Canonsburg Fourth of July parade to recognize four alumni

July 1, 2014
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Julie Piedrahita, 4, and her grandmother, Lauretta Darby, cheer for veterans marching in the 2013 Canonsburg Fourth of July parade. Order a Print
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Bill Schmidt
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Pat McCormick
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James Sulkowski
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Dean Tornabene

What do an Olympian, NASA scientist, champion bodybuilder and internationally acclaimed artist have in common?

Besides a whole lot of brains and brawn, four professionals in these fields will be recognized during Canonsburg’s “Celebrating the American Dream” celebration this Fourth of July.

The parade’s grand marshals Friday will be Canonsburg High School alumnus Pat McCormick, Class of 1958, and Canon-McMillan High School alumni Bill Schmidt, Class of 1965; James Sulkowski, Class of 1969; and Dean Tornabene, Class of 1976.

“That’s all part of our what our freedom gives us – the ability to achieve those things,” parade committee Secretary Carmina Vitullo McGarry said about this year’s theme.

McCormick, who was an accomplished wrestler at Canon-McMillan, went on to work at NASA for 30 years. He worked as lead scientist on a number of satellite experiments, including the Apollo program and International Space Station.

In 1990, he was promoted to the highest science rank at NASA.

He has taught university students for 18 years and published more than 400 scientific papers and books on topics including ozone depletion and the impact of aerosols on climate.

Schmidt, now president of a sports marketing firm that works with Fortune 500 companies, is most famous for winning a bronze medal in the javelin event at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

It’s a feat no American man achieved since.

He previously worked as vice president of worldwide sports marketing for Gatorade, where he ultimately signed Michael Jordan, Mia Hamm and Peyton Manning as brand spokespeople.

In addition to serving as president of Pegasus Sports Marketing, Schmidt also teaches at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Sulkowski, a classical artist, has shown his work in national exhibits for more than 30 years.

His paintings and murals were acquired by former President George H.W. Bush, the Saudi Arabian royal family and the Metropolitan Opera of New York.

He recently published his first book, “Mastering Oil Painting,” and continues to volunteer his talents to the American Cancer Society to sell limited edition prints and holiday greeting cards.

Tornabene, a competitive bodybuilder and nutritionist, won both the Mr. America title and the National Power Lifting championship.

He remains the only athlete in history to win both bodybuilding competitions.

He also pioneered the field of personal training at Gold’s Gym, invented several pieces of exercise equipment and developed nutrition and training plans for celebrities.

All four grand marshals will be introduced at 7:30 p.m. July 4 at the Canon-McMillan stadium.

The Independence Day festivities will begin at 7:45 a.m. Friday with a Whiskey Rebellion 5K race, and the parade will begin at 10 a.m. Events also will include children’s activities at the park and musical entertainment. Residents can begin to reserve their spaces for the parade with the tradition of putting out their chairs along the route today.

In what has become an annual tradition, skydivers this year will jump in memory of Ralph Garrison, who died from pancreatic cancer in September 2012. Parade committee chairman Bill Brooks said Garrison was “the original skydiver,” who jumped every Fourth of July for more than 30 years.

And, to end a day packed with activities, it wouldn’t be Fourth of July without a display of lights, which will begin at 9:30 p.m.

“The fireworks this year should be pretty spectacular,” Vitullo McGarry said. “We try to always make sure it’s as good as, if not better than, the year before.”

Emily Petsko joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in June 2013. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor's degree in journalism and global cultural studies.

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