2012 Newport News - Archives
New exhibit features famed Glen Lyon native
A new exhibit at the Luzerne County Historical Society museum traces the life of Glen Lyon native Olga Treskoff, whose life as a singer, actress and producer was loosely depicted in a best-selling 1946 novel, “Miracle of the Bells,” published by Russell Janney and in a movie of the same name released in 1948.
“It’s not a Christmas movie, but one of the pivotal scenes happens on Christmas Eve,” museum curator Mary Ruth Burke said. “We happened to have an opening in our exhibit schedule, and that brings us to now.”
Burke said after some discussion with Nanticoke resident Mark Wolfe, who has a collection of posters and other memorabilia from the movie and Treskoff’s life, she reached out to others and did her own research to make the exhibit happen.
“(Wolfe) suggested we do an exhibit because the 65th anniversary (of the movie) is coming up in 2013,” Burke said.
In the movie, Fred MacMurray, best known for his role in the “My Three Sons” 1960s TV show, plays a jaded Hollywood publicity agent.
He travels to the Glen Lyon section of Newport Township, called Coaltown in the film, for the funeral of a promising actress, played by Alida Valli, whose movie about Joan of Arc is to be left unreleased because it has become tainted by her untimely death.
Aided by parish priest, played by a young Frank Sinatra, the MacMurray character gets churches throughout the area to ring their bells all night as a publicity stunt. But then a “miracle” occurs – while the congregation prays, a loud creaking noise is heard and the statutes of St. Michael and the Virgin Mary turn until they face the actress’s coffin.
Glen Lyon scenes cut
Burke said although the producers filmed scenes in Glen Lyon, none made the final cut and the big name actors didn’t come to the area. Scenes inside St. Michael the Archangel Church, which was demolished in Glen Lyon in April 2004, were actually filmed in a back lot in California.
Treskoff was born in Glen Lyon on May 7, 1892. Some of her extended family still lives in the area and in New York, Burke said, and Treskoff is buried in St. Michael’s Cemetery in Glen Lyon beside her family members.
Treskoff appeared in some silent films, Burke said, but had more success in Broadway productions and eventually partnered with Janney to produce plays in New York and London.
Their biggest success was “Vagabond King,” a 1925 musical based on Justin Huntly McCarthy’s 1901 romantic play “If I Were King.”
Burke said she believes Janney never really got over Treskoff’s April 1938 death, and wrote two other novels loosely based on her life.
Lawsuit over movie
Burke said she reached out to Heidi and Paul Jarecki of Newport Township for help with the exhibit.
Heidi Jarecki’s father, Burke said, was the attorney for an undertaker who handled Treskoff’s body. In the movie, the undertaker is portrayed as one of the worst characters.
Burke said the real undertaker, who was villified because of the movie, sued Janney for slander.
Burke said the exhibit will include photographs of Treskoff, photos of the production of the movie and photos of the Vagabond King musical.
Copies of the book, which was a best seller in its time, selling over 300,000 copies, will also be at the exhibit.
Burke said local historian Charles Petrillo will eventually be presenting a PowerPoint presentation on the movie, and the movie will be shown at the museum.
Burke said those two events have not yet been scheduled because of a heating problem in the museum. The museum relies on heat provided by the Osterhout Library, which is currently having problems with its boiler system.
Dog tag returned to Vietnam veteran
When Bernie Mihneski returned from Vietnam decades ago, his military dog tags were left behind, lost somewhere in the war-torn country. The U.S. Marines veteran never thought he'd see the metal identification badges again.
But nearly a half-century later, Mihneski has been reunited with the lost war relic.
"We don't leave our dead back there and it's the same with the dog tags. We want them returned," Mihneski said recently, proudly holding up one of the dog tags recently delivered to him by a veterans group. "I'm glad it's in my hands now and not in my teeth - because that's where they put them if you die (in combat). I never thought I'd see it again."
Mihneski's dog tag was among hundreds found years ago being peddled by a street vendor in Vietnam for less than $1 each.
Ray Milligan, a retired police chief and Vietnam veteran who was in Vietnam on a medical mission, purchased all the dog tags and later provided them to the POW/MIA Awareness Committee of New Jersey. For years, the POW/MIA group has been working with the veterans motorcycle group Nam Knights to personally hand-deliver each dog tag to the veterans.
Members of the group recently drove from New Jersey and presented Mihneski with his dog tag at an emotional ceremony at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Plymouth.
Mihneski, a life resident of Glen Lyon who worked in construction after the war, said he initially ignored repeated phone calls from the group, thinking it was a scam. They told him they were able to locate him after seeing a local news brief about him at a Memorial Day event at the American Legion post in Glen Lyon. Eventually, because of their persistence, he agreed to meet them, he said.
And he's glad he did.
"There wasn't a dry eye in the place - the story was so touching about how the dog tags came about," Mihneski said. "I couldn't believe after all these years it was returned to me. I thought maybe they'd say here's your dog tags and send them to me - not drive all the way here."
An out-of-this-world honor for local author
Ex-astronaut John Glenn found space in his busy schedule to write prefaces for two of Glen Lyon woman’s books.
As an astronaut, John Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth. He went on to serve 24 years in the U.S. Senate.
As far as finding his name on a book preface he wrote so that he could sign the page? Well, he had a little trouble.
“What he wrote was on the left side and he began signing on the right,” Glen Lyon resident Harriet Clyde Kipps said. “I said, ‘John, you’ve orbited the Earth and you can’t find your name in a book?’ He got a good laugh out of that and we joked about it. That’s the kind of person he is. Very down-to-earth and human; a good man.”
Kipps, who has written several volumes on and is a big proponent of volunteerism, was speaking to Glenn as he signed a book that Kipps wrote. Kipps met Glenn for the first time in the early 1990s, while he was serving as senator. She simply asked him if he would write a preface for one of her books, and he agreed – it was as easy as that.
His words currently have a home in two of her books, “Volunteer America” and “Volunteerism,” both of which are comprehensive guides to national opportunities for service, training and work experience.
“It was wonderful that someone like him, who has done so much and is such a recognized person, would endorse such a thing,” Kipps said. “It’s not even about the book itself, just the idea of volunteering, which I think is incredibly important and needed in today’s world.”
Kipps said the most striking thing about her meeting with Glenn was the way in which he treated her son.
“When the book published, I went to see him to deliver a special leather-bound copy and my son, Glenn, was my escort. Well, Glenn was in the military service, as John was, and to watch the two of them hit it off was wonderful. To see them laughing, hands flying, really enjoying each other, was heartwarming.”
Kipps said the former Marine pilot’s warm character was further reinforced two years later, when he saw her on the street and called her by name.
“His mind is like a steel trap, I was so delighted. He is a genuine hero, not only for his personal achievements, but he does not take lightly his association with those of us lucky enough to cross his path.”
Though Kipps has met many prominent public figures throughout the years who supported her writings and ideas on volunteerism, she said the most astonishing thing to her is that they were all simply “human.”
“They’re like me and you,” she said. “Barbara Bush, who also wrote a preface in one of my books, actually rang me on the telephone to tell me she put a signed copy of the book in the mail. Barbara Bush took the time to do that.”
Currently, Kipps is in the middle of writing pieces for her Super Volunteer Club Mysteries series, geared toward children. Her next book, “A Triumph Over Pain,” will be released within a month.
No changes for lottery winners
Nanticoke family will build a garage and vacation in Hawaii with $1 million prize.
Camille Fioti - Times Leader
“She was so pale,” 19-year-old Lauralei Stewart said, describing her mother, Ann, after confirming on her computer on New Year’s Day that her parents had just become millionaires.
Ann Stewart, 51, and her husband, Richard, 57, held one of the four winning $1 million tickets from the Pennsylvania Lottery’s Dec. 31 Millionaire Raffle drawing. The other prizes, which have yet to be claimed, were sold in Erie, Delaware County and Philadelphia.
Lauralei joined her parents, brother John, 15, and other family members at the Cocoa Hut on Middle Road Saturday to receive a giant $1 million check from Thomas Blaskiewicz, deputy executive director of Retail Operations of the Pennsylvania Lottery. Ann purchased the winning ticket on Christmas Eve at the Cocoa Hut.
“I was having chest pains,” said Ann of when her daughter told her the ticket was a winner.
The Newport Township couple are frequent customers at the Cocoa Hut, where they regularly purchase other Lottery game tickets.
“She comes in singing all the time,” said Cocoa Hut employee Joseph Yencha, who sold Ann Stewart the winning ticket.
They don’t plan on making any major changes in their lives, said Ann, a hall monitor at Greater Nanticoke Area Educational Center. She and Richard, an ironworker at McGregor Iron Works in Dunmore, plan to use their winnings to build a garage for two Opel GTs that Richard is refurbishing.
“We also want to take our kids to Hawaii this summer,” Ann said, adding that she also might also buy a new car.
Cocoa Hut manager Bob Wren said the Stewart’s win is the largest in the store’s history.
“We had smaller ones, but this is the largest,” he said. “It’s good to see regular people win.”
Newport Twp. couple area's newest millionaires
The lottery ticket they almost didn't buy ended up paying off big-time for Ann and Richard Stewart.
The couple from the township's Alden section hold one of four winning $1 million tickets for the Pennsylvania Lottery's Millionaire Raffle, held on Dec. 31. The other three tickets were sold in Delaware County, Erie and Philadelphia.
The Stewarts say they don't expect to make any major life changes now that they're millionaires."We really don't have any plans yet," Ann Stewart admitted on Tuesday. "I don't know if it has sunk in yet."
The Stewarts play the lottery occasionally, but always take part in the annual Millionaire Raffle. They bought their tickets at the Cocoa Hut, 199 Middle Road, Nanticoke, along with a few more as gifts for friends.
The Stewarts got their tickets late this year; they forgot. They almost didn't buy them at all, but Richard said, "why not?" according to Ann.
If they hadn't, they might have missed their big chance. This year there were 500,000 Millionaire Raffle tickets available between Nov. 18 and Dec. 28, when they sold out, a Pennsylvania Lottery commission press release states.
After the drawing, Ann Stewart said a girl friend called to tell her she hadn't won anything. The Stewarts hadn't looked to see if they fared any better.
"My husband always yells at me, 'You buy lottery tickets and never check them,'" Ann said.
The Stewarts' daughter Lauralei read the winning numbers online and said, "Oh my God, mom, you have the winning ticket," Ann said. She and Richard checked it themselves but still didn't believe it.
So they went to a nearby convenience store with a lottery scanner to verify it and got the message, "Congratulations, you have won," Ann said.
"We were like two kids in the candy store," she said.
The Stewarts redeemed their winning ticket at the Wilkes-Barre office of the Pennsylvania Lottery, but it will take four to six weeks for their check to arrive from Harrisburg.
"I'm in no hurry, because I don't know what to do with it," Ann Stewart said.
Ann is a hall monitor at Greater Nanticoke Area's middle school, the Education Center, and Richard is employed by McGregor Iron Works in Dunmore. They plan to keep their jobs for a few more years.
They admit the money will come in handy, with two teenage children, 15-year-old John and 19-year-old Lauralei. They also have an adopted son, Walter, 41, and daughter-in-law Christine.
The Stewarts say they might put some money into their house, perhaps go on a vacation with the kids. Ann likes the idea of a sports car, maybe a Corvette.
The Stewarts are the latest in a series of lottery jackpot winners in Luzerne County.
In November, Steven Lloyd of Exeter Township won a $59.9 million Powerball jackpot, electing to take the $37.6 million lump sum cash payment. In October, Michael Draman of Wilkes-Barre won $4.2 million on Match 6, and in August, John Wishinski of Larksville won $1.14 million on Cash 5.