Forces have united to build Pitcher Park Memorial Skatepark, opening this fall
By Andrea Bosco
Photographs by Craig Photography
Art Direction by Jason Solak
It was 6:30 p.m. on a Friday when we gathered at the nearly complete Pitcher Park Memorial Skatepark. Mary Pitcher, her immediate family, a few close friends, and neighborhood children arrived in excitement, though the circumstances were bittersweet. The familiar sounds of an ice cream truck parked nearby resonated throughout, creating an opportunity to reminisce of childhood and feel deeply for Mary, who, in 2008, lost sons Vincent, 21, and Stephen, 19, to a tragic drowning accident. Since then, she has rallied for the park’s construction in memoriam of her sons who were avid skateboarders and BMX bikers.
Originally approved by the Dormont Borough Council in 2010, the park’s plans were ceased in 2012 when board members voted against advertising an ordinance to ratify the motion, due to concerns from officials and residents regarding its desired location. Following a settlement, intentions advanced and found life at the 34-acre Carnegie Park along Forsythe Road.
“It’s a way I worked through grief, and I think it saved me from laying down in bed and never getting up,” says Mary. “It’s amazing because I realize how everyone is connected now. People in your past step forward. Your family steps forward. Your friends — even people I’ve never met, including those who I’ve only met through this.” Grindline Skateparks of Seattle, Wash., designed the unique park as a work of art — a sculpture, truly. Ken and Carol Schultz, natives of Bridgeville and Rostraver, respectively, fronted 85 percent of the estimated $600,000 from their Arizona-based foundation for the facility’s fruition.
“There were times when even the family thought, ‘Can she do this? This is a big undertaking,’” says Tera Pitcher, Mary’s daughter-in-law. “Every time we would get down or think [the park] wasn’t happening, something miraculous would come in, like Ken Schultz and the Tony Hawk Foundation. Seeing these forces come together seemed almost bigger than anything you could put your finger on.”
The 17,000-square-foot concrete skatepark was assisted by the guidance and funding of the Tony Hawk Foundation. “The amount of effort from the community, the passion behind the project, and the catalyst for [Pitcher Park] even happening are all reasons we wanted to get behind it,” says Tony Hawk. “We love the initiative that the locals took in getting the project off the ground, getting it approved, and Mary’s work in particular. We’ve never added a date to our tour before. We certainly wanted to make an exception for Pitcher.”
On August 25, benefactor Tony Hawk and his Birdhouse Skateboards Team will visit the world-class South Hills skatepark for a pre-opening performance. “It’s pretty awesome,” says Mary’s son, Jonathan. “As far as the quality of the park goes, it is state-of-the-art. It’s awesome that something like this could be done, as far as a memorial goes, for my brothers. I think they’d be really pumped.” Adds Mary’s eldest son, Brady, “My brothers probably wouldn’t have wanted us to go through the efforts we did. It’s an accomplishment.”
Says Mary, “This park has been a way for everyone who knew Vincie and Stephen to heal. People got on board because we need more places like this in this area for kids to have a safe place to be. Mary’s neighbor, Desmond Goolsby, adds, “This is giving back to the kids. It’s something to do, and it’s the first real recreational center in this area. It will be loved.”
Mary sees her sons in her grandson, Rook, who’s already skateboarding at 4 years old. “He’s told me he has angels,” she says. “My sons would not believe this, but I don’t think this would have happened without them.”
Currently, Mary is sharing her knowledge with a Zelienople family grieving the loss of three sons who also drowned. “They are building a park, and for the first design meeting, I went right up there and brought them a donation. I’m hoping to help a few others, too.” Her generosity and perseverance speaks volumes about the love of her sons and her willingness to give back to her community. To quote Miki Vuckovich, executive director of the Tony Hawk Foundation, “Where there is a Mary Pitcher, there is a way.”
Go behind the scenes of the Pitcher Park photo shoot here.
For details on the park’s pre-opening performance or to donate, visit pitcherpark.com.
Tony Hawk Foundation, tonyhawkfoundation.org.
“Pitcher Park is really a shining example of a community coming together for a good cause, and we’re really proud to be a part of it.” — Tony Hawk
“The park is huge, really well-rounded, and made for all skill levels — it has all of the elements.” — Tony Hawk
The Tony Hawk and Birdhouse Skateboards Team exhibition at Pitcher Park Memorial SkatePark on August 25 starts at 5 p.m. with free activities for the public!
WHIRL’s September 2014 issue is out now.