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We Are ...

by on September 27, 2012 12:36 PM

Centre County and its communities are filled with farmers, doctors, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, teachers, retirees, artists, researchers, and so much more. Some were born and raised here; many, however, are from various parts of the United States and even the world.

They all — we all — call this place Home.

This month, Town&Gown continues its series by the people who live here on why they live here and are proud to live here. They’re your neighbors, coworkers, and friends — people our extended community can count on to see it through difficult times.

Jerry Valeri

Program director and morning-show host for Majic 99

Growing up in Blair County, I used to cherish the drive to State College on football Saturdays with my father. As season-ticket holders, we knew the drive well.

When we turned onto Park Avenue and headed toward Beaver Stadium, you could feel the excitement grow as we neared the field and prepared for a day of laughter, fun, and football. That same excitement is beginning to build as my family and I inch closer to moving to Centre County.

I’ve worked in State College radio for more than a decade and have had the pleasure of being part of the community, its local charities, and helping promote tons of wonderful events.

Over the past five years, my wife, Kelly, and I have felt a gravitational pull of sorts toward State College and all it has to offer us and our children, Allison (4) and Evan (1). We find ourselves making the drive to State College almost every day for work, concerts, shopping, movies, and more. We drive to experience the unique flavors of the many local restaurants. We drive to the Grange Fair so our kids know what a cow feels like. We drive to get a perfect view of the incredible 4thFest fireworks.

We drive and drive and drive to be a part of the area and experience everything it has to offer.

In one year, we logged more than 70,000 miles, mostly driving to and from State College. Although every minute in the car was worth it, we decided that the time would be better spent enjoying ourselves.

So this summer, Kelly and I came to the conclusion that it was time to move. Fortunately, our house sold quickly, and we’re thrilled to be in the process of packing. We’re definitely looking forward to our new neighborhood in State College and everything that immediately surrounds it.

I have no doubt that the State College Area School District will provide the best possible education for our children. But more than that, we’re excited they’ll grow up in the community surrounded by the other people who call it Home, including the organizations that help people every weekend, and the university that ensures that the area thrives.

As a professional photographer and radio host respectively, my wife and I feel very fortunate to be in professions that allow us to constantly meet new people in the area. The Centre Region never ceases to amaze me with its beauty, and the people never disappoint either.

This is truly an incredible area — big enough to offer an incredible education, top-notch medical care, and a cultural-entertainment calendar that rivals those of the biggest cities. But it’s small enough to recognize familiar faces, feel safe, and have a strong moral fiber.

I’ve fallen in love with State College three times in my life: As a child for the football games, as a college student for the exciting atmosphere, and as a husband and father for everything in between.

This month, the Valeri family is finally moving to Centre County — and we couldn’t be more excited.

Roger Garthwaite

Partner, Otto’s Pub & Brewery

I have lived in State College for 33 years. We moved here in 1979 with our two children, Sean and Kelly, after I accepted a position in the College of Education. I worked for Penn State for the next 26 years, retiring in 2005. My wife, Maureen, graduated from Penn

State, and taught at Bald Eagle Area for 20 years. State College has provided us with great education, convenience, entertainment, and easy access to the more-than-human world.

Over the years, we have been involved in a variety of nonprofit organizations, with our most recent focus on the Centre County Youth Service Bureau and ClearWater

Conservancy. One word that I think describes the Centre Region is “generosity.” I am amazed every year at the level of support that our community gives to a wide variety of nonprofit organizations, helping each one meet its annual goals. We are a community that cares about each other.

After retiring in 2005, I didn’t get out the rocking chair — I joined my son-in-law, Charlie, as a partner at Otto’s Pub & Brewery. This has been both the most challenging and most rewarding project I have ever undertaken. The decision was easier to make knowing that our customers would be the very same people who have made this community such a great place to live and work.

We have four grandchildren living here, and my hope is that someday they will want to raise their families in Happy Valley!

D.J. Lilly

Office manager, Schlow Centre Region Library

While I am from the southwest suburbs of Chicago, my parents are from Altoona, so we visited Central Pennsylvania often to see our extended family. For as far back as I can remember, traveling to Pennsylvania felt like coming home, instead of the other way around, and I always knew that I would live here someday.

I tried and tried to reach that goal, but without much success. I tried to attend college and graduate school here, but the out-of-state costs were prohibitive. I tried to find a job here after I received my degree, but had no luck. I did visit my family here as often as my finances would allow, but the summer before my 30th birthday, the realization hit that time was marching on and I still hadn’t made it “home” yet.

My PA job search began, and I came across an ad for somewhere called “Bellefonte.” I called my aunt, a longtime resident of State College whom I had visited there many times, if she had ever heard of this oddly French-sounding place. Of course, she burst out laughing.

Within six weeks, I had interviewed, accepted the job, and moved to our charming county seat. It all went so smoothly that some might call it fate. My personal GPS sent me through Wisconsin, southern Illinois, and the Gulf Coast of Texas, but I had finally made it home.

And Centre County truly is my home. I love strolling in downtown Bellefonte where no one is a stranger and everyone greets you with a smile. I love motoring to The Twin Kiss in Howard or Burkholder’s in Spring Mills, where genuinely nice people make some of the best milkshakes and hamburgers I’ve ever had. I love the joy reflected in the faces of the folks who have staked out their spots for days to cheer for their friends and neighbors marching in the Philipsburg Heritage Days Parade.

I must admit, I have only gotten to know State College recently, but I have come to love the variety of restaurants, stores, and events to be found here. And, of course, the unique history of Schlow Library, where I have worked for the last year, shows that anything is possible when a community pulls together.

In about five years I will have lived here longer than I have lived anywhere else, but those are only numbers. Centre County has always been my home.

Jennifer Shuey

Executive director, ClearWater Conservancy

I am a local. I grew up in Hublersburg, my dad grew up in Houserville, and my mom grew up in Nittany. My husband and his family are locals too — they are from Pleasant Gap and Bellefonte. After my husband, Chris, and I graduated from Penn State, we left town for a few years, as many locals do, spending some time in California and Texas. But we soon found our way home.

The notions of Home and Family have always been very powerful for me. They of course include the house I grew up in, my parents and brother, and my extended circle of relatives. But to me, Home and Family mean so much more.

My life is grounded in this place, this geography, this landscape, this community of people. They have shaped who I am and continue to become. It is my honor to serve the community through my work at ClearWater Conservancy and as a volunteer at church and through the visual arts. Central to what I consider my mission in the world is ensuring that Centre County continues to be a beautiful place for people to call Home, and become a part of an extended family that values our God-given natural resources and works together to create a vibrant and dynamic community that builds on our collective strengths.

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