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Natrona native pays for holiday wreaths to spotlight Harrison veterans

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - 11/29/2023

Nov. 28—Natrona native Janice Kaufman trekked the 70 miles from her home in Hermitage this weekend to help hang 12 holiday wreaths in Harrison.

"It's just my way of saying 'thank you' to all of the people who built our town and served in the military on the home front — and particularly to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice," Kaufman said.

This is the second year that Kaufman funded the project, which included nine wreaths at the Broadview Boulevard war memorial, two wreaths at the memorial in Harrison's West Natrona location on Argonne Drive and one wreath and 100 feet of garland at the Pond Street monument, which lists the names of those who served in the Spanish American War and World War I.

The project expanded this year to include the Natrona and West Natrona locations.

Kaufman said the cost "is rather immaterial and unimportant."

"My husband, Rich, and I only donate the wreaths, and that's the easy part," she said. "The wreaths, themselves, were paid for decades ago by all the people whose names are engraved on the three monuments."

The Kaufmans joined a group of Harrison residents on Saturday to install the decor. It included Bill and Gale Rudolph, Jeff and Sue Clausen, Harrison Commissioner Chuck Dizard, Brent Samay, student Keegan Babinsack and Joseph Grzywinski, who provides routine maintenance of the Argonne Drive monument.

"I think the wreaths and the little lights we put on make them all look great for the holiday season," said Bill Rudolph, a member of the township's War Memorial committee. "I think it will grab people's attention."

Rudolph said that in recent years, more than $80,000 was poured into renovating the 78-year-old granite monument on Broadview Boulevard, near the Harrison Hi-Rise, which recognizes World War II veterans.

The committee is working to install a spotlight at the Argonne Drive site.

Grzywinski said living across from the West Natrona memorial motivates him to make sure the veterans are spotlighted.

He mows it grass and maintains the flower bed. He is the third generation of his family to do so.

"My uncle actually built that," he said. "The wreaths make it look very, very nice."

After growing up in Natrona Heights, Kaufman said, the wreaths are a nod of respect for a generation that lived the spirit of service.

Kaufman said she never had the chance to move back home and contribute in a direct way to the community, but her spirit never left.

"I grew up in the post-World War II and Korean Conflict eras when patriotism was part of the fiber of Harrison and our country," she said. "Before the Heights Plaza was built, parades were along River Avenue in Natrona. They were led by servicemen and women, and the Officer of the Day of VFW Post 894 called out cadence while members of the post and the American Legion Post 48, Har-Brack High School Band, Boy Scout troops and politicians followed behind in cars."

After paying respects and firing a 21-gun salute, the parade would proceed to the Soldier's Plot in Mt. Airy Cemetery. There, services were conducted and closed with a second 21-gun salute.

"One thing I most remember is seeing the cars with the Gold Star Mothers and Fathers and wondering how they must feel," Kaufman said.

"This is my way of saying thanks."

Tawnya Panizzi is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tawnya by email at tpanizzi@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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