By Jim Raykie
Participants in community service and public life come and go. Some of the participation, as we realize, is self-serving.
For example, many of us know residents who have served on boards, commissions and councils for narrow interests. Others, it seems, have been involved in public life for decades. One of them is Maurice Keaveny.
Maury, a Westinghouse Electric Corp. retiree, has been in public life (and thereby in news columns of The Herald) since I arrived at the newspaper as a news intern from Penn State in the summer of 1973. That means his participation in public life spans more than four decades.
I thought of Maury Wednesday morning while reading a story about county jury commissioners. Maury’s been the Democrat jury commissioner for the last 12 years and has decided to bow out after his term ends. “I’m 85 years old, I think it’s time to call it quits,” he said in the story.
I returned to The Herald as a full-time reporter after graduating from Penn State in 1974. Not long afterward, I found myself thrust into the role of beat reporter for the city of Sharon, which was experiencing massive changes as money for urban renewal as well as federally-funded housing was readily available.
Maury was president of the Democrat-controlled Sharon council, and other members were Bob Price (who would eventually become mayor) and the late Vito J. Manilla, Harold E. Bell and Daniel R. Kerins.
With the late Republican Basil C. Scott as the city’s full-time mayor, council meetings could get pretty heated and seemed to last an eternity at times.
Throw into the mix an engaged group of residents that faithfully attended every meeting, and it was a recipe for dissension, but all in the spirit of civic involvement.
Joe Wiercinski, who is one of The Herald’s news editors, was WPIC’s main newsman in the 1970s, and he and I with ex-Vindicator reporter Harold Gwin seemingly spent more hours at the old city building on Chestnut Avenue than we did anywhere else.
Maury, who was working for WE at the time, was accessible. He never lacked for something to say, and didn’t mince his words. He was a straight shooter, (still is) and I always admired that about him. Despite the volatility of the subject, I never remember him saying “no comment” to any question I asked.
He often sparred with Scott, animated in many ways during council’s meetings, as the city was razing houses in the former South Ward and commercial establishments along West State Street, and building a parking garage to pave the way for the Tower City Center.
It never materialized after one disappointment after another, and today is the site of the strip plaza at West State Street and South Water Avenue.
I recently wrote a story about famed urban designer David Lewis of Pittsburgh, who in the 1970s had pleaded with Sharon officials to make the Shenango River the focal point of the city’s renewal efforts.
I was pleased to hear from Maury the next day, leaving a message: “I thought I was the only one still around that remembered Dave Lewis.”
The scenario surrounding the old Sharon City Hall – residents and their elected officials engaged and tempers flaring at times about community decisions – is what has been missing for so many years in our communities.
Residents have become disenfranchised, and hardly bother to show up at local meetings.
Maury will close out a long career in public life, and the loss of his wealth of experience will leave a large void. His community efforts have been exemplary. Public servants like Maury and the few like him are rare finds indeed.
Jim Raykie is executive editor of The Herald and writes this column on Mondays. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org