By Tom Davidson
Herald Staff Writer
SHENANGO VALLEY —
The spirits of Frank Henry Buhl and his wife Julia Forker Buhl were soaring Monday during the day named in their honor.
“Buhl Day brings out what’s best about our community: giving back to others,” Lisa Dach said.
Her parents, Tom and Pat Demas of Transfer, along with Jim Feeney of Sharon and Tim Jablon of Clark, were this year’s honorees, picked because of their service and leadership to the greater good of the Shenango Valley.
People like the Demases, Feeney and Jablon exemplify how the people in the Shenango Valley continue to keep the legacy of the Buhls alive by giving of themselves, Buhl Day committee member Vicki Lingner said in her introduction of the Demases.
“They have made a significant difference. They embody everything the Buhl Day committee seeks out” in deciding whom to honor each year, Lingner said.
For the Demases, the honor was a surprise.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think we’d be picked for this,” said Tom Demas, a retired banker. “It is just overwhelming.”
David Demas said he’s proud of his parents and decided to surprise them by coming from California to be present for Monday’s festivities.
“It’s a little overwhelming,” he said, echoing his dad.
But it’s also “fun to watch him be overwhelmed” by it all.
“I think it’s just incredible for both of them,” said the Demases’ other daughter, Megan Ireland.
“The Buhls gave us a great heritage,” Pat Demas said.
It’s a heritage forged in steel – Frank Buhl was one of the foremost steel barons in the region.
His legacy includes Buhl Farm park in Hermitage, the Buhl Community Recreation Center, and the C.H. Buhl Hospital, which was a forerunner of Sharon Regional Health System.
As a child, Pat Demas enjoyed playing at Buhl Farm park and remembers buying penny pretzels and ice cream on most summer days in her youth growing up in Sharpsville.
“Who would have thought that that girl who purchased penny pretzels and ice cream would be honored?” Lingner said. “Well Pat, it is that.”
Buhl Farm General Manager Pat O’Mahony introduced Feeney, who for four decades was an executive at Wheatland Tube.
Feeney also served as president of the F.H. Buhl Trustees and his leadership helped make the park what it is today, O’Mahony said.
He’s been a stalwart member of the Shenango Valley civic community and also plays the role of Santa Claus from time to time at Cottage Gardens in Hermitage, O’Mahony said.
“I’m really honored that I’m being recognized,” Feeney said of being chosen as an honoree.
That was the same sentiment Jablon had of the accolade.
“Oh, it’s magnificent,” Jablon said.
“It’s humbling. I’m seeing a lot of friends and it’s a lovely day.”
The honorees were but one part of the celebration, which features “food, fun and fanfare” to attract people to the park, said one the events co-chairmen, Sue McLaughlin.
“The real success of this day lies with you, the people,” McLaughlin said to the packed field of folks gathered around the park’s Performing Arts Center.
“So let’s get on with it,” she said.
And the people listened.
The smell of hot dogs mixed with other delectable delights filled that air along Dale Pokorney Drive and people packed the grounds of the park.
“We like the honorees, to come and listen to them,” said Mark DiMario of Sharon. “To see people before the snow flies.”
“It’s such a great gift that Frank Buhl gave to the community,” he said of the park. “It’s a great time.”
“You get to see people you don’t see all year,” Jan Goodrick said.
And the food can’t be topped, others said.
“Definitely, the food,” Heather Shuttleworth said.
A Pittsburgh transplant who’s lived in Sharpsville since 1994, Shuttleworth enjoyed the gyros and apple dumplings, she said.
“This is my favorite place in this whole valley,” she said.
Eric Carine and his family made the trip from Columbus, Ohio, to take part in the festivities.
“My mom and dad would come up every year,” Carine said.
His parents, Dr. Sam Carine and his wife Lois have Shenango Valley roots, he in Farrell during the McCluskey era and she in Hermitage, where she was homecoming queen at Hickory High.
“This is a special day,” Eric Carine said.