that over a 10 year period and then engineered a buy out of the non-profit facility by a for-profit hospital corporation. This resulted in $30 million of net proceeds from the asset sale to create a regional foundation that promotes health and other service programs for women with disabilities and other life challenges.
David decided to switch sides and gain flexibility by beginning his own consulting practice based in Chicago with another experienced partner. He provided hospital administration and management consulting to a number of hospital clients throughout the country. He lived in Chicago managing that business, but also maintained a home in Naples, Florida where he developed a part-time business buying, fixing and selling Florida residential real estate. As a corollary to that, he also bought a flooring business during a time and in a place where there was little competition. David bought and sold 25 Florida properties during the 1999 to 2005 period and sold all of them and the flooring business prior to the state’s real estate collapse. It was during his Chicago/Florida business phase that he found a beautiful Golden Retriever, Goldie, who became the light of his life. There will be more about her shortly.
David was shaken from his consulting lifestyle by yet another call to perform a turn around at Jefferson Regional Medical Center/South Hills Health System in Pittsburgh. He was the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer and accomplished that revitalization project in the period 2001 to 2003. David then returned to his consulting practice, but with a different focus. He now concentrates on the legal aspects of hospital administration and management.
When he returned to Pittsburgh, he met the author, another Golden Retriever lover, who encouraged David to find and rescue a friend for his beloved Goldie. He did so in the form of a young Golden Retriever, appropriately named Blondie. Blondie and Goldie became fast friends and great companions until Goldie’s death. Blondie now resides in David’s home with her rescued new partner, Ben, a very large and energetic Golden.
David remains immersed in his consulting practice, his cherished Golden Retrievers, Florida travel and residence during the winter months, fishing, gardening, and dabbling in non-profit business ventures. The odyssey for this self-made, truly Renaissance man is clearly not over. His inquisitive mind and varied interests carry him to ever new sources of preoccupation.
David was kind to acknowledge the part that Fragasso Financial Advisors played in the management of his non-real estate assets and for the overall financial guidance that we have provided. David feels this complements his own involvement in the management of his varied interests. And we appreciate David as a client and friend.
Originally published in the October 2009 newsletter
Joe Lagana and Bill Wolfe
Sometimes, in the process of living our day-to-day lives, we happen upon a circumstance or a situation that demands our attention, and ensures that our routine will never again be the same. Such has been the case for Joe Lagana and Bill Wolfe.
Both men are deeply involved with the Homeless Children's Education Fund (HCEF). Joe founded this organization in the spring of 1999 after retiring from his 17-year position as Executive Director of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit. In Joe's experience as a teacher, principal, school superintendent and then executive director, he was appalled by, and felt helpless about, the terrible learning impediments children faced when their families became homeless. The children would spend many hours in shelters, removed from their school studies and normal environment. In addition to missing valuable instruction, the idle time sometimes spawned the wrong kind of activities. Joe vowed to change that and his retirement afforded him the opportunity to engage this problem full time.
Joe immediately began to attack the issues facing homeless children that he had previously witnessed. First, Joe lobbied for a change in federal and state legislation to mandate transportation to school for children in shelters. Eighteen months and many bureaucratic obstacles later, Joe got his legislation. Then, he turned his attention to insufficient educational resources for the kids. Often, children enter the shelter with no more than the clothes on their backs and certainly without proper school supplies and additional clothing. Joe's Homeless Children's Education Fund provides those necessities. Also, the Fund has built learning centers in many of the shelters. These computer-based learning centers provide the setting and tools for the children to do homework and broaden their horizons beyond the limited scope of their current situation. An interestingly unexpected byproduct is that the learning facilities are attracting the mothers of the children to their own learning opportunities. The Fund aims to provide learning centers to all 16 shelters in Allegheny County.
Joe is supported in his efforts on behalf of homeless children by a board of directors he has fashioned from business and community leaders. His board chair is Bill Wolfe. Bill is a Vice President of Marsh, Inc., and has spent his career in the human services and business development areas, primarily with large insurance companies. Bill grew up in Pittsburgh and lived away from our city for 26 years, returning in 2001.
Bill has always been devoted to children's issues, serving on the boards of organizations such as the YMCA. So it was natural for him to pair with Joe shortly after his repatriation to Pittsburgh. Bill is “committed to help this region grow and prosper, and providing for those among us needing assistance is one of the best ways to accomplish this.”
Bill sees the initiative of assisting young people as an investment in our area's future. He was elected HCEF board chair early this year and has added innovative fund development initiatives such as The Haunted House in South Park held during the month of October.
The current challenge is to raise $300,000 to fully equip the learning centers in all area shelters. The equipment includes hardware, software and educational materials of various types. It is no small project. But, with continued community support and the unstinting energy of Joe, Bill and the board and volunteers, it surely will happen.
Joe grew up in Cambria County and attended high school in Ebensburg. He came to Pittsburgh for his first job and found a home. He currently lives in the city with his wife, Lynne, and his daughter, Dr. Frances Lagana, is a podiatrist in Boston.
Bill grew up in Pittsburgh, and though he traveled and lived in many cities and countries, always pined for the time when he could return to his roots. Bill and his wife Eileen reside in Sewickley. Their daughter Katie is a recent graduate of Duquesne University and teaches at the Watson Institute in Sewickley. Their son Bill is a student at the University of Dayton.
Joe Lagana and Bill Wolfe embody the spirit of our region in their attempt to better the lives of those less fortunate. We are proud to call them clients and friends.
Contact The Homeless Children's Education Fund at 412-562-0154 to make donations of money, equipment or supplies.
Originally publised in the September 2005 newsletter.
Herbert and Barbara Levit
Herb Levit finished high school at the age of 16 and enrolled at Temple University. Certainly he felt he was on a fast track.
But he enlisted in the Navy at age 17 to serve out the last year of World War II. Herb graciously points out that was the year that Barbara was completing fourth grade.
Interestingly, Herb’s father was a physician, and Herb was selected as a Navy corpsman. His training was given at the Bainbridge Naval Training Center in Maryland, a thriving complex in those days and, after two years of naval service, Herb returned to Temple to obtain his B.S. and M.Ed degrees in Psychology. He then worked for the North Dakota Department of Mental Health, providing services to developmentally challenged individuals in that state. With that solid, practical experience, Herb returned once again to Temple University where he earned his E.Ed in Clinical Psychology.
It was at this time in the early 1950s that the state of Pennsylvania began building a modern mental health services system. The caliber of care in Pennsylvania and most other jurisdictions was characterized as “warehousing treatment.” The antiquated methods at that time, sometimes described as barbaric with modern hindsight, were re-evaluated with lessons learned through the prism of World War II experiences with mental trauma. The methods in vogue then were publicized with the movie expose “Snake Pit.” Lobotomies for behavior control were occasionally used.
Herb Levit began his practice at Dixmont State Hospital in 1954 at the vanguard of the mental health care revolution. He became recognized for his creation and implementation of modern programs of care. He had met a young nurse, Barbara, prior to his last departure from Philadelphia who would become his wife after in November, 1954, after his move to Pittsburgh. They had their first child Debbie in November of 1955 and their son David, also now a practicing psychologist, in 1959. An interesting, Pittsburgh historical footnote has Barbara administering Salk Polio vaccine to local students when it was first made available.
Herb transferred to Woodville State Hospital in 1966 and also began a collateral private patient practice. In the 19050’s he established a training program for doctoral students with Duquesne University, which was then expanded to several area institutions. He also served as consultant to the Office of Mental Health for Western Pennsylvania. The students became paid staff of the hospitals, thus making them much better prepared for their field upon graduation. Father David Smith, a PhD, psychologist and professor at Duquesne University, subsequently wrote a history of psychology where he singled out Herb Levit as a pioneer in the field for his innovative therapy and teaching programs. He also helped to develop a mental health program a the Allegheny General Hospital, where he was a staff member.
Herb continues his private patient practice in clinical and forensic psychology today and has provided expert witness evaluations and testimony in many high profile criminal cases over the decades. He pioneered the battered woman syndrome defense that has been heralded by many victims groups. That case was successful and was described in the PA Law Journal as the first of its kind. That defense has become commonly accepted today as a result.
Herb and Barbara, along with their grown children, Debbie and husband Mark as well as David and wife Susan, and their grandchildren, Jonathon, Hilary and Jake, enjoy travel connected to their avocation of bird watching. Those travels have taken them to Europe, Central and South America, many oceanic islands, Japan, Australia, Fiji, Greenland as well as most of the United States. They also participated in a medical exchange program with China.
As perhaps a first in the state, a third generation of psychologists is blossoming, Jonathan and Hillary are in doctoral programs in Psychology.
Herb and Barbara give thanks for their fantastic relationship of over 56 years, and were very gracious in expressing their gratitude to Fragasso Financial Advisors for the financial guidance that permits them to relax and enjoy their lives. Fragasso Financial Advisors thanks them for their 30 years of confidence in us and for the privilege of serving.
Originally published in the October 2006 newsletter with additions in 2011.
David and Carrie Miller
Dave Miller’s life was shaped by the loss of his father, Garrett, when Dave was age 14. He had to grow up fast being the only boy and oldest child among three sisters and a mother who, at that time, did not work or even drive an automobile. David Miller’s family lived on Pittsburgh’s North Side and his father worked for the Otto Milk Company. Garrett moved the family to Upper St. Clair when David was age eight to try to provide a more advantageous upbringing for the children. Garrett went to work at two jobs, one for the Upper St. Clair Parks and Recreation Department and the other in the evenings as a custodian for the school district. It is no wonder that Dave exhibits the drive that has made his business successful.
When Dave’s father died, his mother, Rose, obtained a driver’s license, at the age of 39, and went to work at the Westinghouse Nuclear facility as an administrative assistant. Meanwhile, David continued on through Upper St. Clair High School and then on to West Liberty State College. Dave became an ex-officio member of the neighboring Paul and Marge Schiffer family, spending time and having sleepovers with their four sons. Paul Schiffer stepped in to the role of surrogate father to Dave. In a twist that we so often see in Pittsburgh’s small/big town atmosphere, the Schiffers are, coincidently, also valued clients of our firm.
After college, David took a job as the assistant manager of the Pleasant Hills K Mart and quickly moved on to sales with a major food brokerage agency. And that sales bent took him to insurance sales for a six year stint. At that time, a friend suggested a business opportunity in an industry where he had experience. Dave and the partner began Associates in Rehab, an agency that medically manages worker’s compensation claims, interacting between the injured worker and the insurance company or the self-insuring employer, to help get the employee back to productive employment.
Within three years, Dave had bought out his partner and was eyeing future growth. The business grossed $5 million in revenues in 2008 and is the premier such independent firm in our geographic area.
But, characteristically, David is looking to grow beyond Pennsylvania and its contiguous states where it now primarily operates. Dave plans to expand in all directions from that base, building the business based on the same formula that created it. And that is getting close to and staying with the decision-makers in each organization and then servicing the business better than anyone else is willing to do. That growth will cause him to expand from the current 52 employees and that is good news for the economy, as the company will need nurses who serve as case managers in the geographic regions where the company will experience growth.
While still selling insurance, Dave met a beautiful young woman named Carrie, who had grown up in Peters Township and worked in the restaurant business. They were married in 1991 and Carrie was there for the start of the business venture. During their first years of marriage and while the business was building, they had Alexis, now age 14 and an eighth grader, Erika, age 13, and in seventh grade, and Garrett, age 9 and in third grade. A recent photo shows an absolutely beautiful family, and David is devoted to them. While Dave works 12 hour days, he makes sure that they start at 5 AM and end at 5 PM so that his evenings and weekends are devoted to his family. David states that he acutely felt the absence of his father during his formative years and is determined to be meaningful in his children’s lives. He works out regularly and watches his diet to stave off the health consideration that shortened his father’s life.
David explained that he follows his father’s vision of providing a better life for his children and wants to be a good example for them. He knows that working smart and hard is the means to success and that those who take short cuts find them to be self-defeating. He also credits Fragasso Financial Advisors, and his advisor Gregg Daily, as a good guide in his finances.
We believe that David’s success trajectory is still arcing upward and we will enjoy watching him build upon the substantial accomplishments he has made. And we thank him for his confidence in us.
Originally published in our July 2009 newsletter.
Chuck and Libby Modispacher
Chuck Modispacher started the conversation by modestly suggesting that he is boring and that no one will want to read about him. We don’t believe that is true. Not unless you think that starting from humble beginnings and rising to become a partner and principal in two major accounting firms, chairing the board of a health care system, successfully raising two children in a chaotic world and remaining happily married for 44 years is boring.
Chuck and Libby Modispacher grew up similarly, each in a different area of the South Hills. Chuck was raised in the Overbrook section and Libby in Castle Shannon. Chuck attended St. Norbert Catholic Church’s elementary school and Libby, St. Ann’s. Chuck went on to South Hills Catholic High School and Libby to St. Francis Academy. And Chuck was graduated in 1965 from Duquesne University’s School of Business Administration with a major in Accounting. Chuck’s dad was in charge of PNC Bank’s Potter Office and its huge depository vault. He was once featured in a documentary of Pittsburgh as the curator of that now-gone cornerstone of banking. Libby’s dad was a candy maker for Gimbel’s and then Betsy Ann Candies. Both moms were traditional stay-at-home while the children were raised. Chuck’s mother worked post-child rearing at Mellon Bank’s foreign currency department. Libby herself followed that model staying home to raise their two children, Jeffrey and Susan born in 1967 and 1968 respectively and then later worked for The Kerygma Group’s bible studies publications until her retirement.
While Libby kept the home and children safe and organized, Chuck worked from the position of audit associate at Arthur Young and Co., then one of the “Big 8” national accounting firms, up to coveted partner status. This occurred in the years of 1965 to 1993. Chuck was then recruited to join Hinds, Lind and Miller, a well known local firm that merged its way up to eventually become a part of Perente Beard, a major regional firm covering the states of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Texas. Chuck became a Principal in the Pittsburgh office, finally retiring at the end of 2009.
Throughout Chuck’s career, he chose to give back to his community by serving on boards and committees, most notably among them as a board member of St. Peter’s Child Development Center and South Hills Country Club and as Chairman of the Board of Jefferson Regional Medical Center. The Jefferson position continues into retirement and is a source of pride for him as he looks at accomplishments during his board time. In that period, Jefferson moved from a hefty operating deficit to an operating surplus. As such, Jefferson was able to resist the forced-to-merge-or-close fate of other hospitals and health systems. And Jefferson expanded by three-fold its out-patient services to multiple geographic areas. All of this totals quite a set of accomplishments for a “boring” guy!
When asked to provide advice for young persons beginning their careers today, Chuck suggests hard work, staying focused and balancing family and job responsibilities. He admonishes us to enjoy ourselves and to be open to whatever opportunities that life presents. He concludes with the counsel to always be ethical and to ask questions, as that is how one learns and grows.
He and Libby can enjoy their children, Jeffrey and Susan, and Jeffery’s daughter, Allie, as well as their well-earned retirement. We thank them for their vote of confidence and pledge to continue to work hard to justify it. And we thank Chuck and Libby for their friendship.
Originally published in our January 2011 newsletter.
Mark and Cathy Moir
Mark and Cathy Moir were unaware when they first met as undergraduates at Thiel College in Greenville, PA that they would go on to become husband and wife, have two lovely children and become business partners. But that is exactly what occurred.
Mark Moir grew up in Whitehall. He is a 1977 graduate of Baldwin-Whitehall High School and went immediately on to Thiel College to study business administration, graduating in 1981. While there, he met Cathy Butler who had come to Thiel from Allegany, New York after having lived all over the northeast as the daughter of a career Air Force non-commissioned officer. Cathy majored in accounting and business administration and chose Thiel because of the small class size and the quaint campus. Western Pennsylvania’s architecture and topography drew her to make this her home. She still references her first sight of Pittsburgh on an accounting professor’s field trip; coming through the Ft. Pitt Tunnel and having the Pittsburgh city sky line spring up in front of her. She understood then the meaning of Pittsburgh’s reputation as the only city with a front door.
After completing undergraduate studies at Thiel, Mark returned to Pittsburgh to find the recession of 1981, similar to the current time, causing massive unemployment. That period began the exodus of steel and other manufacturing jobs from our area. No one could then foresee the role that medical, educational and research organizations would play in the revival of the Pittsburgh area economy. Then we could only see that things were very bad economically with job and population losses. So, both Mark and Cathy decided, fatefully, to take a nine month computer technician’s course at a local technical school. Upon graduation in 1982, Mark was employed by Radio Shack in management and later in the then-fledgling personal computer sales area. IBM, as a reference, had not recognized the potential of personal computers and the manufacturing of PCs came several years later. Radio Shack’s personal computer store for Pittsburgh was located in Bethel Park and Mark managed the computer sales operation. One of Mark’s salesmen sold Bob Fragasso his first and then his second personal computer to be used for client record keeping in the Fragasso Group’s investment business. Prior to that innovation, client contact recording was done with paper records.
Mark was recruited from Radio shack to a computer communications and maintenance company. Ever observant of processes and business trends, Mark watched the tension that occurred between large companies that dominate an industry with proprietary products at premium pricing, in this case personal computers, and the inevitable generically manufactured competitors. He quickly saw how the private labeling of interchangeable generic parts might play a major role in the computer industry. He also began his studies for a master’s degree in information technology at the University of Pittsburgh and continued to indulge his life long fascination with electronics with a side business assembling computers from generic, interchangeable parts. That business became an immediate success and Mark left both his full time employment and his graduate studies to devote all of his attention to the fast growing business and in rapid order married Cathy in 1987 and founded Moir Computer Services in 1988. In a short amount of time, 1000 dental offices were outfitted with specialized management software and computers manufactured from generic parts. Interestingly, the software manufacturer subsequently did not keep pace with the quickly evolving industry and Moir Computer moved their clients to an upgraded platform with another software company. This illustrates the benefit of a service provider such as Moir working for the client and not for the product company.
After Cathy’s computer tech training, she went to work for a local company that specialized in offsite data processing of marketing information for large companies like General Foods. This processing occurred on large main frame computers with data loaded on the machines by reels of movie-like tape. In the not so distant future, processing evolved to the desktop PC. She moved to the University of Pittsburgh in 1985 as an internal auditor utilizing her combination business and accounting undergraduate major.
By 1990, Moir Computer had burgeoned and required Cathy’s full time attention as business manager and company accountant while Mark managed the sales, research and technical side of the business. And by 1991, Moir Computer had taken over the computer hardware and software needs for the Fragasso Group. That continued through Fragasso’s evolution to complete independence in 1996 and to this day. Moir Computer provides the complete hardware, software and service needs of Fragasso Financial Advisors, including its use of assembled computers from generic parts, as Mark envisioned way back in 1982, which allows Fragasso to repair and upgrade computers with parts rather than buy entirely new units in many cases.
During this time, Mark and Cathy became parents to Elizabeth who is now a Baldwin-Whitehall High School senior and who is choosing from among several Western Pennsylvania colleges and universities for the 2011-12 school year. Mark and Cathy are trying to not unduly influence her toward Thiel College. Their second child is Mark II who is age 14 and entering 9th grade at Baldwin-Whitehall. Mark, Sr. and Cathy are very proud of both children’s accomplishments. Both do well in school and Elizabeth and Mark are both trophy-winning motorcycle racers. Additionally, Elizabeth is captain of the varsity tennis team, runs cross country and is an expert skier. Mark II also runs track, plays football, wrestles and is an expert skier. In spite of their very busy schedule, Mark, Sr. and Cathy have always been closely involved with their children’s activities and usually participate in various sports with them.
Today Moir Computer has six associates including master technician, Chuck Puleo. The company will continue to grow and is seeking an additional technician now. They provide both computer and telephone service to organizations in the fields of dental, finance, manufacturing and animal welfare. Fragasso Financial Advisors utilizes their unique computer/telephone integration that offers the ability to control all telephone functions via the computer. This eliminates costly routine service and maintenance calls from the telephone company and also records all telephone activity for record keeping and management oversight. It extends even to the convenience of mouse-clicking on a client’s record file to dial the phone which eliminates wasted motion and misdials. Moir additionally provides business surveillance equipment and software. This proved its value in a recent highly publicized crime where an assailant was caught and arrested because of the placement of their equipment outside of a business. And, finally, Moir provides home entertainment equipment and software that harnesses the power of the Internet to provide content from all over the world. Moir Computer prides itself on being a home town manufacturer remaining true to its founding concept of generic parts, locally assembled to the needs and specifications of the customer.
After forming a business relationship with Fragasso Financial Advisors, Mark and Cathy soon determined that the firm was an ideal fit for financial guidance and personal investing. Cathy notes that honesty, integrity, client education and lacking hype drew them to Fragasso’s service. We have mutual trust and share common ideals. All of these qualities are very comforting in an uncertain world.
We are proud of our long association and friendship with Mark, Cathy, their children and their capable staff and appreciate the trust they have placed in us.
Originally published October 2010 newsletter.
John and Marlise Partilla
The U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant looked like a giant as he supervised the unloading of the busload of Marines coming from Basic Training at Parris Island, SC and debarking at Camp LeJeune, NC for their infantry training. And to PFC Robert Fragasso, who thought he was finally free of the fabled Drill Instructors of Parris Island, it was a very rude realization that this 6’3” shouting, growling, Vietnam War veteran Sergeant with the Fu Man Chou mustache was his training instructor for the next three months. That instructor, Sergeant John “Sonny” Partilla, quickly validated everyone’s fears by commanding the busload of Marines to run the mile and a half to their new barracks while carrying their 60 pound sea bags across their shoulders.
While the training got harder, the relationship between Bob Fragasso and Sonny Partilla got friendlier. The two young men, coincidently both from the Pittsburgh area, became fast friends and have remained so for 40 years.
John Partilla was born in Braddock, PA in 1946, the son and grandson of Edgar Thompson Works’ steel workers. Granddad worked for Andrew Carnegie and his legendary works manager, Charles Schwab. After 43 years at Edgar Thompson, dad enjoyed a long healthy retirement and passed a way at the age of 95. Mom, also deceased, was a homemaker and, in her parlance, a “proud Slovak”, who preserved her ethnic traditions and foods in the household. John was graduated from Scott High School in North Braddock and immediately entered the U.S. Marine Corps. After Parris Island and Infantry Training, he was sent to Santo Domingo to help with the evacuation of U.S. dependents during the insurrection there. At age 18, John was shipped to Vietnam immediately after the U.S. invasion in 1965 as an Ontos Commander. He saw action in Chu Lai province and in the Da Nang area of operations. After thirteen months of combat operations, he rotated back to Camp LeJeune where he worked as an Infantry Instructor. The experience-based training that he provided to his troops undoubtedly saved American lives as those boys went into combat.
It was during this time in North Carolina that he met his future wife, Marlise, while on leave back home in Pittsburgh. Marlise was a student at Slippery Rock College (now University) majoring in Education. Fragasso remembers many conversations with Sonny over this beautiful girl that he had met.
Marlise came to the United States from Switzerland in 1952 with her parents and brother. Dad became a butcher at Ziegler Meats in Pittsburgh’s Strip District and Mom a Practical Nurse at Whiteman Manor in Squirrel Hill.
After serving his four years in the Marine Corps, John and Marlise married. Marlise taught school in the McKeesport School District and at Westmoreland County Community College while John completed a draftsman’s course at Triangle Tech and then earned a degree in Civil Engineering from Community College of Allegheny County. He began work with U.S. Steel in its railroad and bridge design department. Marlise went on to gain her Masters in Education with certifications in Mathematics from St. Vincent’s College and Computer Information from California University of PA. Marlise spent most of her career teaching high school and college level math courses at Ft. Cherry High School and was also a member of the support program for troubled students at the school.
During his career, John has been recruited by and held construction management positions with PNC Bank, WesBanco, Crown Castle International, and Overton Associates.
John and Marlise had two sons. Their younger son, Ian, lives in Denver Colorado and works in every young man’s dream job, doing sports marketing for ESPN. He is married to Meagan, a family practice attorney, and they have two daughters, Jorah age 2 and Shaina age 2 months.
Their older son, Jason, was killed during his senior year at West Virginia University by a drunk driver driving with a suspended license. Jason had been an avid outdoorsman and environmentalist along with the rest of the family and had received recognition for his preservation work at Cooper’s Rock in West Virginia. A bench plaque there commemorates his contributory work. John eventually found an outlet for his grief through his photography and used his photographic skills in a book meant to comfort others in their loss. John's book is filled with his and Marlise's photography. It can be viewed at www.griefsucks.net and has recently been added as an ipad app, ebook and to Amazon. This book is written with sincerity, frankness and suffused with emotion. GRIEF SUCKS will aid everyone to prepare for grief, deal with it and eventually triumph over it without leaving behind their beautiful memories. Marlise and John are ready and willing continue to help anyone in grief.
John and Marlise entered retirement last year. But that means a change in activities, not inactivity. John articulates it as sharing their time, experience and talents especially in helping others deal with grief. He will also remain involved in veterans’ affairs and Marlise and John will continue to contribute time to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). They feel retirees must be active and grow.
John was kind in speaking of the trust he has in Christine Robinette, his Financial Advisor, and in our firm. He credited us with instilling confidence in them to weather the economic cycles and for our guidance. John appreciated our assistance in broadening their horizons by sharing knowledge and for our personal touch. He concluded with thanks for assisting them in their financial affairs toward a more secure retirement.
We are grateful to Sonny and Marlise Partilla for their friendship and their confidence in us. We wish them a productive and happy retirement.
Orignally published in our July 2008 newsletter.
The Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf
The Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf began on September 4, 1869 based on the premise that deaf children have all of the intelligence and potential of their hearing counter parts, but they don’t possess the ability to hear. That determination to not waste the human potential inherent in deaf youngsters has guided the school’s course for 139 years. The school flourishes today at its 20-acre campus location in Edgewood currently serving nearly 250 children from birth through 12th grade coming from over 101 school districts in 31 counties across Pennsylvania. Approximately 70 students reside at the school from Sunday evening through Friday afternoon while the others commute daily. Children are referred to WPSD by pediatricians, audiologists, school districts, parents and social service agencies.
WPSD’S commitment to quality educational programs, support services and a complete extracurricular program in an accessible communication environment provides deaf and hard-of-hearing students the opportunity to reach their highest potential – academically, socially and personally. WPSD is the largest comprehensive center for deaf education in Pennsylvania.
Programs are individualized for each student depending on their unique needs. Classes encompass preschool through high school, but also include an early intervention program for deaf and hard-of-hearing children from birth through age three. After-school activities include a variety of clubs, a physical fitness program and a comprehensive sports program. Where appropriate, the school facilitates mainstreaming in collaboration with a variety of local programs and area schools.
WPSD is a non-profit, tuition-free school and receives funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Education to cover the basic education of the children. But that doesn’t cover the cost of new capital equipment or special initiatives. Those must be funded privately through donations from individuals and foundations. The school’s trustees and administration have worked diligently to gain yearly operating funds and to build an endowment in an attempt to insure its ability to continue to serve deaf and hard-of-hearing children. Fragasso Financial Advisors is proud to be instrumental in the management of a portion of those assets for the school.
If you know someone who could benefit from this educational resource or if you wish to learn American Sign Language, visit the school’s web site at www.wpsd.org. You can also visit that site if you wish to contribute funds toward the school’s mission.
Originally published in our January 2009 newsletter.
Susan White and Robert Kubacki
Susan White and Robert Kubacki define their life as a series of choices and they have no regrets. They feel that in some ways their life has come full circle, taking them back to their roots.
Susan grew up south of Boston and has four brothers and one sister – all about a year apart. Her father inherited a small family business at the age of 23 after his father suddenly passed away. Susan credits her father for her incredible work ethic. Her father believed that you had to set goals and work diligently toward them – there is no quick fix. He had a good attitude about learning; he was humble, worked hard, and taught his kids to do the same.
Susan’s parents could not afford to send six kids to private school so they put Susan and her sister through Milton Academy Prep school. She knows that her parents made an incredible choice and thanks them to this day for that sacrifice. Susan went on to study at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She spent a year abroad studying in Greece – the only problem was, she didn’t speak Greek. But in typical Susan fashion, she learned how to adapt quickly.
Susan eventually met Robert, through mutual friends, and they soon became inseparable. They quickly found out how much they had in common. Robert was also from Massachusetts – Springfield to be exact. He has two brothers and two sisters and also came from an incredibly hard working family who emphasized education. Robert’s Mom was a homemaker and his Dad put all of the kids through school. Education was a priority in the Kubacki household. He was a toolmaker and held down two jobs, often working on Saturdays, to provide for his family. Robert recalls that his Father never took a vacation and has an incredible love for his family. He is fully aware of all the sacrifices that his parents made for him and his siblings, including putting Robert through law school.
For 10 years, Robert handled children’s legal issues for an adolescent adoption agency. This was unheard of in 1978. At that time, if a child was 3 years or older, they were considered unadoptable. During this time, Robert continued his schooling and got a masters degree in public administration and did adjunct teaching. He is also trained as a mediator in Boston. He moved to Pittsburgh looking to get out of the public sector. Susan was accepted at the University of Pittsburgh for a master’s degree in public administration and international affairs.
In Pittsburgh, Robert worked as a director of dispute resolution services. He taught at Duquesne and CMU in the philosophy department dealing with conflict resolution. Susan’s career path took more of an international turn. She had professional and personal relationships in Mozambique for over 25 years. The birth of a little girl 14 years ago, changed Susan and Robert’s life forever. Susan knew the day after she was born that this baby would be special in her life.
Susan knew the baby’s birth mother for years and became the baby’s godmother. Another great honor was bestowed on Susan – the baby was named after her – Susan Cossa. Being a godmother holds a special cultural status in the family in Mozambique culture and the opportunity for Susan to take on more responsibility. Susan was surprised and honored and knew that this was done with the blessing of the family. Susan and Robert traveled to Mozambique many times over the years and their bond with young Susan got stronger each time. They made the choice to have Susan come and live with them here in the U.S. This was not only their choice but also the choice of Susan’s family to let her go.
Along with the emotional, personal choice to bring young Susan home with them, they also made a financial choice. They knew that they were taking on a financial commitment. Susan states that “there is no price tag for love. Choices along the way support that original emotional choice.”
Like their parents, Susan and Robert also placed a high priority on education. Susan Cossa was a star pupil and well liked in school. She speaks 4 languages – English, Portugese, French, and Zulu. Susan lived with them for 5 years and now attends a private boarding school in Johannesburg, South Africa. I had the pleasure of meeting Susan Cossa a year ago and could easily see the intense love and family bond that they all share.
When they are not spending time with Susan, they enjoy hiking and reading. Robert is an accordion player and volunteers by playing music for hospice patients. A few years ago, he produced his first CD “Jumping Gawumpki”. It was named after their cat who liked to jump. Robert’s CD currently sells in 7 countries, including the U.S. He finds that children love his music and that gratifies him the most. Robert is also developing a conflict coaching practice. He enjoys helping people think through issues as it relates to conflict in the workplace and loves to see people grow as individuals.
Susan is currently one of 3 Program Directors at Pathfinder International. The company works to improve the sexual and reproductive health of adolescents, women, and men throughout the developing world. Susan has a portfolio of 7 countries.
Susan and Robert coordinate visits with Susan Cossa either in South Africa or when she comes to the U.S., those are the moments that they treasure most.
Last year, they relocated to Boston and reconnected with family and friends. They feel that they truly have come full circle. Susan and Robert also want everyone to know that even though they left Pittsburgh and live in Boston, Pittsburgh is in their hearts and that they will always be Steelers fans, no matter their location.
Susan and Robert thank Fragasso Financial Advisors for helping them to see the long view on days where it was difficult, especially as they dealt with complex transition issues with their daughter. “There was a focus on learning what our interests are and how to support them financially and emotionally.” said Susan. One might think that their story is unusual but it’s really not – it is about love, choice, and being realistic about the financial needs to support their situation.
Originally published in our July 2011 newsletter.
Paul and Brenda Furiga
Paul and Brenda Furiga were friends long before they began dating. They met early in their freshman year at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and hung out together in the same social group during that year. Brenda served as Paul’s mentor giving him advice on his dating adventures. But, by the end of freshman year, they both realized there was something very special between them and Brenda asked Paul to accompany her to her sorority formal. From that early realization of their compatibility grew a partnership that includes marriage, children and a jointly-owned, successful public relations business located in Pittsburgh. But there was an interestingly circuitous route from Oxford to Pittsburgh.
Brenda grew up in Garfield Heights, a Cleveland suburb, and despite Paul living just three miles away in a neighboring suburb, they didn’t know each other. Today their respective parents still live only miles apart.
At Miami University, Brenda studied Business Administration and Marketing while Paul pursued his love of radio broadcasting and studied Broadcast Journalism. While at Miami, Paul hosted two radios shows featuring classical music and news at the college radio station. As a trained and accomplished tuba player, the shows tied nicely into his passion for music. Paul was also a four year member of the Miami Student editorial staff, serving as editor his senior year.
Following graduation in 1980, Paul and Brenda took a backpacking trip through Europe, visiting nine countries and 13 cities in just 30 days. Soon after their return, Brenda relocated to Cincinnati to start her first job at an advertising agency.
Paul’s educational background, newspaper journalism internship in college and passion for news made him an in-demand commodity. He was recruited in rapid-fire succession by a trade magazine in Cleveland and then for a reporter’s position with the Cincinnati Enquirer. After working his way through the newsroom for six years, Paul received an offer from the American Political Science Association for a Congressional Fellowship. The program continues today giving journalists the opportunity to work on Capitol Hill, to see how the legislative branch works. Paul began working for Senator Paul Simon and within the year joined Simon’s presidential campaign.
After Senator Simon’s presidential bid ended, Paul was recruited to work for Thompson newspapers’ Washington bureau covering Congress, the White House and four presidential nominating conventions for Ronald Regan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Meanwhile, Brenda continued her career working in marketing for a trade association and then as business manager for a public relations firm.
Just before their tenth wedding anniversary in 1991, Paul and Brenda were blessed with the arrival of their first daughter, Emily. Brenda continued to work part-time for the public relations agency and then retired completely in 1993 upon the birth of their second daughter, Elizabeth.
Thompson transferred Paul to Cleveland to become Senior Editor of their Ohio Week publication. While it was good to be near their extended families, an opportunity to be editor at the Business Times drew them to Pittsburgh. Paul had visited his father’s family in Pittsburgh while growing up and both Brenda and Paul were not dissuaded by Pittsburgh’s reputation then as a declining industrial town. They viewed it as a family-friendly, safe and comfortable place to live and raise their daughters. Their days of geographic job transfers were over.
As a stay-at-home mom, Brenda began a proofreading business and today still reads publications for Duquesne University, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Museums.
After four years as editor of the Pittsburgh Business Times, Paul was offered a publisher’s position in a different city by the Business Times’ parent company. But by then Paul and Brenda were confirmed Pittsburghers and did not want to uproot their family. Ketchum Public Relations offered, and Paul accepted, a vice president’s title serving clients including Alcoa, Bridgestone/Firestone, the Florida State Board of Administration and Rutgers University. He was Ketchum’s top labor counselor, part of the leadership for Ketchum Inside, a global workplace and change management practice.
All went well until the recession of 2000-02 when Ketchum and most other agencies experienced a precipitous drop in billings. Ketchum downsized their Pittsburgh office and Paul and Brenda were, once again, facing a forced move to another city. Unwilling to do so, and at the urging of some of his major clients, Paul founded WordWrite Communications on March 1, 2002 with Paul as president and Brenda as vice president of finance. Former clients from Ketchum and companies that knew Paul from his Pittsburgh Business Times days lined up to become WordWrite clients.
Today their client list includes large organizations such as West Penn Allegheny Health Systems, Medrad, Koppers, Pfizer and smaller and mid-sized companies such as Redstone Highlands Senior Living Community and Fragasso Financial Advisors. The firm is growing at 25% per year and is, contrary to national trends, in hiring mode for both senior and junior talent. WordWrite has opened an Arizona office and plans more in locations where they have major clients.
Paul explains that WordWrite’s growth is spurred by their unique approach to corporate story telling. As summarized on the website, www.wordwritepr.com, every company has at least one great story to tell: its own. WordWrite’s team helps shape that story and share it with everyone who needs to hear it, making their clients the heroes in their own stories.
Through all this growth and progress, Paul and Brenda still revel in the quality of family life they first treasured upon arrival in Pittsburgh. The family enjoys attending sporting events and volunteering to walk dogs and socialize cats for Animal Friends. Paul’s passion for music continues as he plays bass guitar in a local band and Brenda acts as a companion for a challenged extended family member living locally.
They are busy people living a full life. The family celebrated a milestone this year with the departure of Emily to her freshman year at Lehigh University where she is studying integrated business and engineering. Emily was president of North Allegheny High School’s Key Club and an active member of student council. Younger daughter, Elizabeth is a junior at North Allegheny High School where she writes for the school literary magazine and participates on the forensics speech team. She expects to major in international relations when she attends college.
Paul and Brenda Furiga are clients of our firm and tell us the long term nature of the guidance we provide is a comfort while they strive to continue to build their own business. They praise the affirming demeanor of their financial advisor here, Gregg Daily, who helps them build for the future while accommodating the immediate needs of their business. We, in turn, thank Brenda and Paul for their confidence in us and know that Pittsburgh has benefited from their decision to make our area their home.
Originally published in our April 2011 newsletter.
Sidney and Ellen Zonn
Sid and Ellen Zonn met in college and married immediately thereafter. It was circa 1970 at the University of Massachusetts when Sid, a history major, and Ellen, majoring in Public Speaking and Education, found each other. Sid had come from Hull, Massachusetts near Boston and Ellen from Lower Manhattan. They have been together through Sid’s Air Force officer days, beginning in 1972, and including a year’s tour in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam conflict. Three years of law school followed for Sid at the University of Miami while he remained in the Air Force Reserve as a Captain. Ellen worked and earned her Masters degree in Higher Education Administration at the University of Miami as well.
A job as an attorney for Pittsburgh’s Berkman Ruslander law firm brought the couple here where Sid remained from 1978 to 1988 and then to a similar position with Buchanan Ingersoll. Sid practiced labor law for Buchanan from 1988 until 2001 when he brought the national labor law firm, Littler Mendelson, to Pittsburgh as the office’s Managing Partner. Then, in June of 2006, Sid was appointed Vice President and General Counsel for Robert Morris University. Ellen had begun as a recruiter and trainer for the Joseph Horne Department Store upon their arrival in Pittsburgh in 1978. She soon became Director of Career Services (coincidently) for Robert Morris College, as it was known then. She moved to the same position at the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz Graduate School of Business.
Their son, Geoffrey, was born in 1987, and Ellen elected to spend two years at home with him before becoming Assistant Dean of Academic Advising at La Roche College. Ellen earned an Ed.D. in her field at the University of Pittsburgh in 1996 and rejoined Robert Morris University in the School of Communication and Information Systems as a faculty member teaching Business and Professional Communications.
Sid and Ellen have both actively parented Geoff through his schooling and athletics. Geoff is a talented baseball player, who lettered in baseball, football and basketball at the Kiski School. Geoff is currently a freshman at Lynchburg College in Virginia where he is a pitcher on the varsity baseball team. He aspires to play professional baseball before entering his desired, long-term career as a coach and athletic trainer.
When Ellen, the professional career advisor, was asked to furnish advice to young people like her son Geoff, she replied. “Find something that you like doing. All else follows. While change is scary, it is also good.” That’s good advice to those of us wishing to follow our individual star while being fearful of possible consequences. Ellen referenced the $35 in cash they had left over after closing on their first home while starting a new job in a new city back in 1978. But they knew something good was awaiting them and continued to pursue their goals. Today, they enjoy attending Geoff’s baseball games in various cities, traveling to other destinations and spending time in their vacation home in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. They take their two other family members, Labrador Retrievers, Winston and Merlin, to the Outer Banks and everywhere else possible in their travels.
Ellen went on to advise on the selection of an investment advisor. “Find someone you’re comfortable with and trust, and who does the right things.” Ellen and Sid have been our clients since 1989, and we are very grateful for the trust they have placed in us.
Originally published in our January 2007 newsletter.
Dr. Oscar and Diana Urrea
Oscar Urrea immigrated from Manicales, Colombia in South America at the age of 24. He was the son of an attorney and his wife, who Oscar credits as “the dynamic force of the family.” Oscar, the second of his parents’ eight children, had attended college and medical school at the University of Caldas before coming to the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Psychiatry for specialty training, which was completed in 1973. He met Diana in 1969 who was a nurse at Columbia Hospital in Pittsburgh’s East End while he was an intern doing rotation there. 1973 was an eventful year as Oscar completed his residency and Diana delivered their first child, Alex after the family moved to Europe so Oscar could pursue post graduate psychiatric studies at the University of London. At the conclusion of that year, the family moved back to our area and Oscar opened medical offices in Monongahela and Oakland. He simultaneously served as Medical Director for the Mon/Yough Behavioral Health Clinic in McKeesport. Daughter Lisa was born in 1976 and son Christian in 1980.
Oscar and Diana opened their Peters Township and Washington, PA offices shortly after Monongahela and maintain those three offices today and have a thriving practice. It is interesting to point out that managed care has devastated many specialty practices, like psychiatry, by controlling referrals and reimbursements. Realizing that at the onset of those changes, Oscar struck contracts with self-paying employers, such as municipalities, to provide mental health care for their workers and families. As a result, he and Diana, who manages the offices, have a successful practice of psychiatry and psychology.
Diana grew up in Apollo, PA, a mining town, and she was the daughter of a coal miner. Diana attended Apollo Ridge High School and the School of Nursing at Columbia Hospital. Oscar grew up in relatively modest circumstances in South America. He got through school on scholarships and by working part time. That means that both Oscar and Diana had to work extremely hard for what they accomplished, with nothing handed to them. Now they enjoy their three children and a successful medical practice. Oldest child, Alex, followed grandpa’s lead and is a staff attorney covering government affairs for a Washington, D.C. law firm. He is married to Zarina, also an attorney, who works for Reed Smith in Washington and Pittsburgh. Daughter, Lisa, lives in New York City and is in charge of Internet business sales for Nautica, and son, Christian, is in medical school at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
Oscar’s counsel to younger folks is to, “Stay in school as long as possible. Don’t lose heart. Life is long and you can succeed.” He credits Fragasso Financial Advisors for “earning his trust and for providing a personal aspect that can only be done by a few.” We appreciate the trust Oscar and Diana have placed in us. And we have valued them as clients since 1974. They are another example of the American Dream realized through hard work, education and perseverance.
Originally published in our January 2008 newsletter.
Peter and Katherine Velisaris
Following two older brothers, Pete Velisaris came to America at the age of 16 from a small town near Sparta, Greece. His parents’ farm grew olive, chestnut and cherry trees and it was not going to support five sons and a daughter, so the boys began to immigrate for more opportunity. How scary to be 16 in a new country with an unfamiliar language and an uncompleted education! Pete’s mother stressed the importance of education, so he began working as a busboy at the Pittsburgh Athletic Association (PAA) while attending Brentwood High School. He lived in an apartment with his older brothers, George and Art, who were chefs at Whitehall’s landmark Mona Lisa Restaurant. Pete continued to work after high school while attending Pittsburgh Educational Institute for a two year program in industrial management. Pete worked so hard that he did not take one day off in his first seven years in the United States. He also did not buy an automobile so he could use that money for education, his living expense and to send money back home to help his parents with his siblings. And he saved some money too.
All of that hard work, education and savings paid off when Pete and his brothers, George and Art were able to buy Ritter’s Diner in 1966. Ritter’s had been a staple for residents and students in the Oakland and Shadyside areas, and now it belonged to the boys. Fourth brother, Perry joined them from Greece in 1967. Nine years later, the original landmark red and silver diner was donated to the History and Landmarks Society and it still stands in Station Square where it was then moved. In its place, Pete, George, Art and Perry built the current, much more substantial diner that still serves hot and varied meals 359 days a year and 24 hours a day. Stop by and enjoy their cooking at 5221 Baum Boulevard across from Shadyside Hospital. One of the brothers or their sons supervises every shift.
Early in this evolutionary time in Pete’s life, he met Katherine at church. Katherine grew up in Canonsburg and attended Canon-MacMillan High School and worked thereafter as a secretary for Western State School and Hospital. Her girlfriend was married to Pete’s older brother so they were destined to meet. Katherine thought Pete to be a “solid, achieving guy.” But they knew each other for 10 years before they married in 1972. It is no coincidence for Pete, and many others with the immigrant experience, to wait until he could afford to properly care for a family to marry. Their first child, John, was born in 1974 and daughter, Kristen, was born in 1975. John is now part of the Ritter’s management team and Kristen is an Accounting Supervisor for BNY Mellon Corporation. Both John and Kristen have their college degrees and Kristen obtained her MBA from Pitt’s Katz School.
When asked what advice he would give to younger people, he quickly responded with a testimonial to the United States, which he believes offers the opportunity for jobs and personal advancement and to make one’s own economic judgments, such as he and his brothers did with Ritter’s. He counsels learning skills, acquiring knowledge, preparation and sacrifice to achieve one’s goals. He credits his brothers and his and their “four wonderful wives” for working together as a team to make their dreams a reality. He also credited Fragasso Financial Advisors for assisting him with guidance and investment management since 1985 toward those goals. We, in turn, appreciate Pete and Katherine’s confidence in us. We also celebrate the success and validation of the American dream, accomplished honestly and through hard work, as done by Pete and Katherine and their extended family.
Originally published in our January 2008 newsletter.
Paul and Eleanor Courtney
Eleanor looked across the room in Algebra class and saw Paul and thought he was cute. That interest persisted and, upon graduation from Beaver High School in 1945, they were going steady. Eleanor entered the University of Pittsburgh while Paul enlisted in the Navy. World War II was still a reality in the Pacific, and the country was preparing for an invasion of Japan. Fortunately that invasion, expected to cost one million U.S. lives, was not necessary and Paul came home in 1947, also to enter the University of Pittsburgh on the G.I. bill. Eleanor graduated from Pitt in 1948 and began teaching at Beaver Falls High School where many of her students were not much younger than her 20 years. Paul completed an accelerated undergraduate program in 1949 and entered law school there. Eleanor and Paul were married that same year, the first of now 57 years of marriage, and Eleanor continued as a high school teacher until their first child was born.
Christopher was born in 1952, Colleen in 1956 and Julie in 1962. Julie, now a dentist, has three children: Courtney, Ryan and Connor who are, as Eleanor describes her grandchildren, “all clients of the Fragasso Group!” Eleanor returned to Pitt after their last child went off to college and earned her master’s degree in library science. She became the assistant director and reference librarian for the Carnegie Library of Beaver Falls, while still serving as librarian for her church.
In 1962, Paul and Eleanor established and endowed the nationally recognized, Courtney Memorial Library of the Beaver United Methodist Church. Eleanor still chooses and purchases the 100 to 150 books added each year to the collection. In 1985, in Washington, D.C., the International Church and Synagogue Library Association recognized Eleanor for her outstanding contribution to church and synagogue libraries. She has conducted workshops throughout the country on the value of religious books.
At age 79, Paul recently retired from active law practice. He was honored a few years prior by the Beaver County Bar Association for his 50 years of practice in the county. He also spent 50 years as a director of the Union Building and Loan Savings Bank and was a founding director of Hub Consumer Discount Company, where he has served for over 50 years. He continues to serve on these boards. Paul remains an active volunteer, serving on many church and community committees, including the municipal zoning board.
The Courtneys remain active with travel, their family and Paul’s golfing. They offer several pieces of advice based on their life, long marriage and career successes. First, Paul suggests that one “Think before you act. Think twice before you speak. Call your attorney before you signg.” Eleanor’s sanguine observation is that “Life is full of peaks and valleys. In the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.” Finally, Eleanor admonishes to Give 10%, save 10% and spend the rest in thanksgiving and praise. She asks that we feature their association with The Fragasso Group for over 30 years. She states that, because of “excellent advice” they have “always had sufficient funds to support church and other activities.” We thank them for 30 years of friendship and trust.
Originally published in our October 2006 newsletter.
Herbert and Barbara Margolis
Herb Margolis grew up in Masontown and attended the one uptown school building in grades 1 through 12, which was not uncommon for that time and setting. Herb’s father and mother, immigrants from Lithuania, supported themselves and their four children through the family clothing and hardware store in Masontown, with both parents sharing the managerial, administrative, sales and labor duties.
A few years younger, Barbara grew up in Pittsburgh and attended Taylor Alderdice High School. Her father was the owner of a pharmacy in Pittsburgh’s North Side and then became a materials salesperson after selling the pharmacy. Barb’s mother remained a homemaker, looking after Barb and her sister.
Herb was drafted into the Navy right after the end of World War II and then subsequently discharged from service along with thousands of other active duty military personnel in the years following the war.
Herb studied pre-med on the GI bill at the University of Pittsburgh and went on, not to medical school, but to Pitt’s law school, graduating in 1952, coincidentally in the same class with one of our previously profiled clients.
Barb’s and Herb’s paths crossed for the first time while Herb was in law school when Barbara transferred to the University of Pittsburgh from Penn State. Herb saw Barbara, thought she was “pretty,” and asked his fraternity brother to arrange a date. They married when Herb graduated from law school and Barb graduated from college with a degree in education.
After they married in 1952, Barb taught school for one year to support them. After passing the bar exam in 1952, Herb joined his older brother in the practice of law. Herb continues to practice law today, 54 years later. Barb reentered the workforce as the children grew older and went off to college or high school.
Life for the Margolis family was typical of the times, with Herb and Barbara rearing James and his siblings, Gary, Sara and Tom. James, 53, attended Stanford and Princeton and lives in Colorado, working in medical business management. Gary, 49, attended George Washington University and the University of Pittsburgh. He is now a director of art education in Nevada. Sara, 48, attended Wesleyan University and John Hopkins University. She joined the Peace Corps following graduation from Wesleyan and was assigned to teach school in Zaire, Africa. While working there she met her husband, Michel Pacque, a doctor from Belgium. They lived and worked in the African countries of Zaire and Mali for ten years and now reside in Virginia where they are raising their three children, Derek, a high school senior and twins, Kyle and Malikia, age 15. Son, Tom, attended the University of Pennsylvania and the Harvard Medical School to become a retinal surgeon. He is married to Robin, who he met at the University of Pennsylvania, and they have three children, Rebecca age 15, Joshua age 11 and Jennifer age 8.
Herb described his life as a general practice attorney in Uniontown, a small town and county seat. He recounted the early pre-public defender days of his career when he would receive a request or a demand by a presiding judge to come to the courthouse to defend a criminal defendant. The jury was already being impaneled or already seated in the jury box when he arrived. He had no time to interview his client or make any investigation, so he gathered facts and prepared his defense as the case unfolded. Herb’s civil practice began to grow and he was able to provide for his growing family. Herb never lost his willingness to be helpful, informative, and available to his clients and friends. It is an oberver’s opinion that this trait was the key to his success.
When asked to provide advice to younger parents, Herb said, “In raising a family, you will have money and time concerns. There is no general advice that can be given. It is an individual determination.” He became specific though in saying, “Always save some of what you make for family security, and go to the Fragasso Group!” Herb and Barbara have complimented us for over 30 years with their confidence as clients. It is clear that Herb and Barbara’s family is their joy, and Herb’s gregariousness comes through when he adds, “Tell everyone to stop by for a round of golf,” one of his passions.
Originally published in our April 2007 newsletter.
Nancy Thompson has lived in Pittsburgh for many years but still carries her thick New England accent. Her thirst for education and the arts started at a young age. Her mother was the Director of Development at Radcliff College, so education was always a priority in her household. Her father was an architect who owned his own business. When her parents divorced, her mom was determined to put Nancy and her two older sisters through school. Her mom worked two jobs to make ends meet so Nancy’s care fell to her sisters a lot of the time.
Nancy attended Milton Academy, a private prep school in Boston. She credits that environment with changing the way that she viewed education. Up to that point, Nancy admits that she was not the best student and wasn’t always the best behaved, but the private school had a great structure which allowed her to thrive. She recalls the teachers spending a lot of time with their students and treated them all like kids of their own. Nancy said that she remembers every teacher’s name to this day.
Nancy attended Skidmore College in Sarasota Springs, New York but left after two years to begin working as a secretary. She said that she was rather bored with the job so she enrolled in George Washington University and graduated with a degree in Political Science. She then took a job on Capitol Hill working for a Congressman. While working in Washington, D.C., she recalls a great moment in which she briefly met a famous politician. Nancy was doing filing at the time and remembers being on the floor with papers scattered everywhere. A gentleman approached her from behind and said that he was happy to be in the presence of someone from his area – New England. Nancy turned around and realized that Jack Kennedy had spoken those words to her. She remembers not even being able to move and just being mesmerized by him. To this day, she feels badly that she did not stand up to shake his hand. Nancy said that she was just a little too star-struck to move but she remembers him being very nice.
Nancy left Washington, D.C. and joined C.A.R.E., which is a leading humanitarian organization focused on providing relief to poverty stricken areas. Nancy raised money for the organization. She then joined the Peace Corp and lived in Columbia `and other parts of South America for two years. They needed a woman on staff to get a juicy contract from the government so Nancy was chosen. She was fascinated by how other cultures live and she states that those two years were the best experiences of her life.
After two years in the Peace Corp, Nancy was accepted at the University of Pittsburgh. She received a Masters Degree in Counselor Education. At that time, approximately 75% of the Pitt students were international. Nancy can speak French and Spanish and this allowed her to help a lot of students find their way at Pitt. As the years went on, her job didn’t allow as much student interaction so she left to work at Allegheny East Mental Health Center where she helped with community programs for young mothers and children.
Nancy married a physician but later got divorced. While married, Nancy stated that she really didn’t pay attention to the finances but when she got divorced, she said that she “woke up about money and felt that she had no choice but to pay attention.” She attended a financial workshop in which Bob Fragasso was the teacher. She entrusted him with her divorce settlement and has been a client ever since. Nancy feels that we have guided her through many market cycles and life changes.
Nancy retired in 1994 at the age of 65 from Family Services. She admits that the first year of retirement was hard and she “didn’t know what to do with herself and her time.” But now she is anything but bored. She has been singing with the Bach choir for 34 years. In addition, she regularly takes painting classes. At the age of 82, she discovered literature and attends regular classes. She also played tennis in a league for many years. Nancy lives in Regent Square with her 6 year old cat Whiskey, whom she adopted from the Humane Society. All of her previous animals have been named after food or drinks. Nancy admits that she doesn’t drink whiskey at all but loves the name for her cat.
Nancy says that it is exciting to see young people interested in the arts and feels that all kids should be exposed – the earlier the better. She finds the arts to be a great outlet for emotion, friendship, and creativity.
As a client, Nancy looks forward to her annual meetings. Now happily retired for almost 20 years, Nancy is continuing to pursue her artistic and educational journey.
Originally published in our October 2011 newsletter.