Citizens of the year

Harry Funk / The Almanac

From left are Becky Luzier, Sam Gaetano and Tom O’Brien.

Spending time in his courtroom often isn’t the most pleasant experience for District Judge Ronald Arnoni.

“I see, unfortunately, so much negative activity, day in and day out,” he said. “It’s not so often that we get to recognize such good people in our community.”

The reference was to the residents of the municipalities his districts cover whom he named his Citizens of the Year for 2018: Sam Gaetano of Upper St. Clair, and Becky Luzier and Tom O’Brien of Bethel Park.

Arnoni invited them, along with their family members and friends, to his office on Dec. 19 to present them with commemorative medals and proclamations from the Special Court Judges Association of Pennsylvania. The recipients were selected from nominations by fellow members of their communities.

Sam Gaetano and Ronald Arnoni

Sam Gaetano shares a laugh with family members and friends as District Judge Ronald Arnoni reads from a list of accomplishments.

A certified dental technician by profession, Gaetano is president of A&S Dental Services Inc. in Robinson Township. He also dedicates much of his time to ministering people who are in recovery.

Gaetano serves a facilitator for the Life Recovery support group at South Hills Assembly of God in Bethel Park, where his wife, Amy, facilitates the Family Rescue group, supporting family members of addicts.

Sam ministers at Allegheny County Jail, and he volunteers and teaches at Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Green Tree. He is a sponsor and active member of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, through which he has helped steer numerous young men in the right direction.

Becky Luzier and Ronald Arnoni

Becky Luzier receives her commemorative medal from District Judge Ron Arnoni.

For Luzier, her work with young athletes as head coach of the Bethel Park High School girls’ lacrosse team and as owner of the training-oriented Winner’s Edge Lacrosse has proved to be a rewarding experience, as has her leading the Black Hawk Family Relief Fund.

Founded for the families of some of her lacrosse players in response to catastrophic medical emergencies, the fund took on an added dimension in the wake of the June 20 flooding. The group raised money and distributed essentials such as cleaning supplies, meals and laundry services to affected Bethel Park families, plus served as a conduit for financial assistance from other agencies.

Luzier acknowledged the roles of Mayor Jack Allen, local business leader Andy Amrhein and Tim Moury, Bethel Park Council president, all of whom were present for the Citizen of the Year ceremony.

“They were part and parcel of why I got involved in this in the first place,” Luzier said. “They initially reached out to me and started having a lot of conversations with me about how the fund could help.”

She also acknowledged the efforts of others involved with the relief fund.

“We were a small organization,” she said. “We definitely had not taken on any sort of fundraising of that size. I have no background in disaster relief. Thankfully, I do have a background in management. So that was an opportunity to use my skills in a time that was really dark for a lot of our citizens.”

Tom O'Brien and Ronald Arnoni

Harry Funk / The Almanac

Tom O’Brien, left, cracks up District Judge Ronald Arnoni.

As far as working with young people, O’Brien also has a long track record, serving as scoutmaster of the St. Louise de Marillac Boy Scouts of America Troop 4 since 2004.

O’Brien has overseen 74 Eagle Scouts during that time.

The 14,000 man hours they’ve spent on service projects during the past 14 years – including some in Washington County, and as far away as Schenley Park and Elizabeth-Forward High School – have an estimated dollar value of $250,000, according to O’Brien.

“I’ve had a great time working with the boys and seeing them develop good character, great citizenship,” he said, also recognizing the roles of others. “It’s not just me guiding these boys along the path, but the whole Troop 4 organization."

He became scoutmaster when his older son, Patrick, was in the troop. He earned his Eagle in 2004 and his brother, Sean, in 2008.

Both were on hand to see their father receive his Citizen of the Year honor, as was their mother, Linda.

“I really appreciate it, because I know it’s been a big demand on my time,” Tom O’Brien said.

Mike Wertz and Becky Luzier

Harry Funk / The Almanac

Becky Luzier acknowledges her father, Mike Wertz: “He taught me to get involved with your community at a very young age, and that’s something that always has been valued in our family. And I think that’s a big part of why it’s so important to me to give back.”

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!