Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Clairton's Diverse Residents

A Community that builds heroes

Where heroes come from: We have highlighted Clairton residents past and present who have had an impact on the community and beyond. Clairton residents have gone on to make an impact in many areas; military, education, athletics, civil service, law, novel writers, and entertainment to mention a few. Today we will focus on three individuals with diverse backgrounds; a priest, a little lady who is just as sweet as honey, and a Hollywood artist.

Tale of a Tweener: Football coaches have an expression when describing certain players. Those who are too small to play one position but too big to play another they are called a tweener. The word comes from being between two sizes but is also used to describe one who has lived between two events. Don Nesti was a tweener. He graduated from Clairton High School after World War II had ended but before the Korean War or Vietnam raged to full fury. It is probably just as well too because by all accounts Don Nesti is a man of love and a man of God rather than a man of war. He also had other talents. He was an accomplished musician who played the French horn.

A student’s student: Don was a voracious student. He studied at Pitt, mastered the Italian language then went on to study at Rome’s Gregorian University and St. Mary’s Seminary in Connecticut. He completed his Doctorate and did further study at St. Edmunds College (London), Cambridge University, University of London as well as prestigious universities in Germany and again in Italy. He was a Visiting Scholar at Stanford.

Harkin to God’s call: In 1963 Don became Father Nesti when he was ordained a Priest. Father Nesti returned to Western PA and served as a professor of Theology at Duquesne University, then as the school’s president. He has a litany of accomplishments serving God and mankind as a leader and facilitator. He’s hosted symposia to bring together Christian, Islamic, and Jewish leaders and written on the Quaker faith. He’s published numerous books and articles and is in demand as a speaker. Father Nesti currently directs the Institute of Faith and Culture at St. Thomas University in Texas. Father Don Nesti, Man of faith, author, lecturer, leader, and Clairton boy.

Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop: Nell Kohler is not one to, as they used to say in Clairton, “mope around.” She’s a high energy female and always has been. She is also as sweet as honey and that personality trait earned her the nickname “Honey” Kohler. Honey and Jimmy Kohler, a Pittsburgh firefighter who died more than a decade ago did not have children, but she has a favorite niece, Darlene Large. Honey keeps herself busy by staying in touch with her niece and crocheting.

Darlene Large (as in the size of her heart): Darlene, another local girl, is the founder and CEO of Homes of the Indian Nation (HOINA) created to help destitute, handicapped, abused, and orphaned children in South India. Her organization provides shelter, food, clothing, medical care, education, and a caring family environment to some 200 children. In addition she has established services to support more than 60 elderly widows who had become displaced as a result of the 2005 tsunami. Many of the orphaned children of HOINA have become successful educators, artists, engineers and businesspeople. And her Aunt Honey crochets.

Wow! Does she ever crochet: When Darlene founded her organization she asked Aunt Honey to crochet some sweaters for the orphans. Honey made it her mission to crochet as many sweaters for the children as she was able. To date it is estimated that Honey has crocheted 13,000 sweaters and she is still going strong. Although she thinks of them daily she does not plan to visit the orphans personally; that is for her niece. Honey has never been on a plane and doesn’t intend to start now. Honey started crocheting to while away the hours during her firefighter husband’s long shifts.

A woman of faith: Honey is also a regular at her church and frequently invites those with less energy to her home for dinners. On one occasion, the night before a young couple was to come over it snowed. So Honey woke up at 5 a.m. and didn’t bother her landlord for the snow blower - she shoveled the walk herself so her guests would not slip on the ice! All of Honey’s traits make her an outstanding person, but most outstanding thing is that she is 95 years young. Nell “Honey” Kohler, Clairton gal.

Dreams of when we grow up: Johnny Moio was a shy, ruggedly handsome lad in high school. He had the classic Italian features that girls swooned over. He also had dreams of working in Hollywood so after graduation from CHS he followed Horace Greely’s advice and went west. Once in the sunny climes of LA he discovered a need for stuntmen in the movie business. So with a typical Clairton “Can do” attitude he jumped in with both feet. He also ran, jumped off buildings, got shot, crashed, and all the things stuntmen do. And he learned his trade very well.

Behind the scenes: One of his first credits was for the movie, The Hallelujah Trail. It was followed by stunt appearances in The Cincinnati Kid, Ice Station Zebra, The Great Waldo Pepper, In The Heat of the Night, The Sting, Zorro, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Me, Myself and Irene, Dr. Doolittle, and TV appearances in Dynasty, Murder She Wrote, Twin Peaks and many others. In fact John Moio was either the stuntman or stunt coordinator in more than 160 movies and TV shows. He is still active.

That’s not all, folks: John also directed. His credits include Bedazzled, Home Alone 4, What Planet Are You From, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, I Spy Returns, Johnny Dangerously, and a host of others for a total of 29 pictures that he directed. But wait, that’s not all. John also became an actor and had acting parts in 18 films and TV episodes including Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, The Towering Inferno, Max Dugan Returns, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Billy Bathgate, and Everybody Hates Chris. He is an accomplished actor, stuntman, and director. John Moio, Clairton boy.

A little blogging music Maestro… “Wind Beneath My Wings” by Celine Dionne.

Dr. Forgot

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