Mystery Photo No. 54

  • By Park Burroughs February 16, 2014
Chartiers-Houston Junior-Senior High School Principal John K. Abraham presented awards in 1971 to eighth-graders, from left, Theresa Antonietta, Barbara Battistone, Doug Puskar, John Green, Melanie Mamrack and Patricia Bush.

Judging by the number of responses to our current Mystery Photo – more than 70 email messages and phone calls – we published one of the more recognizable faces in Washington County.

“The man in the picture is Mr. John K. Abraham,” wrote Deborah John Regets, one of his three daughters. “At the time the picture was taken, I believe he was principal of Chartiers-Houston High School. My father passed away in February 2009. It was quite a thrill to open the paper and see his picture today.”

Most of the readers who called and wrote us were not able to identify the students, but they were certain about Abraham.

And it is no wonder.

He was well known in Canonsburg where he lived, in Waynesburg where he went to college, and all over the two counties for being Chartiers-Houston’s wrestling coach from 1950 to 1959. He served as a truant officer, English teacher, football coach, principal and superintendent in the Chartiers-Houston district during his 36-year career there.

Though the young students were less recognizable, readers helped us identify them all. Doug Bush, recycling manager of the Washington City Mission, has also taken on a paper route. “I picked up my papers at 4 this morning and as soon as I saw that picture, I knew it was my sister.”

She is on the far right.

“My sister is Patricia Bush, who left Houston to go to college in 1975 and never came back,” Bush added. “She lived and worked in Boston for many years and now lives in Silver Spring, Md.”

Doug Bush also recognized his former principal. “I sure spent a lot of time in his office,” he said.

Patricia Bush graduated from Mourt Holyoke College in Massachusetts and later from the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. She worked for Polaroid, was a political apointee to the Department of Housing and Urban Development and then worked as a consultant on business strategy, which took her to Australia, New Zealand, Africa and other places around the world. She now runs her own consulting firm, is married, has two stepchildren and two step-grandchildren.

“I can see looking at that picture that there was such promise there,” Patricia Bush said. “There was so much there for our future, for racial equality and gender equality. We had the opportunity to do anything.”

She added that Melanie Mamrack, standing next to her in the photo, now lives in China.

The Mystery Photo made the rounds of members of the C-H class of 1975 on Facebook, eventually reaching Theresa Antonietta Carl in Shelly, Idaho, where she now lives, works as a genealogical missionary and teaches Civil War history in a home schooling cooperative. She and her husband, a truck driver, moved to Idaho because of his love of the West and need to be closer to his work. They have four children, and he has seven others by a previous marriage.

Carl cringed a little when she saw what she was wearing. “I made that long dress in Home Ec,” she said.

Carl can’t recall exactly why the group was photographed but thinks it was because they had scored the highest on some sort of test.

A few other readers agreed. “Those kids were smart,” one of them wrote.

On a personal note, I suspected the man in the photo was one of the Abraham brothers, Paul or John, who were both involved in education and sports, but couldn’t figure out where I might have met him. When the responses began to pour in, I realized we had worked together in the same building once: he as principal and I as a student teacher at Chartiers-Houston High School in 1971.

Look for another Mystery Photo in next Monday’s Observer-Reporter.

Park Burroughs has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1972. He is the winner of numerous state and regional awards for feature, column and editorial writing. He is the author of two books, “Enter, With Torches: Recollections of a Grumpy Old Editor,” and "Washington County Murder and Mayhem." He retired in September 2012 but continues to contribute to the O-R’s news pages.


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