Tribute Given to DeNunzio
Inside the Outdoors, November
09, 2012

Sometimes we don’t email each other for months at a time, but when we do, there is one thing I can say about Greensburg’s Tribune Review outdoor columnist Bob Frye, he always asks how I am doing and usually lends a hand when I ask a question.

When I heard from him recently, he shared with me his release concerning the honor recently bestowed upon Chuck DeNunzio’s in honor of his achievements of involving youth in outdoor activities and their concern for the environment.

Recently, I learned about something of which I was unaware. Chuck had an idea all the way back in 1965. He wanted to start a conservation school that would steer kids toward interests in the outdoors, teaching them about it and additionally, taking care of the environment. The Jeannette resident’s dream came true as the first Junior Conservation School, run by the Westmoreland County Sportsmen’s League, got underway five decades ago at Twin Lakes Park as a family affair.

“We operated on a shoestring,” Marge, his wife, said, in describing their initial efforts, “but he wanted to do it for the kids, so we all pitched in. I was the cook and the kids and the in-laws all helped.”

Over time, she told Frye, the school grew eventually moving to Keystone State Park in 1974. There it remained and has been going strong ever since. It was related to the neighboring reporter by John Kazousky of Harrison City, a board member of the WCSL, that this school was the forerunner of this type of schools and now similar ones exist all across the state as a result.

But DeNunzio not only started the Junior Conservation School. His interests in expanding the knowledge of youngsters took him beyond that point. In addition, he taught fly tying to them at Penn Rod and Gun Club, was a hunter education instructor and Boy Scout leader.

In addition concerning youth education, he loved traveling with his wife, often fly fishing with her wherever they went. “We often followed the mayflies,” she said.

But also in full swing were his interests in Derry’s Railroad Days. They never waned. As Marge stated, “So much of his time went toward that project that some people thought that he was from that community rather than his native Jeannette. He was working on plans for the event right up until the day he suffered the heart attack that ultimately took his life.” He passed away in May of 2011.

A dedication ceremony was held earlier last month at Keystone State Park. It was attended by his family, friends, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and state park officials. The marble-based mounted bronze plaque can be viewed at the base of the flagpole at the entrance to the campground.

In addition, a bench, dedicated to his honor for his outstanding contributions, can be seen alongside the caboose in Derry – a tribute to his work there.

Summing up Chuck’s life, Marge hit the nail on the head when she said, “It was always about the kids. He always wanted to do things for kids.” Being a great outdoorsman and conservationist, his efforts proved fruitful and his legacy will live on for years to come.

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Just received a report from the folks at Twin Lakes and Keystone State Parks that the heavy rains did not have an effect on the fishing there. Keystone was up to its normal level, but will be drained once again until such time that water will be allowed to refill it after March 31, 2013. So anglers, go to it. There are nice-sized fish to be caught, mainly brown and rainbow trout. Why not give it a try!


- Paul J. Volkmann
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