Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the 51 year old Rector of St. John's Episcopal Church of Detroit. Piety Hill refers to the old name for our neighborhood. The neighborhood has changed a great deal in the over 150 years we have been on this corner (but not our traditional biblical theology) and it is now known for the neighboring theatres, the professional baseball and football stadiums and new hockey/basketball arena.

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Location: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Monday, February 13, 2006

Parishioner in my former parish - Isabelle Hurley

A great lady of the newspaper business in the Pittsburgh area, who was a member of my parish when I was rector in Charleroi, PA, passed away. I wanted to share with you an article about her from The Valley Independent (www.valleyindependent.com) for which she wrote for many years. May she rest in peace.

By Stacy Wolford
VALLEY INDEPENDENTMonday, February 13, 2006
Anyone who ever met Isabelle Hurley knew that she loved children, sports and a good party.
And she spent her life as a dedicated volunteer, journalist, mentor, mother, grandmother and friend to many.
When the Belle Vernon woman died Sunday at age 95, she left behind a legacy that will live on in the many lives she has touched over the years.
"If I had to narrow down one thing that I want people to remember about my grandmother is that she never gave up. She was always independent and a fighter," her granddaughter, Debi Anderson, of Monessen, said.
Hurley was well-known and beloved in the Mon Valley through her years as a writer for The Valley Independent.
She was 30 years old during World War II when she starting covering sports for the former Daily Independent. In doing so, she became the area's first female sports writer.
She covered sports for 12 years, teaching herself to type, and then took a full-time job as society editor at The Daily Independent, making $55 a week. She spent 25 years in that position before retiring after 37 years.
Hurley loved writing so much that she submitted columns -...at first, twice a week and later once a week - to The Valley Independent until last spring when her health declined.
Her many colleagues will remember Hurley as a pioneer in the newspaper business, a strong, spirited woman who never turned down an assignment.
"She was a pioneer for women in journalism," said longtime colleague, Ruth Ann Yatsko, who retired from The Valley Independent as a copy editor. "She was a remarkable woman who always reminded me of the Energizer Bunny - she just kept going and going."
Ron Paglia, a longtime city editor at The Valley Independent, said Hurley was well-respected as a journalist and a reliable reporter who knew how to get a good story.
"She had tons of contacts because she knew everyone and everyone knew her - and she loved it," Paglia said. "She was independent, had her own opinions and didn't take any guff from anyone."
She also knew how to get a good interview.
At the former Twin Coaches night club in Rostraver Township, she interviewed such celebrities as Liberace, Bobby Vinton, Johnny Mathis and Shirley Jones.
During a political rally she fought her way through the crowd to interview Ethel and Joan Kennedy.
Hurley helped many cub reporters over the years, including Emma Jene Lelik, a retired society editor at The Valley Independent.
"She taught me everything I needed to know," said Lelik, who worked with Hurley for more than 50 years.
Lelik worked under Hurley as a society reporter for years, eventually taking on the top job after her mentor retired. Lelik admits she had big shoes to fill.
"She was just so easy to get along with and she loved going to events and parties," Lelik said. "She truly loved her job."
After Hurley retired in March 1968, she began another job - taking care of her husband, John Edwin Hurley, who waited until the day after her retirement party to tell her he had colon cancer.
They were married for 55 years.
"She was so dedicated to her family and took care of my grandfather every day of his life when he had colon cancer," Anderson said.
Anderson said her grandmother remained devoted to sports.
In 2003, in honor of her role as a sports writer, Hurley was inducted to the Belle Vernon Area High School Football Hall of Fame.
Paglia said he will never forget going to the 1972 Belle Vernon Area Booster banquet where Hurley was surprised with the organization's annual booster award.
"She was just floored, and I think that was the first time I ever saw Isabelle speechless," Paglia said. "She was so appreciative of that award."
However, Paglia said Hurley never attempted to gain recognition for her efforts.
Hurley was a longtime supporter of the Mon Valley Association for Retarded Citizens and the performing arts.
In her later years, she wrote many colorful columns about the happenings at her residence, the Belle Vernon Apartments.
Anderson said her grandmother also maintained true to her faith, something she feels gave her strength and the will to live a long life.
"Through all of her life, she never gave up, not when she was 21 and lost a baby and couldn't walk for five years; not during The Depression, when she was raising a family; and not through all of the other small adversities in her life," Anderson said. "To the very end, she remained strong and independent."
In a May story about Hurley's decision to end her column-writing career, she told Lelik that her career in the newspaper business gave her "so much to remember."
"That piece of paper was my ticket to happiness," Hurley told Lelik.
And happiness is what Isabelle Hurley spread through the Mon Valley.