Whether serving as a United States Marine in the South Pacific during World War II; or as an attorney and community advocate; or as a devoted husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and friend, the life of Gene E. McDonald, Sr. was one of selfless service to others. Gene passed from this life on Thursday, April 24, 2014, while residing at Nature Park Commons in Greensburg, Pennsylvania.
Gene was born on September 26, 1921, in the small village of Coral, Indiana County, Pennsylvania, the youngest of four children of Walter and Mary McDonald. Gene's father was killed in a mining accident shortly before Gene's birth and for most of his formative years, Gene lived with and was raised by his Aunt Cora and Uncle Guy Drake, affectionately known as "Moms and Pops". In addition to his parents and "Moms and Pops", Gene was also predeceased by his brother Louis C. McDonald (formerly of Tiffin, Ohio), his sister Mildred Haines (formerly of Buffalo, New York), and his brother Walter Dale McDonald (formerly of Glen Burnie, Maryland.
Gene graduated from Derry Township High School with the class of 1939 and received his undergraduate degree from Saint Vincent College with the class of 1943. The war years interrupted his education and, even prior to his college graduation, Gene enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1942 and served with the First Marine Division through 1946 in the South Pacific and China. Gene saw action in some of the iconic Marine Corps battles of World War II, including the Battle of Peleliu and the Battle of Okinawa. After the war's end, Gene remained a member of the Marine Corps Reserves through 1958, with the rank of Captain.
Like so many of the young men of his generation, Gene married his "sweetheart", Mary Joan (Mary Jo) Van Wey, prior to his deployment, and like so many young women of her generation, Mary Jo remained at home "to worry and to pray" for his safe return. Gene and Mary Jo were married on December 18, 1943 and celebrated their 70th Wedding Anniversary in December, 2013.
After the war, Gene continued his education and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in 1949, having served on the staff and the editorial staff of the Law Review for two years. Gene was admitted to practice in the unified Court system in Pennsylvania and in the Federal Courts, including the United States Supreme Court. Until his retirement from the active practice of law in 2011, Gene was a member, and then Senior Partner, of the oldest continuing law firm in Westmoreland County, now known as McDonald, Snyder, & Lightcap, P.C., in Latrobe. At the time of his death, Gene was the longest-serving member of the Westmoreland County Bar Association, having been a member of the profession for nearly 65 years.
Professionally, Gene served as the Solicitor for the City Latrobe from 1956 until 1998, and as a member of and the Solicitor for the Westmoreland County Airport Authority from its inception in 1951 until his retirement. He also served as a Director, Secretary, and Counsel for Newcomer Products, Inc. For many years, Gene served as legal counsel to Saint Vincent College, Archabbey, and Seminary and was also instrumental in the formation of the Wimmer Corporation and served on its Board of Directors until very recently.
Through his association with the Latrobe Steel Company, as Secretary and General Counsel from 1963 to 1972, and later as a member of the Board of Directors, Gene was a member and national director of the American Society of Corporate Secretaries, and a past President of the Pittsburgh Regional Group. He also worked with, as a member of the Board of Directors, Vice Chair, and Treasurer, the Specialty Steel Industry of the United States, in Washington, D.C.
Gene was a long-time member of the Board of Trustees of Westmoreland County Community College, serving in all offices, including Board Chair; he was also actively involved in the Pennsylvania Federation of Community College Trustees, serving in a variety of capacities, including President from 1988 to 1990 and from 1991 to 1992 and in the national Association of Community College Trustees, headquartered in Washington, D.C., with terms as a Director on the national Board, Secretary/Treasurer, Vice Chair, and Chair. In those capacities, he presented papers at ACCT National and Regional Conferences, including: Legal Challenges Facing Community Colleges, A Plan for Legislative Action, Developing Policies from Explosive Issues, Board/President Relations, and College CEO Compensation and Contracts. Gene was instrumental in the establishment of the Westmoreland County Community College Foundation, which has generated nearly 1.5 million dollars for student scholarships.
Gene was a member and past Director of the Latrobe Area Chamber of Commerce, a member and past President of the Latrobe Foundation, a Trustee for the Latrobe Area United Way, a Trustee and past President of the Latrobe Area Community Chest, and a member of the Board of Directors of the United Way of Westmoreland County. He was also an active member of the Latrobe Jaycees and the Latrobe Little League Board of Directors. His numerous awards include: the Distinguished Service Award by the Latrobe Jaycees, and the Outstanding Young Man Award by the Pennsylvania Jaycees; the ACCT Regional Trustee Leadership Award for the Northeast Region of the United States, and the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Saint Vincent College.
Despite his numerous professional and community involvements, awards, and accomplishments, Gene was most proud of his family. He is survived by his wife, Mary Jo, and his four children: Lynda L. Flannery and her husband, Dr. Robert Flannery; Joanne Congelio and her husband, Louis T. Congelio; Gene E. McDonald, Jr., and his wife, Kathleen McDonald; and Cheryl A. McDonald Oshnock. Everything else pales in comparison to the memories of the family vacations at Hilton Head and Litchfield Beach, the Mother's Day and Father's Day celebrations, the September birthdays with the "holey" cake, the Thanksgivings, the Christmases, the Weddings, the births, the Baptisms....these are the things that make a life; these are the things that fill a life with love; these are the things that truly last forever!
Also left to cherish those memories are five grandchildren: Joseph M. Gera; Annie Jean McDonald; Shannon M. (Congelio) Richardson and her husband, Major Matthew E. Richardson (USMC), Justin T. Congelio, and Andrew G. Oshnock; three step-grandchildren: Joshua Dias; Dr. Robert Flannery and his wife Kristie; and Dr. Ryan Flannery and his wife Jessica; two great-grandchildren: Marcus E. Richardson, and Ella G. Richardson; and one step-great-grandchild, Kaelyn Flannery.
Friends are invited to celebrate Gene's life and to share memories in the Hartman-Graziano Funeral Home, 1500 Ligonier Street, Latrobe, on Monday, April 28 from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm and on Tuesday, April 29 from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm and from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. A funeral service will be held at the Latrobe Presbyterian Church, 428 Main Street, Latrobe, on Wednesday, April 30, beginning at 10:00 am, with Gene's Pastor, the Reverend Clark R. Kerr, officiating. Everyone is asked to meet at the church. Private Interment with full military honors accorded by the veterans of Foreign Wars Post 33 Honor Guard will follow in Unity Cemetery, Latrobe.
Family and friends who desire may make a memorial contribution to the Gene E. McDonald Scholarship Fund, Westmoreland County Community College Foundation, 145 Pavilion Lane, Youngwood, PA 15697; or to the Latrobe Presbyterian Church, 428 Main Street, Latrobe, PA 15650. Online condolences and guestbook can be found at www.hartman-grazianofuneralhome.com.