Year in review

First Posted: 12/30/2013

Editor’s note: As we close the door on the year 2013 and look ahead to the year 2014, here’s a recap of some of the most memorable events in the Back Mountain during the last year.


Nine Dallas High School graduates, along with many other volunteers, took the opportunity to look beyond their own holiday wishes, reaching out to care for the needs of a group of peope who otherwise may not have had a festive holiday – the homeless. Rebecca Stull and Emily Collins, both freshmen at Temple University, gathered a group of friends, including Kaylin Russell, Kelly Healey, Catherine Coslett, Dana Jolley, Morgan Dingle, Elizabeth Hoover and Yael Chodosh to volunteer during Christmas at Camp Orchard Hill.

Members of the Back Mountain Men’s Ecumenical Group invited the ladies in their lives to their monthly breakfast at Irem Country Club. Father James Paisley of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Trucskville, Pastor Gideon Gaetano of New Life Church in Hanover Township, Carols by Kids and the daugher and granddaughter of group coordinator Gene Kelleher performed.

Attorney David Selingo, representing Back Mountain Baseball, proposed to the Dallas School Board at the board’s regular meeting that the Little League association demolish the “old Dallas Township school” at a cost of $150,000. In return, the baseball organization would gain the right to use the property, which would continue to be owned by the district, for a period of 20 years.

At a hearing at Misericordia Unversity, interested and concerned residents questioned Verizon employees closely about the proposed cell phone tower construction at the Twin Stacks Center. According to Borough Solicitor Jeffrey Malak, Verizon must prove to Council that the project meets all criteria of the borough’s zoning regulations.

Enthused by their new high school building with its state-of-the-art weight room, Dallas Senior High School physical wellness teachers Ruth Skammer and Tom Connors decided the new facility deserved a new elective exercise class. The course, first offered in the fall, involves 32 minutes of non-stop activity during the first period of the day. The activities vary every day but include strength, agility, endurance exercises and lot of testing.

Members of the community rallied to keep alive the memory of Cecilia “CC” Besecker by participating in an American Red Cross blood drive at St. Therese’s Roman Catholic Church in Shavertown. Besecker, daughter of Terri and Robert Besecker Jr., of Dallas, was killed in an automobile accident on June 28, 2012. The 22-year-old Dallas High School graduate was attending Indiana University of Pennsylvania and studying fashion merchandising at the time of her death.

Accidental “butt dials” and occasional glitches in the telephone system contributed to an increase in 911 calls, said Lehman Township Police Chief Howard Kocher during a Lehman Township board of supervisors meeting. Kocher said emergency personnel must respond to each call, even if it is a hang-up, adding that last year emergency personnel responded to 108 hang-up calls and 123 burglar alarms, most of which were also false alarms.

Tom Hillman, of Dallas, a former Cub Scout Pack leader, contributed to the summer Scout camping experience for Scouts in Cub Scout Pack 241, Lehman. Hillman came from a Scouting family – his father and grandfather were both Eagle scouts. He thinks everything about the Scouting process prepares and leads the boys to camping.

Student athletes at Lake-Lehman Jr.-Sr. High School have a new way to connect off the court – and on a differnet level. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes group meets twice a month at the high school to discuss Lake-Lehman sports, socialize with friends and study topics from the Bible that students get to choose.

Cub Scouts and their fathers worked alongisde each other during Cub Scout Pack 155’s Annual Pinewood Derby held Jan. 18 at the Early Childhood Education Center at the Trucksville United Methodist Church. The first Pinewood Derby was held in 1953 by Cub Scout Pack 280C of Manhattan Beach, California, operated by the North American Aviation Management Club. It was the brainchild of Cubmaster Donald Murphy.

The Seventh Annual Community Care for Kids Carnivale was held Jan. 19 at the Westmoreland Club in Wilkes-Barre. The event benefits an organization founded by plastic surgeon Dr. Francis Collini and his wife, Susan, of Shavertown. Since 1977, Dr. Collini and a medical team have traveled to Ecuador each year to operate on children desperately in need of corrective surgery.

It was a winter wonderland as Mother Nature came knocking, bringing the first real snowstorm of the season and dumping several inches of snow. Back Mountain residents dealt with the inclement weather, some enjoying it and others just tolerating it.


Members of the Dallas Lions Club just want to make enough money to support their charities. An annual Night at the Races had allowed them to do just that for more than 25 years. Not this year. The Pennsylvania State Police craked down on events such as Night at the Races, shutting them down because they are illegal under Pennsylvania’s Small Games of Chance Act.

Local youngsters had a sweet introduction to the culinary arts at a children’s cooking class held at the Brown Barn Cafe in Shavertown. About 20 tykes particiapted in the class, held monthly at the cafe. In honor of Valentine’s Day, participants whipped up a batch of red velvet cupcakes and frosting from scratch.

Heather Calkins and Michelle Tomaselli were co-chairs for the Fourth Annual DHS Lock-In Rummage and Bake Sale, the biggest annual fundraiser, yielding thousands of dollars for the event. Donna Kon and Trudy McAndrew were the new co-chairs for the 13th Annual Dallas High School Lock-In. Both were in their second year with the committee.

About 200 people attended the Vietnamese New Year celebration hosted by Father Vincent Dang of St. Francis Cabrini Church at the Franklin Township Volunteer Fire Hall in Orange. Vietnamese New Year is often observed by decorating the traditional Hoa Mai tree, which is dressed with families’ wishes for the New Year, and families give one another monetary offerings in red envelopes. Other traditions include visiting family and friends and purchasing new clothes.

Jenelle O’Brien, of Dallas, posed a challenge for herself when planning her daughter’s birthday party this year. She wanted to find spmething unique and active to occupy about 20 6-year-olds for a few hours, and she had to think a bit out of the box. Instead of the same old routine, O’Brien organized a make-your-own-pizza party at Original Italian Pizza in the Dallas Shopping Center for her daughter, Kyla, and 19 of her closest friends.

Mary Murray, a resident at the Meadows Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, celebrated her 100th birthday on Feb. 6 with her family by her side.

Frank and Marlene Rollman, of Dallas, celebrated their 50th wedding anniverasry on Feb. 23. The entire Rollman family celebrated the milestone anniversary with a trip to Maui, Hawaii.

Every Thursday night, the Harveys Lake American Legion Dance Class turns the second floor of the hall into a place where a Texan would feel right at home. The dance group is led by Dave Zimmerman, of Dallas, who says he’s been dancing for 47 years. Zimmerman teaches country/western line dancing to the group.

Carla Reino, 24, of the Back Mountain, opened MMR Jr. Prep, a daycare facility for pre-school and school-age children, in Forty Fort. MMR Jr. Prep was the brainchild of Reino’s mother, Margaret M. Reino, who died in May 2011, after battling cancer.

Fifth-graders at Wycallis Elementary School received certificates during graduation ceremonies for the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program. The program has been conducted in the Dallas School District by Kingston Township Police Officer Frank Ziegler for the last 18 years.

Lake-Lehman School District boosters clubs announced they will unite for a day-long fundraiser on June 1. The “Knight of Mayhem” fundraiser is intended to raise money for new turf for the district’s playing field. The main activity of the fundraiser would be a novel game called Cow Pie Bingo which involves selling two by two foot suare deeds to a field. A cow is let loose in the field. The player who holds the ticket to the square littered by the cow is the winner and gets 10 percent of the total deed sales.

On a cold Sunday afternoon, far from their cozy living rooms and football games, a group of dancers and their faithful parents piled into the Back Mountain Dance Studio of Bob and Kristine Oberst to celebrate a phenomenal victory. While the feathered and sequined Back Mountain dancers have won competitions before, never have they won this many trophies and cash – a total of $4,300.


Rock and Robyun Stahovic, of Plains, were the only winners of a Boxtops for Education prize in a tri-state area that includes Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. The couple won 100,000 Boxtops for Education which translated into $10,000 for the school of their choise. They chose to donate the $10,000 to their children’s school, the Trucksville Early Childhood Education Center, affiliated with the Trucksville United Methodist Church.

When Alvin Cragle began his job as secreary-treasurer of Lehman Twp. 35 years ago, his office technology consisted of a calculator. He used handwritten ledgers and disbursements and all checks were written by hand. Today, he serves Lehman Twp. as treasurer and works from a full-equipped home office, equipped by the township with a personal computer and all the peripherals and software he neds.

As if 33 degree air temperature and 39 degree water temperature weren’t cold enough, Gerry Finnerty dumped six blocks of ice into Harveys Lake – just to make sure he really was participating in a Polar Bear Plunge. Finnerty and about 100 other brave souls weathered cold, wind and even snow to make the Ninth Annual Polar Bear Plunge, held March 16 at Garrity’s Real Estate office in Harveys Lake, a success. Monies raised from the event, which has raised between $5,000 and $7,000 every year, benefit the American Cancer Society.

Trained EMS responder Jason Rose, of Carverton, responded to a 911 call about someone falling through the ice at Frances Slocum State Park. Methodically working the scene, Rose kept his focus on the girl, got her to shore, then went back for the other passerby.

Approximately 1,000 students from 50 schools in northreastern and central Pennsylvania competed in individual and team events at the Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Science Olympiad at Penn State Wilkes-Barre. Winners of the regional contest advanced to state competition at Juanita College in April.

Plans for improvements to the Lake-Lehman athletic grounds made progress at the school board’s March 11 meeting. The board awarded the bid for replacement of the district’s artificial turf to A-Turf, Inc., of Lancaster. The bid was not to exceed $468,000 and includes the removal of existing turf and installation of a new 10mm elastic rubber pad with a 25-year warranty and artificial turf with a 12-year warranty.

Lauren Gallagher, 16, of Dallas, is a dancing machine but it took her a few years and a few different styles of dance before she found her calling. The Scoil Rince Na Connemara dancer recently took third place in the Mid-Atlantic championship held in Ridgewood, N.J., which qualifies her to compete at the All Ireland competition in Killarney, Ireland.

A new eight-period hybrid block schedule will be implemented at Dallas High School next year, principal Jeffrey Shaffer told parents. The new schedule contains some elements of the current five-period block schedule but will allow more time for electives. Block scheduling is defined as allowing students to have fewer but longer classes per day with each class lasting more than 60 minutes.

Mae Rome and many other residents had the pleasure of participating in the Back Mountain Memorial Library’s monthly book discussion group since the club began in 1995. When the grant expired, club members took it upon themselves to continue the discussions. Now, each year, four or five members of the club have a chance to choose thte titles and run the discussions.

Misericordia University dedicated the John and Cyunthia Mulloy Dish Room in the John and Mary Metz Dining Hall in recognition of the couple’s generosity and more than 68 years of combined service to students. A special plaque was hung in the dining room in honor of the Mulloys, who reside in Dallas. They are employees of Metz Culinary Management which oversees services for the university.


Scouts in the Back Mountain were swelling with Army pride as Boy Scout Troop 146, Jackson Twp. Volunteer Fire Department was selected from over 10,000 Boy, Girl and Venture Scout applicants from across the United States to atend the 51st Annaul West Point Scoutsmasters 2013 Camporee. Trioop 146 was the only troop from the Northeastern PA Council of the Boy Scouts of America selected to attend.

The Beaumont Inn was about a month away from being reborn. Rob Friedman, who purchased the Back Mountain landmark on Route 309 in Dallas Twp. from Jim and Beth Harkins, expects to open his newest venture by the end of May.

After more than a year and more than a million dollars, the East Center Street Bridge Project in Shavertown was complete. The bridge, which was closed on April 16, 2012, re-opened to traffic on April 21. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was planned for April 26. Plans to renovate hte bridge started in 2000 and included removing the old bridge, widening the area, building a new bridge and roads.

The Back Mountain Chamber held its annual Back Mountain Business and Community Expo on April 17 in Insalaco Hall at Misericordia Univesity. This was the fourth year for the Chamber-sponsored event. More than 75 businesses and non-profit organiations set up booths to spread awareness about their merchandise and promote contacts among participants.

North Branch Land Trust (NBLT) was preparing to celebrate its 20th anniversary of conserving important natural resources in Northeastern Pennsylvania at its annual dinner and auctions at the Westmoreland Club in Wilkes-Barre. The 20th anniversary dinner chairs were Cornelia C. Romanowski, Frank E.P. Conyngham and William H. Conyngham.

At least two electronic signboards in the Back Mountain are serving more than their owners. A sign at Hilbert’s Equipment on Route 309 in Dallas and another one at Pennstar Bank on Route 309 in Shavertown are used to promote non-profit organizations.

A group of 12 teenagers from Lake-Lehman Jr./Sr. High School spread out like billiard balls on a pool table, rolling from one set of shelved books to another, looking for books in the Back Mountain Memorial Library Children’s Room. Their task was one of many the students are learning as part of an adult living class taught by Lee Sikora at the high school. Searching the shelves for appropriate materials to read to tots next month at Little People School in Dallas and Precious Angels in Pikes Creek can be daunting.

Jackson Township Solicitor Jefrey Malak announced at the April 8 supervisors meeting that township revenues are finally caught up after difficulties caused by the Don Wilkinson/Centax Agency. Fox pointed out three other indications that things are improving in the township and started by reporting that recycling is going well. Compost is available at no cost to residents and construction of the township playground will resume and include soccer field at no cost to taxpayers as the cost of creating the field has been donated by a township resident.

Prior to the Dallas High School baseball game against Lake-Lehman, members of the Mountaineers team invited family members of Jason Schilling to be part of a sideline ceremony where they were presented with a framed t-shirt made to look like a Dallas High School baseball jersey with the No. 31 on it. The jersey had Schilling’s initials and the initials of Ron Noyalis on the sleeve. Schilling, an outfielder for the Dallas High School baseball team for three years, was killed Dec. 1, 2012, when the automobile he was driving crashed into a tree on Carvertoad Road in Dallas. Noyalis, father of former DHS baseball standout Marc Noyalis, was killed last year while clearing trees.

If the red sliding door to the auction barn behind the Back Mountain Memorial Library was open in the past, more than likely Ernie Ashbridge was in there – moving furniture, dusting and carefully arranging the over 600 antiques the library planned to sell in July. Ashbridge, who died on April 12 at the age of 82, was passionate about helping the library make as much money as possible from the sale of antiques.

The Dallas Post announced the establishment of the Charles D. Lemmond Jr. Community Spirit Award. The award, named after the former senator who passed away in 2012, would recognize a resident of the Back Mountain for his or her leadership and advancement of community spirit.

What are the odds that three students from Ross Elementary School in Sweet Valley would come up with three state awards in handwriting? There were about 285,000 contest entires this year, according to school prinicipal Donald James. Students in grades 1-6 participated in the National Zaner-Bloser Handwriting Contest. Winners from Ross Elemetnary included Sarah Bednarek, Karlee Kreller and Andrew Jubis.

Elijah Miller, development director at Rock Recreation Center and Doug Miller, center director and no relation to Elijah, are spearheading a $4 million capital campaign to transform the recreation center into a sports complex. Included in the plan are a multi-purpose field, major renovations to the swimming pool to add mushroom sprinklers and collapsible rock climbing walls, as well as an addition to the current recreation building, adding a second full-size basketball court with drop-down nets.

Dallas Post photographer Charlotte Bartizek won a first-place Keystone Press Award for a feature photo of a kids’ annual fishing day in the Back Mountain. In addition to Bartizek’s award, The Times Leader and associated community publications won 27 Keystone Press Awards in a number of categories.


Principal Donny James held the stick wound tight with brightly-colored string high above his head and the Ross Elementary School students cheered. Art teacher Jill Vanderhook took a victory lap, holding the stick like an Olympic torch and students roared while “We Are The Champions” blared through disc jockey Frank Prest’s speakers. For seven months, students at the school tied friendship bracelets, using colored embroidery string, in hopes of being entered into the Guinness Book of World Records. Measured by professional land surveyors Jess Kronenwetter and Bill Bolton from Borton Lawson Engineering Firm and officially witnessed by Dallas Post Editor Dotty Martin, the bracelets measured 2,678.02 feet.

Megan Sgarlat-Prynn, vice chairperson of the Harveys Lake Environmental Advisory Committee, reported that the 2013 Harveys Lake Earth Day Clean-Up Project was a success. Twenty-seven adutls and eight children participated in the April 21 event, which saw 89 bags of litter and eight additional bags of miscellaneous recyclable materials collected.

Hundreds gathered along Main Street in Dallas to watch the Daddow-Isaacs American Legion Post 675 Memorial Day Parade that was well represented by Boy and Cub Scouts, Brownies and Back Mountain emergency response department personnel. Mother Nature cooperated, providing sunny skies and comfortable temperatures as the nation paused to remember those who have served in the military.

With a Fertile Grounds membership, a fresh box of locally-grown organic produce is yours every week from June to October. Fertile Grounds CSA is an organization that allows individuals to pledge their support for a local farm while sharing the risks and benefits of food production. Project Director Deb Shoval said the venture is in its third season and is now farming 37 acres in Noxen.

Cemeteries around the Back Mountain were spruced up and flags placed on the graves of veterans, all in anticipation of Memorial Day.

A one-year project that started three years ago will end this year. The Dallas Lions Club Hometown Heroes Project, intended to be a one-time thing, garnered so much support that club members continued the project for three years. The project, which allows sponsors to purchase banners displaying names and photos of loved ones, has been more successful than the club ever thought possible.

Students at the Lake-Lehman Jr./Sr. High School watched an “accident” – complete with a fatality, a critically-injured victim and a drunk driver. The mock accident was coordinated by David Hopfer, an industrial arts teacher at Lake-Lehman , a firefighter and emergency medical technician with Back Mountain Fire & EMS and advisor of the school’s ERT (Emergency Response Team) Club.

Donald James, principal at Ross Elementary School in Sweet Valley, received word that the school had officially broken the Guinnesse World Record for the World’s Longest Chain of Bracelets. For seven months, students at the school tied friendship bracelets, using colored embroidery string.

Michael and Zack Luksic, sons of Mike and Cathy Luksic, of Shavertown, each belted two home runs in a game against the Giants on the same day. Michael, 12, and his brother, 10, both play for the Back Mountain Rangers in the Back Mountain Little League, a team coached by their father.

Kingston Township supervisors tabled a motion to establish a four-way stop sign at the intersection of East Center and North Main Streets, pending a traffic study completed by Borton Lawson, township engineers. In making the motion for the study, Chairman Jeffrey Box said it is necesary for the township to have a full understanding of safety issues and traffic patterns affecting the intersection before voting on the issue.

It was a grand slam for Lake-Lehman students when they cleaned up at the statewide History Day competition. After having won the Outstanding School Award, Senior Division, at the Regional History Day Contest for 14 consecutive years, the Lake-Lehman students brought home the Outstanding School Award for the State History Day Contest this year. In addition to winning a first place, a second place and third place, Lake-Lehman was named the best school in the entire state of Pennsylvania. And, as if that wasn’t enough, Lake-Lehman History Day Coordinator Michael Novrocki was named the recipient of trhe Patricia M. Behring State History Day Teacher of the Year Award.

Don Shaffer was honored with one last ride on a 1927 Mack firetruck when his body was transported from Disque Funeral Home in Dallas to its final resting place in Chapel Lawn Cemetery. Firefighters from Back Mountain Regional Fire & EMS placed the casket of the former fire chief onto the truck following funeral services and escorted it to the cemetery. Shaffer was a volunteer firefighter at the Dr. Henry M. Laing Dallas Fire Company for more than 50 years, serving as chief for 17 years.

The Back Mountain Police Association sponsored its annual Fish for Free Day on May 4 at Frances Slocum State Park. In addition to fishing, there was a Smokehouse, a K-9 demonstration, fish school, lunch and prizes for 120 young fisherpersons.

The Franklin Township Fire Company showcased its new training facilities upgrade to the public at an open house on May 5. The facility includes a 40 by 60 foot hall that seats more than 200 people and can be rented for weddings or other events. The company also plans to use the facility for a wide range of training like a session held recently on how to use breathing apparatus.


The Dallas Post honored Judy and David Rimple as the first-ever recipients of the Charles D. Lemmond Community Spirit Award. The presentation of the award, established by The Dallas Post, was made in Lemmond Theater on the campus of Misericordia University and was followed by a reception in Sandy & Marlene Insalaco Hall. The award is named after the former senator who passed away in 2012 and is designed to recognize a resident of the Back Mountain for his or her leadership and advancement of community spirit.

Lake-Lehman School Board members voted in the highest tax increase allowed by the state at their June 17 meeting. The $17 million budget will require a 4.33% increase for residents who live in Luzerne County while those residing in Wyoming County get a break and will actually experience a tax decrease of 4.88% in the coming year.

The Castle Inn, a Back Mountain restaurant dining institution since 1927 on State Route 415 in Dallas, was torn down on June 17. According to Dallas Township Zoning Officer Carl Alber, the building is owned by the Triangle 24 Hour Club Inc., of Wilkes-Barre, which bought the Castle Inn from Valgadur Omar Hallsson for $307,000 in July 2012. The club, a non-profit Alcoholic Anonymous group, presently meets in a building next to Back Mountain Bowl in front of Dallas Nursery where it rents space. According to reports by Nicholas Colangelo, a board member of Triangle 24 Hour Club, the group wanted to own a building.

Members of the Class of 2013 from both Dallas and Lake-Lehman High School received their diplomas during commencement exercises on Friday, June 7. Lake-Lehman celebrated its 55th annual commencement while Dallas held its 52nd annual commencement.

The Dallas School Board officially raised taxes at its June meeting. The final budget of $33,599,574 represnts no changes from the May proposed budget. The 2% tax rise represents the index allowed by the state of Pennsylvania and adds an additional $38 to an average tax bill of $800. The district did not apply for any exceptions to raise taxes over the index.

Ted Jackson Sr., who served as head football coach at Dallas High School for 27 years, was inducted into the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in Harrisburg, making him one of just 230 coaches to receive the honor since 1986. This year’s inductees were introduced at the Big 33 football game, an annual contest between the best players from Pennsylvania and Maryland.

When 18-year-old Thomas Lynch, of Hareveys Lake, died in a car atccident on Feb. 13, 2012, shock waves went through the Back Mountain community. Since then, six other young Back Mountain residents have died, four involving automobile accidents and two from cancer, leaving area residents nearly speechless and grasping for ways to cope with the losses. Candyce Fike, former chairperson of the foreign language department at Dallas High School, started the Back Mountain Academy reached out to anyone who felt they may need help dealing with their grief. The academy sponsored six sessions at the Dallas High School in an effort to bring the Back Mountain community together in its time of grief.

It may have been day time but it was certainly a Knight of Mayhem as the Lake-Lehman fundraiser took place on June 1 at the high school grounds. Lucy the cow ended the Cow Pie Bingo competition with pin-point accuracy when she selected the winning plot at row 11, column 19, “owned” by Bill and Rita Cutter, after one hour and 15 minutes of play. Due to the heat and humidity – temperatures rose well into the 90s – officials changed the rules of Cow Pie Bingo and, instead of the square with the most volume being declared the winner, the square with the first deposit was named the winning square.

At the annual meeting of the Northeast Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, Robert Jolley, chief of police in Dallas Township, was elected president of the organization. Chief Jolley was sworn in by Justic James


The first-ever Dallas Rotary Wine & Dine Festival enticed a large crowd to visit the Luzerne County Fairgrounds on June 29. The festival featured 11 winers, 17 food vendors and 32 craft vendors. Festival attendees were able to sample all wines and food was available for purchase.


Clarence Hogan and Sid Halsor are on the same page. They both want bicycles to continue riding around Harveys Lake but they also want them to be safe. As mayor of Harveys Lake Borough, Hogan wants cyclists to know they are required to follow the same rules of the road as motorists. Halsor, a cycling enthusiast who participates in weekly rides at the lake, wants the same.

The Lake-Lehman Football Booster Club held a car wash at Cook’s Pharmacy in Shavertown. For a donation of $5, drivers had their cars washed by Black Knights football players and cheerleaders. All proceeds will be used for equipment, camp and much more.

X-Cell has been given approval to lease a 100 x 100 foot property off Cliff Street in Harveys Lake Borough with the purpose of constructing a 195 foot cell phone tower.

The Lands at Hillside Farms held a Summer Fair and Farm to Table Dinner on July 13 at The Cedars and Hillside Cottage. The event was a fundraiser for Green Guides, Hillside Farms animal-assisted activities for vulnerable youth. Luzerne Bank was the presenting sponsor.

By Tuesday of the week of the 67th Annual Back Mountain Memorial Library Auction, the auction grounds were covered with lawn chairs as volunteers set out their folding chairs and a crowd of auction-goers quickly did the same. The security guard had all he could to politely discourage auction fans from swamping the area on Tuesday night.

Noticeably absent from her usual painting perch at the annual Back Mountain Memorial Libary Auction was Sue Hand, who was sick with a fever from a tick bike that hospitalized her until the last day of the auction. Her students Mike Hiscox, Kayla Wanek and Maggie Fannick stepped in to paint for her. Hand’s painting typically brings in $4,000 to $10,000, yet the students’ painting brought in $2,650 over the block in live bidding and, perhaps more, as it was announced that limited prints would be available for $50 each after the auction.

Jen Arellano was ready to face the music at Jammin’ for Jen, a benefit concert in her honor at the Boathouse in Harveys Lake. After a third cancer diagnosis, there’s not much Arellano isn’t ready to face. The 37-year-old Harveys Lake resident battled the disease in 2007 and 2010 and learned that she had cancer in her lymph nodes in March of this year. Two months later, her husband, 41-year-old Scott, lost his job.

Called “the jewel of the Back Mountain community” in a recent marketing survey, the Jewish Community Center Day Camp is now open for all to enjoy. Having operated for 75 years as a day camp for area children, the camp on Route 415 in Dallas is open to the public late afternoons, early evenings and weeekends.

Since returning home from “Hell’s Kitchen,” Huntsville Golf Club Executive Chef Michael Langon, 34, of Hanover Township has worked to bring several chefs featured in Season 11 to restaurants in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Langdon has selected Anthony Rodrigues to be the new sous chef at the private club in Dallas. The two met as contestants on the Fox culinary competition show hosted by mercurial chef and television personality Gordon Ramsay.

Rob Friedman, along with his daughters Haley and Diane, community officials and well-wishers, cut the ribbon to announce the re-opening of the Beaumont Inn for public lodging and dinging. The interior of the inn has been refurbished and the backyard terraced for outdoor dining.

Back Mountain Regional Representatrive Cheif Harry Vivian discussed the Smart911 service at the July 2 Dallas Township supervisors meeting. Residents create a safety profile where they enter vital medical information onto the website. The information will be immediately displayed to emergency responders in cases where the caller is unable to repond to questions regarding medications and medical conditions.

It’s easy to forget to breathe when wathing Wake Schepman skate. He defies gravity as he flies over ramps and twists in the air. His favorite stunt is a trick called a lat spin 540. It’s an unbelievable sidways backflip with one and a half rotations. Schepman, 16, of Hunlock Creek, is a phenomenon in the world of inline skating, also known as Rollerblading.

Michael Novrocki, a Lake-Lehman High School teacher, was selected as winner of the National History Day Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year in the 2013 senior division. The Behring Award recognizes teachers for exemplary commitment to helping students develop their interest in history through the use of creative teaching methods and helping them make discoveries about the past.

When Nicole Chipego, a former softball standout at Lake-Lehman High School, heard about the devastation caused by tornadoes in Oklahoma in early June, she wanted to help children whose lives were turned upside down by the storm. So she began planning an adult softball tournament to benefit the Moore, Oklahoma Little League. The two-day field of Dreams Co-Ed Softball Tournament would be held Labor Day weekend and proceeds from entry fees and raffle ticket sales would benefit the Little League organization in Oklahoma.


Ninety-year-old Mary Knecht, of Yardley, a former resident of the Back Mountain, parachuted from a plane to fulfill a long-held dream. When a friend of Knecht’s granddaughter said he was going to parachute from a plane, he offered to take her along. Knecht jumped at the chance – literally.

A huge crowd gathered at the River Grille in Plains Township for food, raffles and live entertainment in support of Tara Hustey Pisano, of Shavertown, was suffers from myelodisplastic syndrome, formerly known as preleukemia, a rare disorder affecting the development of blood cells within bone marrow. The disease progressed slowly, allowing the 28-year-old Hustey Pisano to give birth to her son one month early without having to endure chemotherapy treatments during her pregnancy.

It was reported that the appeal hearing of convicted child sex offender and former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusy would be held in the auditorium of the Dallas High School. Following that report, Pennsylvania Superior Court Justice President Jack Panella announced that the Sandusky appeal trial and another case involving a man who sexually abused his daughter would be headr at the Luzerne County Courthouse. The idea to bring proceedings out of major cities is to allow the general public a chance to see the judicial process at work. It just so happened that the Sandusky appeal was on the docket for the days the process was scheduled for the Back Mountain school.

The Brass Ring Fund Committee put in an appearance at the Joe Nardone/Eddie Day & the Starfires Reunion concert at Irem Pavilion on Aug. 17 to initiate a fundraising campaign to secure the Wintersteen Carousel from the family that has maintained ownership since 1915. The organization also hopes to build a pavilion to house the century-old carved wooden animals that once thrilled children and adults alike at Hanson’s Amusement Park at Harveys Lake.

The Kingston Township Board of Superviors approved the installation of a 4-way stop sign at the intersection of East Center Street and North Main Street in Shavertown.

The Kingston Township Board of Supervisors presented plaques to Mrs. Chris Mathers, wife of the late Supervisor Gary Mathers, daughter Nina Mathers Van Mater and granddaughters Mia and Clair Van Mater in memory and in honor of Mathers’ serive to the township as a supervisor from January 2012 to December 2012.

Back Mountain Regional Fire & EMS was awarded the 2013 EMS Agency of the Year. The award is issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Bureau of Emergency Medical Services, with the assistance of Pennsylvania Health Services Council to recognize organizations that have made a significant contribution to Pennsylvania’s EMS system.

Members of the Back Mountain community came together on Aug. 10 in support of Harry Sweppenheiser III at a fundraiser spaghetti dinner held at the fire hall where Sweppenheiser spends so much of his time. The Franklin Twp. fire chief was critically injured in a July 22 vehicle accident during a hard rainstorm.

As the 2013 high school football season was gearing up, Dallas High School head fooball coach Bob Zaruta and Lake-Lehman HIgh School head football coach Gerry Gilski were preparing their squads for tough competition.

More than 40 “Friends of the JCC Camp” were honored at a lunchon at the camp’s Harveys Lake location.

About 50 members of the Evans clam gathered for an annual reunion at the Orange United Methodist Church on Aug. 4. The family wasn’t sure if it was the 102nd or 112th meeting – either way, members have been celebrating common kinship for at least a century. The first Evans Family Reunion was thought to be held in Eaton Township in Wyoming County and the group has held reunions at the former Fernbrook Park in Dallas and the now-defunct Hanson’s Amusement Park in Harveys Lake. The United Methodist Church in Orange has been its meeting space for the past 30 years.

The Harveys Lake Homecoming Weekend was again a huge success with fun for all ages. Saturday’s events included the Second Annual Cancer Walk-A-thon, a car and truck show, the Wave Runner Card Run, the Anything Floats Race and the Boat Regatta. Sunday saw a kayak race, jetski freestyle competition, the Veterans Relay Benefit Motorcycle Run, a chicken barbeque, a fireman’s parade and a wing-eating contest.

The smells coming from behind the Trucksville United Methodist Church’s Education Center were absolutely delicious. Under a pavilion, 450 half chickens were being carefully barbecued on the huge grill especially made for trustees of the church. The trustes barbecue three times a year and were on hand for their summer fundraising project. Lee Baker, of Trucskville, said he is the senior member of the barbecuers as he has been cooking since 1967.


Employees and volunteers of the Meadows Nursing & Rehabilitation Center recently gathered for a Hawaiian Luau to celebrate the center’s 30th anniversary. Held under the pavilion, which was decked out in tropical island decor, the event included a buffet catered by Blue Coal BBQ, live entertainment, karaoke, games and raffles.

The “Year of the Volunteer” was celebrated at the 11th Annual Dallas Harvest Festival, recognizing Back Mountain organizations, those who run them and those who give generously of their time and talents to make our region a better place to live, work and play. Special activities were held to identify with this year’s special moniker, including a new contest, “Charity Starts Here: 1,000 Reasons to Give.” Brightly-colored ballot jars were placed at a number of local businesses and voters paid $1 to vote for one of five charities – Blue Chip Farms Animal Refuge, Back Mountain Trail, Michael J. Cleary Scholarship Fund, Dallas High School Mini-Thon and Back Mountain Memorial Library.

An application submitted by the Dallas Area Municipal Authority to use the former M&M Trucking repair shop at 3337 State Route 118 as a solid waste and recyling center was aproved durng a Lehman Township public hearing on Sept. 16. The application was approved on the condition that trucks carrying garbage must be parked indoors overnight.

Christianna Barrera, of Plains, was crowned the 2013 Luzerne County Fair Princess. Contestants ranging from 4 to 6 years old and residing in Luzerne County dressed in their favorite party dresses and told a little bit about themselves.

Dallas Senior High School students have paid a $5 fee to park at the high school this year and were told the fee was to cover the increased cost of making plastic parking tags. Dallas Senior High School Principal Jeff Shaffer explained that the idea for car tags and parking lot improvements came out of a “Safe School Audit” of the security committee at the high school after the Sandy Hook incident in Connecticut. The tags for the cars cost the district $300 to $400 and the cost to make them has increased. Since the idea of driving to school is a privileged option for students, the cost passed on to them as a $5 parking fee.

Visitors to Jackson Township’s September meeting noticed changes in security as a police officer was on duty throughout the meeting. Supervisor Allen Fox explained to residents that the township had beefed up security and instituted new safety policies for township meetings in light of a shooting incident in Ross Township in Monroe Country that left three dead. Fox wanted to make sure residents felt safe attending public meetings.

Dallas Township Zoning Officer Carl Alber expressed a desire to change an existing ordinance which requires a license to those wishing to sell door to door within the township. He wants the registration process to include background checks. Alber also suggested the township require inspections of properties being used as rentals. He was concerned about the number of township homes being turned into rental units for Misericorduia students.

After spending nine years as principal at Ross Elementary School, Donny James was named principal at Lehman-Jackson Elementary School, replacing Marilyn Glogowski who retired at the end of the school year. James, 39, is no stranger to Lehman-Jackson. Not only did he attend elementary school there, he spent five years teaching fifth and sixth grde there before moving to the principal’s position at Ross. His mother, Eleanor, has been the secretary at Lehman-Jackson since he was a student there and his wife, the former Sherlene Perlis, is a fifth-grade teacher there.

After bouts of heat and humidity, the skies cleared and the humidity lifted as the heavens seemed to smile on the crowd of about 325 people in Mountaineer Field at Dallas Senior High School who walked to celebrate Debbie Darling Belenski’s life. Many commented they could feel her energy and presence on the field and that, somehow, she was there with them. The local woman died unexpectedly and suddenly from a brain aneurysm 10 months earlier.

Students arriving at Dallas Elementary School this year were greeted by beautiful mums in new flower boxes located in front of the school. The boxes were made by students at West Side Career and Technical Center and will beautify the front of the school in the fall and the spring. Members of the school’s parent/teacher organization planted the flowers.


The Kelci Ever After Inaugural 6K and 2K Memory Walk was held Oct. 6 at Frances Slocum Park in memory of Kelci Gibbons who was tragically killed in a car accicent on Route 487. Kelci was well known in the Back Mountain area. She and her twin sister served as left and right midfielders on the 2007 Dallas High School soccer team which won the state championship. The memory walk was a reflection of things that Kelci loved – tie-dye, peace symbols and the outdoors.

Teachers and students from Dallas High School filled the Anderson Center at Misericordia University for a mock evacuation of the school in anticipation of a gas leak emergency. The evacuation drill was carried out for high school and middle school students with a similar drill planned for elementary students. Dallas Township Police Chief Robert Jolley pointed out that the district does not have enough buses on hand to evacuate all students in case of an emergency and that asking other school districts for assistance was being considered.

The 2013 Best of the Back Mountain Awards event sponsored by The Dallas Post and honoring more than 80 residents and business owners was held at Fire & Ice on Toby Creek in Shavertown.

Dallas Middle School cheerleaders were getting ready to compete against squads from across the country at the National Chderleaders Association Senior and Junior High Nationals competition in January. Nineteen members of the team will travel from Dallas, PA to Dallas, Texas for the two-day cheerleading competition. This is the first time the middle school team has qualified for the event.

Marcia McCarroll turned a terrible grief into a life filled with goals. When the love of her life died four and a half years ago, McCarroll decided she needed to keep busy and chose climbing as a way to fill her life. She has now scaled all 58 14ers in Colorado. 14ers are the highest peaks in Colorado whose summits have an elevation of over 14,000 feet. A resident of Littleton, Colorado, McCarroll is a native of Lehman and a graduate of Lake-Lehman High School.

Brinley Williams was crowned the 2013 Lake-Lehman High School Homecoming Queen.

Lake-Lehman Superintendent James McGovern announced that the school district’s Night of Mayhem continues to pay off. McGovern said that new band uniforms, a new sound system for the stadium, chorus risers, materials for a proposed ice rink and a resurfaced track are results of the successful event.

Joanna Wallace, of Troop 32664 in Dallas, earned Girl Scouting’s highest honor, the Gold Award. A sophomore at Dallas High School, Wallace recently completed her Gold Award project, titled “Walk MS Child Activity Tent” at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Walk MS in Wilkes-Barre.

Fino’s Pharmacy in Dallas celebrated its 50th year in business.

Bradley Adams, son of Todd and Jennifer Adams, of Dallas, completed the Troop “P” Camp Cadet Program. Camp Cadet is a weeklong summer camp for boys and girls from Pennsylvania between the ages of 12 and 15. Pennsylvania State Troopers, local police officers and other volunteers staff the camp.

The Back Mountain Memorial Library’s Annual Barn Sale featured antiques, new goods, collectibles and household items, including glassare, on the last day of the farmers’ market at the library grounds on Huntsville Road.

Jackson Township Superivsor Alan Fox explained to residents at the township’s workers’ compensation insurance policey has been cancelled and he is not sure the township will be able to find other coverage. Fox explained that if no one will insure the township, the state will provide the required insurance but at rates that are 50 percent higher than present rates.

The Borth Branch Land Trust held its second annual “Taste the Local Harvest” at the Huntsville Golf Club. The casual, relaxed, fun event is intended to showcase the harvest from local farms. Tasting tables hosted local beers, produce, beef, chicken, turkey, cheese and more. Dishes were prepared from local farm products by TV celebrity Chef Michael.

Whoever thought Jaime Verazin, just Jaime from Shavertown, who went to Gate of Heaven and Bishop O’Reilly High School, played the piano and was a cantor at Gate of Heaven Church, would end up hanging unharnessed from a chandelier by her feet at the Metropolitan Opera and competing on national televison for 1 million dollars on “America’s Got Talent”? Verazin was the Catapult figure who fell off the mountain peak in the final dance performance of the popular television show.

Wycallis Elementary School was recently honored by the U.S. Department of Education when it was announced that it was among 235 public schools and 50 private schools nationwide to be named a Blue Ribbon School, making it the first in Luzerne County to earn the distinction in the 31 years the program has existed.

Dallas Township Supervisor Liz Martin led a discussion on the recent gas release near Dallas schools at the supervisors work session on Oct. 1. She told the assembled residents that the township was not contacted in advance. The gas was released by Williams Companies Inc., owners of the Transco pipeline which runs through the township. Emergency Management Coordinator Alan Pugh also said he had not received notification from the Williams Companies Inc. until “three minutes after the gas was released.”

The Dallas Foundation for Excellence in Education is celebrating its two-year anniverary and, after funding nearly $90,000 in projects for the Dallals School District, the organization is still going strong. From completing a $34,000, one-and-a-half-year project to replace the district sign on Route 309 with a digital marquee to funding an Apple iPad Learning Center, the foundation has grown by leaps and bounds since its inception in 2011.

When Jerry Eichhorn bought his first home four years ago at 65 years old and moved to Shavertown, Bob Williams, his neighbor, had already lived in the neighborhood with his wife Gloria Dolbear Williams for 41 years. Ahough the two have different religious beliefs, they have become the best of friends and found a common interest – model trains. Their yards have become a playground for their passion, originating from their love of Lionel and HO trains as children.


Back Mountain Regional Emergency Management Agency Coordinator Harry Vivian said state police officials and the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office are pleased with the response of the agency to a recent meth lab investigation. The investigation of the meth lab took place in Dallas on the night of Nov. 7, 2013. On the same day, a mobile meth lab exploded on Carverton Road in Trucksville. It appears the two incidents are unrelated.

More students are making music in Dallas schools these days. Greg Riley, the new bandmaster for the Dallas School District, said the high school band enrollment is up to 50, double that of last year. He attributed part of the growth to scheduling programs that have been resolved.

Girl Scouts in the Heart of PA awarded the Girl Scout Silver Award to Michele Gill, of Dallas, and Victoria Vespico, of Truckville, from Troop 32613 of the Back Mountain. The girls earned the prestigious award by creating a sustainable certified natural habitat at North Penn Manor, a personal care facility in Wilkes-Barre. The Silver Award is recognized as the second highest award in Girl Scouting.

Fire trucks are an anticipated response when disaster strikes, but they played an entirely different role on Nov. 2 when they provided a special escort for the Dallas High School girls cross country team. The girls, who took state chamipnship gold at the Hershey Parkview Course earlier in the day, found themselves escorted from the Cross Valley Expressway to Dallas High School, complete with lights and sirens. The team beat its second-place opponents, 99-128, to secure the championship title.

The Lake-Lehman School Board acknowledged winners of its essay contest entitled “Why is it important to recognize veterans their families?” at its Nov. 11 meeting. Overall winners chosen by the parade committee included Izabel Concert, sixth grade; Colby Kennedy, fourth grade; Maclyn Vasey, sixth grade; and Morgan Marchakitus, seventh grade. Also honored were Casey Brown, fourth grade; Jason Eiden, sixth grade; Alana Antonello, sixth grade; and Karlee Kreller, fourth grade.

The old Dallas Township High School building near the Little League baseball fields, a landmark in the community for nearly 90 years, will be torn down. Legal notices had been published seeking bids for the demolition of the old building, built sometime beween 1925 and 1927, and a tour for interested bidders was held on Oct. 30. About 20 interested companies toured the building.

Pastor Dick Williams has replaced the Reverend Marian E. Hartman as pastor of the Trucksville United Methodist Church. Hartman has been appointed as the District Superintendent for the Scranton Wilkes-Barre District. Williams delivered his first sermon to his new congregation on Nov. 3. Following that, the congregation held a reception in the Fellowship Hall.

Jackson Township Supervisor Alan Fox read a lengthy police report to assembled residents sand said that, in the future, police reports will appear on the township’s website. Then, he publicly thanked resident Ed Chesnovitch for his continuing insistence on public police reports.

The price tag for a four-year college education can cause both parent and student to hyperventilate but Dallas High School has included a new curriculum component this year to help students develop a career path. Starting this year, all Dallas High School freshmen are required to take a Career Consumer Science course which will kick off the start of their four-year completion project. The course will focus on developing career awareness for one quarter and personal finance the second quarter.

Amanda Rando and Rory Mullin were crowned 2013 Homecoming Queen and King at Dallas High School.

Bryn Harvey, daugher of Jay and Judy Harvey, of Trucksville, was crowned Miss Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 2014 at the NEPA Scholarship Pageant, an official Miss America prelimary and not-for-profit scholarship organization. This will be Harvey’s third chance back at Miss PA in June 2014. Until then, she will represent the area, local businesses and organizations, corporate sponsors and her platform service project of seven years, Breast Cancer Awareness.


“The Gift,” presented by Back Mountain Harvest Assembly is in its 20th year of production and, with an audience of about 10,000 people over the course of three days, organizers strive to make the outdoor live nativity bigger and better every year. The Christmastime event has come a long way since its first run, according to Lead Pastor Dan Miller, who said the church wanted to find a way to give back to the community during the holiday season.

Dallas Township is in good shape financially, Supervisor Bill Grant told resudets at the Dec. 2 board meeting. He also announced that the preliminary budget for the borough includes no tax increase and the township is ending the year in the black.

After the swearing-in of school board members on Dec. 2, Larry Schuler was elected president of the Dallas School Board at the board’s Dec. 2 reorganization meeting. Magistrate James Tupper swore in Sherri Newell, Charles Preece and Karen Kyle as members of the board. Jeff Thomas was absent and would be sworn in the following Monday night.

It was a time for smiles and a time for tears when a large group of family and friends assembled in the Children’s Room at the Back Mountain Memorial Library for the unveiling of a statue in memory of Kevin Miller who died last December at age 5 in a tragic accident. Kevin was a student at I’m Big Now, a preschool and kindergarten in Dallas. Afetr his death, many people associated with the school wanted to honor the boy who was known for his sweet smile and love of singing.

Members of the Daddow-Isaacs American Legion Post 672 gathered on Dec. 7 to remember those who died when the Imperial Japanese Navy bombed Pearl Harbor. A few had memories of the actual day. The group of veterans honored the day with a short service, a breakfast and a recognition of Legionnaires who have been members of the post for 50 years of more.

Back Mountain families showed off their sweet skills while getting into the holiday spirit during the Gate of Heaven Church Christmas Festival and Gingerbread House Contest. About 20 entries were displayed with candy-coated construction products ranging from classic gingerbread walls and roofs to marshmallow chimneys to icing wreaths.

The Back Mountain Police Association celebrated its 55th anniversary this month and its 95 members continue to benefit the community they serve. The association is made up of local police officers, Pennsylvania game commissioners, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat commissioners and state police officers.

The former site of Gate of Heaven School is still abuzz with activity almost every night of the week and officials want the public to know the building is available to the Back Mountian community. Renamed the John Paul II Center, the more than 5,000 square foot gymnasium and classroom space in the former elementary school hosts events such as sports team practices, birthday parties and awards banquets.

Jeremiah Fax learned that some children go hungry and he wanted to do something about it. The 8-year-old with a big smile and a wiggly tooth spent a day at the Banks Student Life Center at Misericordia University raising money to help needy children through Heifer International. A second-grader at Allied Services DePaul School in Scranton, Jeremish lives on the Misericordia campus with his mom who participates in the Women with Children program there, a program that supports single mothers with young children so the mothers can attend college.

A revived Lake-Lehman Student Council, with chemistry teacher Cecelia Candelario serving as advisor, has ambitious plans for making it school and community better. The council started its plans for a December babysitting service day. The event will raise funds for Student Council projects and give parents an afternoon off to go shopping or take a break from parenting. Children dropped off by parents will watch a movie, do a craft and eat lunch during the four-hour Saturday activity.

For her work with the Back Mountain Chamber, Elva Valentine received the Outstanding Community Service Award from the year-old club at a luncheon held at Huntsville Country Club. In 1992, when the Back Mountain Citizens Council recommended the area form a business association, the first three meetings were held at Valentine’s jewelry store.

Players from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins hockey team visited the Back Mountain Memorial Library during “Christmas with the Penguins” to read Christmas stories to local children and promote the importance of literacy among youth. Team mascot, Tux, came dressed in a festive Santa suit, red hat and all, shaking hands with children and the adults who accompanied them.

The beauty of the Christmas season was evident at the Sweet Valley Church of Christ on Dec. 18 when the congregation came together for the church’s annual Christmas candlelight service.

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