What’s really important in life
One particular house in Hermitage should be declared a historical site. It is the birthplace of a man whose birth ushered in a monumental period of American history – although he refuses to claim any responsibility for it. He became a successful sports figure, business man, politician, and family man – and a resident of the White House.
Well, that’s not exactly true. He was a resident of a White house – in fact, several. Wherever Pat White lives is a White house.
Pat was born in 1929, “But I didn’t bring the Great Depression,” he says.
The hardships of the Depression laid the foundation for his later successes. His mother, Grace Scanlon White, was one of eleven children. Most of them lived in Canton, Ohio.
“Mom’s brothers and sisters came to work on our farm, so my dad’s farm fed the family in Canton. I can remember many times my aunts and uncles went back home with their trunk filled with vegetables.”
Grace and her husband, C. C. White, had eleven kids of their own.
“The 55 acre farm near Brookfield Dairy had no electricity and no water,” Pat said. “The potbellied stove in the living room sometimes would get red hot from the coal. There was a wood burning stove in the kitchen. “
His father, C. C. White, was a hardworking man.
“My dad left home in Pine Knot, Kentucky, at age 16 and became one of the greatest electricians around. He put in the first lighting systems in several schools – Farrell, Mars, Sharpsville, Brookfield.”
C. C. White would to anything to improve his family’s life. Most people wouldn’t consider digging a basement under an existing, house, but that’s what his father did – by hand.
“Then Dad bought an old beat-up building at Byerly’s Corners in South Py. He tore it down, and used a lot of the lumber to build another house. That’s where I lived my senior year.”
Known as “Zeb” White, he was one of the best softball pitchers in Shenango Valley. When Pat was four or five years old, he would watch his father pitch softball games in Pine Hollow. That instilled a life-long love of sports in Pat.
But Pat’s childhood wasn’t just fun and games.
“When I was only twelve years old,” he said, “I took on all the farm chores – milking the cows in the morning, and doing the rest of the chores after school.”
His father would come up with other projects for Pat.
“We had a great little Ford tractor,” he said. “My dad would hire me out ten hours a day to all the farms on Orangeville Road. And everyone had a victory garden. I plowed up a lot of yards.”
The tractor came in handy in the winter, too.
“Mercer County only had two snowplows, and our road close to Ohio was the last to get plowed. My dad had to get to work at Penn Power, so when it snowed a lot I’d get on the tractor and pull him to Pritchard’s Corners.”
Pat walked to high school, which was about three miles away.
“I played baseball, football, and basketball,” he said. “When the coach called for a practice at six p.m., I had to walk home, do my chores, and walk back to school. Many times I had to run to get back by six.”
But all that hard work and exercise paid off. In 1946, as a junior, Pat quarterbacked Sharpsville’s football team to its only perfect season.
At the end of that school year, on June 7, 1947, tornadoes ripped through Sharon. By that time, C. C. had his own roofing and siding business.
“Dad rented all the tarpaulins he could find. We’d cover people’s roofs with them and tell them we’d get back to them as soon as we could. I didn’t have a day off all summer.”
A month after Pat graduated from high school, Congress passed a new draft law.
“My buddy Dom Zomparelli and I didn’t want to be in foxholes, we wanted to have warm beds and nice food. So we joined the Navy and became medical corpsmen. I spent two and a half years at Bethesda Naval Hospital. The last few months I worked in the pro shop at the golf course, wearing civilian clothes.”
During that time, Pat tried out for the New York Giants, and might have made it. But being in the Navy meant that instead of fulfilling his childhood dream, Pat found himself living his worst nightmare: providing medical support for the Marines.
After training at Camp LeJeune, Pat was assigned to a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in California for deployment in Korea, where they would be set up near the front.
“It was just like MASH on TV. We had to be able to tear it all down and move it in an hour and a half.”
Fortunately, the war ended before they were sent to Korea. After being discharged in San Diego, he spent six months in Hawaii with his brother, a Hawaiian Air Lines pilot. He came back to Hermitage the following summer. Jobs were hard to find because the area was in a deep recession, but he had a skill that Westinghouse couldn’t pass up.
“I tried out for the Westinghouse baseball team. The manager got me hired at the next opening in the plant.”
He only worked only four months at Westinghouse, but that changed his life. He met a girl there named Sally Jewell.
Born in Meadville in 1935, Sally had spent her first few years on the move with her family, since her father worked for the Erie Railroad. Then he moved the family to Sharpsville and got a job at Westinghouse.
Their family was very musical. Sally’s mother, Mignon, was a very gifted pianist.
“She also played the slide trombone and French horn,” Sally said. “Dad played slide and valve trombone. My sister Donna [now Murray] and brother Calvin played slide trombone, and my brother Tom played trumpet. We’d all practice while my mother was getting dinner ready. I don’t know how she could stand it.”
On Sundays, they would play music for their extended family and others.
“Dad would go to downtown Sharon and pick up soldiers stationed at Camp Reynolds. After Mom made dinner for them, we would get our instruments out and entertain them.”
Sally and her friends enjoyed growing up in Sharpsville.
“In the summer, the neighbors would be on their front porches, and their kids played together – games like kick the can, and hide and seek. And we’d go ice skating in Buhl Park. They had lights up and music piped out. It was wonderful.”
After high school, Sally went to Slippery Rock, but when Westinghouse went on strike, her parents couldn’t afford to keep her in college. Then destiny took her to a job at Westinghouse, where she met Pat White.
Working nights at Westinghouse, going to Youngstown State College during the days, and dating Sally proved to be too much for Pat. He quit Westinghouse and got a job at Brookfield Dairy. During the twelve years he worked there, he married Sally and they had three daughters: Deidra [now Duleba] in 1956, Darla [Bequeath] in 1958, and Diane [Brown] in 1963.
He quit Brookfield Dairy to take a sales job with Damon Chemical. Five years later he went into business for himself, establishing Pat White Janitorial Services. He expanded into carpet cleaning, then into carpet sales.
Pat also was very active in area sports. He coached basketball at Sacred Heart School for seven years. When he was about 45, he started refereeing basketball and continued that for 32 years, about 2500 games.
“People would ask me when I was going to quit. I said when the kids could beat me up and down the court. I’m a big believer in keeping myself in good shape with exercise and vitamins.”
He was also an excellent golfer and bowler. But sports wasn’t his only interest.
“My neighbor, Joe Yourchisin, urged me to run for township commissioner to represent Patagonia. I ran in 1979 and lost by 13 votes. But I was elected in 1981.”
Pat’s 22 years as commissioner started out rough, with severe budget cutting because of the closing of Westinghouse and other plants. But a really good thing came about while he was commissioner: the township became a city, despite widespread opposition.
“Len Krichko and I really pushed it. We asked every business on State Street to put on their marquees to vote for the city. We won by only 125 votes.”
While Pat pursued his business and activities with the support of Sally, Sally pursued her own, with the support of Pat. She was a Tupperware manager for many years.
“When she first signed up, I went to meet her manager and her husband,” Pat said. “He was sitting in the middle of the living room with Tupperware all around him, putting them in the bags – I said you’ll never catch me doing that. But Sally sold so much Tupperware I set up a system in the basement, with a horseshoe table. She’d go out for a party, I’d get the kids to bed, I’d pack Tupperware and deliver it.”
Then Sally got interested in network marketing.
“I got involved in a couple of companies and bgot burnt,” Sally said. “I knew if I could find the right company, it would be great. Then I heard about Free Life International. I’ve done very well with it, and I’m helping a lot of people with their health.”
But their myriad businesses and outside interests didn’t keep either Sally or Pat from knowing what was really important in life.
“Here’s what’s important to me,” Sally said. “We have three daughters, ten grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren, and we want them always to be close to the Lord. I’m so proud of them that the Lord is so important to all of them. That’s our legacy to them.”
Excerpted from Lives of Quiet Inspiration, Volume 4, by Joe Zentis. Hermitage, PA: Green Street Press, 2010