Without John McCormick, there would be neither UPMC Park nor Erie SeaWolves. The longtime president of the Erie construction company, who died on April 9 at age 90, played a central role in many positive transactions in the city over the years, but I will always remember him for his leadership in within Team Erie, the core group that worked so hard to save professional baseball in Erie.
1931-2022:John McCormick Jr.
Prior to John’s arrival, which was almost at the beginning, Al Swigonski led the meetings in the back room of Herman’s Tavern. Once McCormick joined, he immediately secured the services of Ted Junker, who called Jim Walczak to make sure he would work for the project. It was like adding Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig to your lineup.
McCormick also borrowed his cousin Mike McCormick’s Erie Club membership and we started meeting there. Talk about a step in class. John not only poured in a lot of the money to help keep the Erie team afloat, but he also called every day for an update. He loved baseball and, in recent years, often took two or three of his 25 grandchildren to Cleveland to see the Guardians play.
Known as Mr. Notre Dame for his long-standing allegiance to the university he graduated from in 1953, McCormick used to bring all the big-name Fighting Irish football coaches to town. He liked to tell a funny story about Hugh Devore, Notre Dame’s football coach at the time, who stayed out so late with John and the other local ND fans that when he knelt down to kiss the ring from Archbishop John Mark Gannon the next morning, he needed help. Rise.
John and his close friends, the late Jack Quinn and Bob Knox, used to ride in style to Notre Dame football games together and they became legends for their revelry at the Morris Inn. But the thing about John is that he had so many friends from so many different backgrounds. He was a great man who did so much for Erie and his beloved family. He is a legend whose good works and personality will be forever remembered.
● The big new exhibits at the Tom Ridge Center look exciting. The former Pennsylvania governor, who has been making steady progress since suffering a major stroke last summer, will bring out Washington, D.C.’s elite when he receives the prestigious William Oliver Baker Award on May 14.
Ridge will follow in the footsteps of past recipients, including Leon Panetta, former CIA Director George Tenet and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Former President George W. Bush is just one of the nation’s capital heavyweights expected to be there to honor Ridge, the first Secretary of Homeland Security.
● Sorry to hear that former Councilman Ian Murray is considering retirement in Maine. Murray, a longtime public defender of Erie, has become a major player in Democratic national politics for nearly four decades.
● Bob Jarzomski and Sam Mancini had a blast at the most recent first-place finish at Parx Racing in Philadelphia by a 3-year-old Thoroughbred gelding named Cuneo. The horse has run well this season and I thought how much my father, the late Gene Cuneo, would appreciate that. He loved horse racing. Then I had another thought, maybe the big horse Cuneo is my father.
obituaryKatherine A. “Kay” Kloecker
Jarz also recalled many fond memories of Katherine “Kay” Kloecker, who recently passed away at age 92. She had eight children and became a fixture at St. Vincent’s Hospital for her years of service as a volunteer. Kay was the mother of so many people in Erie.
1929-2022:Katherine A. (Harmle) Kloecker
● Judge Dan Brabender’s new book, “Erie’s Sensational Murder Trials”, is now available and looks like a great read. Brabender, who has written excellent books about Cathedral Prep football and basketball teams over the years, is a wonderful researcher who always seems to imbue his stories with such life.
● Speaking of interesting books, Bill Welch, the longtime editor of Morning News City, who recently retired as a professor at Mercyhurst University, has produced an excellent book titled “Duty, Terror and Survival “.
This is the World War I diary of Doughboy Cpl. Harold W. Pierce. It also includes some of Piece’s fine paintings, several of which are in the Hagen History Museum. What sets this book apart are the insights an 18-year-old has in this 79,000-word diary. Welch started working on the project over a year ago and you can tell it’s a labor of love.
You can order a copy of the book by writing to Welch at [email protected].
● The latest collection of music from Frank Zappa’s vault is a set of three shows he performed in the Erie area from 1974 to 1976. “Zappa/Erie” will be available Friday. An added bonus are the liner notes written by Erie’s Dan Schell, who has already written a good book on many of the great rock stars who performed at the old Erie County Fieldhouse.
● Chris Higbee, the brilliant country violinist, returns Friday for a show at 9 pm at the Près Isle Downs & Casino. Admission is free, but you must be 21 or older to enter the casino.
Kevin Cuneo can be reached at [email protected].