Thanks to the Red Devils for a golden opportunity

Ninety-one-year old Lido poured the Yuengling. Cousin Julie baked the walnut roll. Uncle George and Aunt Martha brought the memories. The NFL provided the occasion and Central Cambria High School did all the rest.

My dad, Ron Kostelnik’s, Golden Football Celebration turned out to be a rip-roaring good time in which we collected stories from people we rarely get to see, re-introduced ourselves to relatives we had hoped to see, and celebrated both a man we all loved and the school that gave him his start.

In conjunction with the Golden Football Celebration, in which the NFL honors the high school of any athlete who played in a Super Bowl, Central Cambria High School also retired my dad’s jersey number.

As I’ve written about before, my dad grew up on 20 Row in Colver, a tiny coal mining town in Western Pennsylvania. He played football for the first time as a high school sophomore and went on to enjoy success at the University of Cincinnati and with the Green Bay Packers. He earned entry into Hall of Fames at all three levels of the game.

“Everyone knows Colver kids are tough as nails,” said Stephen Gironda, CCCHS assistant athletic director and the evening’s MC.

They called my dad Uncas, due to his love for both the outdoors and the Last of the Mohicans.

Seeing the outpouring of love and respect Friday night in the Central Cambria County Gymnasium, Uncas would have been overwhelmed.

The Red Devils provided personalized football jerseys and, by tip-off, our group of Kostelnik-jersey-wearing family members had swelled to include relatives who traveled from North Carolina, Florida, Wisconsin, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Erie, New York and, most special of all to us, Colver.

My grandma’s brother Jimmy Melnyk came with his son Jim, whose son Tanner played on the Red Devils basketball team. My dad’s cousin Timmy Kostelnik, also a decorated Red Devil athlete, joined the group as did my dad’s formidable aunt Genevieve Semko and her daughter Janet. Most of my cousins came, and all of my siblings.

Though health troubles kept them from attending in person, my dad’s cousins John Mihalik and Jo Semko helped coordinate the event via social media.

We’ll be grateful for the rest of our lives that we had the opportunity to celebrate my dad in such a special way among the people who knew him first.

Cookie hug
Cookie Sokira lived next door to my grandma and pap her whole life. Here she is giving my cousin Susan a patented Cookie hug.
George Kostelniks
My Uncle George (my dad’s older brother), his daughters Susan and Julie and their daughters Norah and Kelsey.
Katherine and Me
Katherine and me.
Kathy and Aunt Doris
My Aunt Doris and my sister Kathy make their way toward the gym for the ceremony.
Kathy Jimmy and Me
My sister Kathy, my Great Uncle Jimmy and me.
Mike, Rachel and Hannah
My brother Mike and his daughters Rachel and Hannah.
My cousin Bobby, who drove in from North Carolina.
Mom and the Melnyks
Jimmy Melnyk, my mom, Peggy Kostelnik, and Jimmy’s wife Margie.
The whole group
The whole darn family. My dad, and his mom and dad, would have been absolutely thrilled by the turnout.
Mom and the plaque
My mom holding a beautiful commemorative plaque the school gave her.
Mom Speaking
My mom gave a sweet, spontaneous little speech.
Mom Steve and the jersey
My mom, my dad’s retired jersey and Central Cambria County Assistant Athletic Director Stephen Gironda.
Nick Asashon, a high school friend of my dad, restored this cool picture of him and brought it to the ceremony.
My siblings and me behind the bar at Sisti’s in Colver. That is Lido, a 91-year old bar tender. Our pap used to frequent this bar and there’s a big picture of our dad on the wall.
Steve Gironda, Mom and football coach
Stephen Gironda, my mom and Red Devil football coach Bill Corrente.
Twenty Row
We took a stroll down 20 Row before the big game.
Uncle George and friends
Uncle George, a retired New York City police officer, lives in Maryland now. He knew pretty much everyone in the gym.
Central Cambria High School 076
My dad’s brother George and his sister Martha. As the evening wound down, Martha kindly shared old stories and pictures. Those are posts for another day.


11 thoughts on “Thanks to the Red Devils for a golden opportunity

  1. I have the pleasure of working with your sister Kathy at MFHS. I look forward to your posts everyday. This one brought tears to my eyes, wishing I could have been there too!!! Your pictures were the next best thing! You guys are lucky to have such an awesome family!

      1. You made my day too Karla! It was an amazing night. Well done Central Cambria High School.

  2. I loved all the pics and the stories. Your dad and my late husband Dr.Charlie Dungar were such close friends. Brought back many memories for me. Thanks. Jackie

  3. We want to thank you and your family for making feel us like part of your family. I hope that I and my daughter, Lisa, (the math teacher at CCMS) represented UNKUS well. We were very pleased that everyone enjoyed the vintage picture of UNKUS and the photo opportunity that it provided. Everyone was so gracious especially your mom!

    We were hoping for a Packers/Steelers Super Bowl. We came close….we’ll get them next year! The Steelers didn’t play to win, they played not to lose; however the Green Bay game was a real heartbreaker (thought Aaron Rodgers was going to wave his magic wand one more time)!

    Hope to see you guys in the future…in the meantime we will continue to follow your blog & Facebook posts.

    Thank God this event wasn’t this past weekend…we got between 16-18 inches of snow…you would have been eating a lot of pierogies in Pittsburgh!

    God Bless! GO PACK GO!!!

  4. Beautiful evening and pics. Wanted to let you know, your Grandparents homestead is up for taxes. $2,018. Sad, but I wanted to let you know. You and your family are always welcome here to visit.

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