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Gergely Family, Friends Gather to Rededicate Park

By Jason Togyer
The Tube City Almanac
March 11, 2024
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Charlene Salvi Gergely, wife of the late Richard J. Gergely, speaks Saturday during a rededication of Gergely Riverfront Park in McKeesport as her children, Ericka, Jason and Chris Gergely, look on. Also shown are Mayor Mike Cherepko (left) and nephew, state Rep. Matt Gergely (rear). (Tube City Almanac photo)

Despite a steady, cold rain, there were many smiles — and a few tears — on Saturday when friends and family of the late Richard J. Gergely gathered to rededicate the city’s Riverfront Park in his memory.

The ceremony was held 40 years to the date of the death of Gergely, a teacher, city council member, youth football coach and father of three who died of cancer March 9, 1984 at the age of 43.

An obituary at the time of his death called him “probably the most popular person in the city.”

Speakers included Gergely’s widow, Charlene Salvi Gergely, and his now-grown children, Jason, Christopher and Ericka Gergely, as well as his nephews, state Rep. Matt Gergely and former state Rep. Mark Gergely, and state Sen. Jim Brewster.

“His word was his bond,” Charlene Gergely said. “He loved people. He would do anything to help people. He accomplished stuff in his life that he never told people because he never bragged about anything. He loved his children and if he had been up to him, he would have had 10 kids.”

During his brief career, Gergely taught social studies in McKeesport Area School District, coached the McKeesport Little Tigers, and chaired the McKeesport International Village committee.

Before Riverfront Park was created in the early 1980s, the stretch along the Youghiogheny River was a weedy, undeveloped wharf that was mostly used as a parking lot.

State Sen. Jim Brewster recalls former Councilman Richard Gergely. (Tube City Almanac photo)

Brewster said that along with former councilman and mayor Joe Bendel, Gergely was among the McKeesport city council members who had the vision to develop the site for recreational purposes, which in turn facilitated creation of the McKees Point Marina and the bike trail.

Council renamed Riverfront Park in Gergely’s honor less than four months after his death.

Today, the Gergely Riverfront Park is part of a recreation complex that stretches from the Palisades to Kane Regional Hospital and includes a hostel for bike trail patrons, picnic pavilion, a fishing pier, and an amphitheater.

Before the COVID pandemic, the city was beginning to hold Friday events with food trucks at the Gergely Park amphitheater. Mayor Mike Cherepko said officials would like to resume those in the near future.

Brewster was among speakers who remembered lighter moments with Gergely, a burly, tall, broad-shouldered man — including a softball game where Gergely tried to steal home from second base. Gergely told Brewster, “Jimmy, I don’t think the umpire saw me.”

“I said, ‘Rich, he didn’t miss a 300-pound man running across the pitcher’s mound,’” Brewster said, as the crowd laughed.

Ericka Gergely, who was just 7 years old when her father passed, said the turnout on Saturday was heartening.

“They say the days are long but the years are short,” she said. “It’s crazy to think how time flies. This is such an honor to my father and his legacy, because while I may not remember much about him growing up, but I remember how much he was loved.”

Originally published March 11, 2024.

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