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New Penn State Mom Discovers Family History at Nearby Center

By Submitted Report
The Tube City Almanac
October 19, 2016
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

(Conflict of Interest Warning: See note at the end of this story.)

While newly minted college freshman Jonathan Doonan attended orientation at Penn State Greater Allegheny, his mom, Michelle Doonan, went off on a tour of the nearby McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center.

He was discovering classes, academic programs, clubs and sports teams available at the local Penn State campus. She was discovering a piece of her family history.

By chance, Michelle Doonan met a woman --- Pat Begandy, a volunteer tour guide at the center --- whose husband had served with her own grandfather during World War II.

“I couldn’t believe it! It was a wonderful coincidence that I would happen to meet this woman at the center, and she knew of my grandfather,” Doonan said.

Parents who were on campus with their students Aug. 19 were invited to take a tour of the McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center, in Renziehausen Park, located adjacent to the campus.

Doonan said that while speaking to Begandy she learned that Pat’s husband, Pete Begandy, and Michelle’s grandfather, Tony Martin, grew up together as friends in Christy Park and later served in the Navy together during World War II.

Tony was on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Franklin when it was attacked by Japanese planes on March 19, 1945, according to a journal that Pete kept during the time he was stationed on the U.S.S. Stockholm. Pete was on the Stockholm when it picked up the survivors from the Franklin – one of them being his old friend, Tony.

They did not realize they were on the same boat until they got to port.

Years later, Pat Begandy donated her husband's journal to the Heritage Center. The first entry in the journal was made on April 20, 1944, and the last on Dec. 21, 1945. The last journal entry listed some popular songs that Pete was listening on the radio. The journal was put onto microfiche and the original returned to Pat.  

The two women plan to look at the journal more closely to examine their ancestors’ entries, and see what else they can discover. “It is quite a coincidence, and very interesting when you look back," Begandy said. "The journal is such a treasure to have.”

Robert Hauser, a former professor of history at Penn State Greater Allegheny, became a member of the board of directors at the Heritage Center after his retirement and works on several committees.

He enjoys it when connections like this one are made.

“It's rewarding when people come into the center and find links to their past by seeing pictures, reading documents or talking with our many fine volunteers," Hauser said.

. . .

Editor's Note: This story was written and submitted by Linda Curinga, manager of marketing and communications at Penn State Greater Allegheny. Two members of the board of directors of Tube City Community Media Inc. are also members of the board of directors at McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center. However, opinions expressed at Tube City Online are not those of the McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center and no editorial control is exercised over Tube City Online by the McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center.

Originally published October 19, 2016.

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