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Friday, March 29 2002

Mike Shutak

Having realized yesterday that Domenick Gelotte has had short shrift here at the home page as a leader in the valley's history and political life who had hardly been mentioned up till then, I wondered about others that deserve some recognition. Though there are many about whom I don't know enough to write even a few paragraphs, there are some whom I can at least introduce to the younger generation and to the conversation here. One of those is one of Blacklick Township's most important personages of the late 1950's-early '60s, Mike Shutak. I don't have enough details to give dates or much background, but at least can point anyone interested in finding out more where to begin.

Mike Shutak and his wife began a food store in downtown Twin Rocks (mid-'50's?) and (at least so it seemed to me), it prospered because they were so friendly and supportive of their customers and the community. It didn't hurt that they had two sons, Mike and Jeffrey, who were among the best liked in the high school and junior high in the township, and who were much involved in school and community sports. The younger Mike, in fact, a member of "my" class of 1960, was the school's basketball "star" throughout his varsity years and aspired to continue playing beyond high school level.

The food market begat Shutak's dairy restaurant at the Y in Belsano, and the word was that the Shutaks had also outfitted a number of rental properties around Twin Rocks. Then, perhaps in the summer of 1959, Mike Shutak refurbished the former Twin Rocks company store building, now the site of the town's post office, and opened a teen canteen in its spacious second story. Though I can't remember for certain, my guess is that it operated on the nights that there were no hops in Nanty Glo...at least those were the nights when my friends and I were there. It was a bold and innovative move to have a teen center run by an entrepreneur rather than a nonprofit organization, but I don't think anyone doubted that Mr. Shutak had the best interests of the teens and the community at heart. This way it didn't take months, even years, to get anything done, nor was it dependent on volunteers to make it work.

Unfortunately, the Shutaks were overtaken by tragedy. Mrs. Shutak was stricken by cancer and died after some months of suffering. Even after that, Mr. Shutak acquired the former railroad station in downtown Nanty Glo and restored and modernized it, turning into a modern restaurant. But shortly after its opening he was tragically killed in an automobile crash at Route 22 and the intersection of Buelah Road, near Ebensburg. The restaurant closed and the building was empty for many years, to eventually be taken over for the borough as the site of the borough offices today.

My classmate, the younger Michael Shutak, attended our class reunion in 2000. He and his wife live in Delaware. Younger brother Jeff and family live in New England.

—Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Wide-eyed innocence (2)

I was driving with my three young children one warm summer evening when a woman in the convertible ahead of us stood up and waved. She was stark naked! As I was reeling from the shock, I heard my five-year-old shout from the back seat, "Mom! That lady isn't wearing a seat belt!

—Sent by Sallie Covolo

Lenten thought for the day

Repentance raises a man up. Mourning knocks at heaven's gate. Holy humility opens it.

—St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, 579-649

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