2017 Winter

The Unconventional Pays Off

Sometimes a building aims to look as if it has always been there. Frequently, architects match the brick of the surrounding neighborhood and use slightly modernized versions of traditional details to make a structure appear that it’s been there longer than it has. This is not such a bad thing. Buildings end up being agreeable …

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Jim Withers, M.D., Street Doctor

My father was a country doctor; my mom, a nurse. Their relationship was grounded in the values of service and compassion, and they included their children—me, for sure—in that vision. So I made house calls with my dad and, among other things, got to practice parallel parking while delivering Meals on Wheels with my mother, …

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Passing the Torch

Earlier this fall, a group of about 250 civic and cultural leaders gathered to pay tribute to Teresa Heinz Kerry on the occasion of her handing over the chairmanship of The Heinz Endowments to her sons. From creating Riverlife, to championing causes from the environment to social equity to the Cultural District among many others, …

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A Question of Learning

As a digital revolution changes classrooms across the region and country, one key question lingers at the end of each school day: Do the new technologies actually enhance students’ learning? The answer is unclear. After decades of research in fields such as cognitive science, the debate is no longer about whether digital technologies have the …

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Rethinking Education

Janice Smith’s fifth-grade reading class at Central Elementary in the Elizabeth Forward School District was supposed to be working on a book report. Huddled around iPads, the students chatted with one another, pointing and swiping at the screens. No one was being shushed, few were sitting square in their seats, and no one was holding …

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A Delicious Quandary

In 1968, Pittsburgh Chef Ferdinand Metz cabled from Frankfurt, Germany, to tell his friends that the U.S. Team won the Grand Gold Award in the International Culinary Competition. He was at the top of the culinary world, with 16 gold medals and the grand award given to him and his team. And thousands came when …

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Six Books for Your Winter Reading List

This issue, we take up half-a-dozen new books in three groupings: literary works from two creative writing teachers, Pittsburgh sports history from two prominent national writers, and the latest from two great local legal minds. Don’t be surprised if that next national media story about the resurgent charms of Pittsburgh works in a reference to …

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The Northern Cardinal

Winter puts birders in a different mood. There are birds about, but they are fewer and generally more muted—focused on finding food, staying warm and getting through. The birds that stick around for a Pittsburgh winter are hardier, more committed, the stalwarts. They are the loyalists of cold. There is nothing better on a winter …

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Desert Bloom

The definition of oasis is simple: a fertile spot in the desert where water can be found. That applies to any number of gated golf communities that surround Palm Springs, California. But The Reserve in Indian Wells is different. Instead of fighting nature by pumping water onto artificially green lawns, it embraces the desert soil. …

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YMCA Leads Effort to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

More than one third of American adults are pre-diabetic. This means a person’s blood sugar levels are higher than normal, putting them at increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Patrice McNeely of Hazelwood falls into this group but is determined not to follow in her family’s footsteps. “I just turned 45 …

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Dissecting Diabetes

When Steve Lawthers takes a golf swing, his arm rubs against a small device attached to his skin, near his belt. “Other than when I play golf, I don’t know it’s there,” says Lawthers, 61, of McCandless. The device constantly measures his blood sugar and displays it on his iPhone. He got it by participating …

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Christmas in Utopia

It’s early morning on Christmas Eve in the town of Economy, Pennsylvania. The year is 1828. Twenty-seven-year-old Catharina Langenbacher awakens to the five o’clock gong of the grandfather clock in the sitting room downstairs. By the time she clambers down the crude staircase, her widowed mother is preparing breakfast. Catharina’s 35-year-old brother, Romelius, is milking …

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Old-Growth Majesty

One of the most spectacular places to visit in western Pennsylvania is an old-growth forest in the Hearts Content National Scenic Area within the Allegheny National Forest. A timber company gave the property to the U.S. Forest Service in the early 1920s, and today this area is home to one of the last remaining untouched …

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Path to Delinquency

Aaron Thomas was 14 when a Pittsburgh police drug task force raided the Garfield home where he lived with his parents, whose lives were ruled by an addiction to cocaine and heroin. That led to his first encounter with the juvenile justice system. But the time he would spend in and out of jail, youth …

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Whistleblower

In 1991, the smell of Nabisco saturated the air in Pittsburgh’s eastern neighborhoods. The cookie factory was still just that, years away from its second act as a Google anchor. Sears was closed, but its big blue shell sat fading in the parking lot on Highland Avenue. Peabody wasn’t Obama and Bush I was in …

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Rivera-Tinsley, Spaulding, Anderson, Farmer, Zangerle, Leonardo, Earnshaw

Camila Rivera-Tinsley is the director of education at the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. She comes to Pittsburgh from The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education in Philadelphia, where she specialized in private/public partnerships, doubled the number of students served by the center’s environmental education programming, and increased staff diversity by creating a communitybased job pipeline utilizing mentorship. …

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Washington, Nunn, Litman, Palmer, Page, Filoni

Milt Washington, 81: Washington was the long-time owner of Allegheny Rehabilitation Housing Corp.—one of the largest black-owned businesses in Pennsylvania. He was a man with a tremendous work ethic, and his success in providing low-income housing and in several other businesses he owned allowed him to become a committed civic leader as well. He led …

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Cleaner to the Stars

It’s time to don your best apparel for holiday parties, dinners and events. And then, of course, you’ll need to have those clothes cleaned. There are countless options, but Jerry Montesano’s Shadyside Valet is a standout. Jerry was born into the business—his father owned a dry cleaning company in Penn Hills and then sold dry …

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The Template for Sustainable Development

It was several years ago that Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto was chatting with André Heinz, soon to be chairman of The Heinz Endowments, about development in Pittsburgh— specifically, Hazelwood’s Almono site, where the foundation is a principal. The more they talked, the more they realized they shared a vision for a new type of growth …

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Tunnels of Love

First, you had to pull the red wicker settee with its circus-striped cushions a few feet away from the wall. Then you put the army surplus table Mother sometimes used for the sewing machine next to that, in front of the closed-in fireplace; and if Father wasn’t using them for the work he brought home …

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Among the Trees

As Meg Cheever said, “The best park in Pittsburgh is the one you are in.” She founded the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy in 1996 at a time when Pittsburgh was a long way from claiming victory in stemming the tide of decline that still clung to the city. With a band of determined supporters, she stepped …

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On a Lonely Stretch of Road

I had occasion recently to pet a wild animal for the first time. For 55 straight summers, I’ve visited Michigan’s eastern Upper Peninsula, but I’d never driven to its rugged, western side, which borders Lake Superior and Canada. Pittsburgh friends were celebrating the relaunch of an old family boat they’d restored, at the top of …

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