4th Fest parade honors local heroes

Youngsters wave American flags as military vehicles drive down Allen Street in the 4th Fest Heroes Parade on Monday.
Youngsters wave American flags as military vehicles drive down Allen Street in the 4th Fest Heroes Parade on Monday. adrey@centredaily.com

They didn’t deserve to be in the parade, not as heroes of the community.

At least that’s what they’ll tell you.

There were 10 people named heroes for Central PA 4th Fest’s Parade of Heroes. Getting them to talk about the honor was easy. Getting them to say they deserved it wasn’t going to happen.

“About two weeks ago I got a phone call, and I told them, ‘You need to find some else, a real hero,’ ” said Stew Neff, a 50-year veteran with Penn State police.

He paused for a moment and looked to the man standing next to him, saying, “I told them you need to find a real hero, like this guy.”

Patrick Boab smiled, also wondering how he’d gotten to this point in a parking lot behind Memorial Field. They were standing in between a Oldsmobile and a Mustang, waiting together for the parade to start.

“No, no, my reaction was pretty much the same as his,” Boab said. “I wanted to turn it down. I wanted them to find someone who is a real hero. But, I don’t know, I also couldn’t refuse, so I’m here. It’s very meaningful. It’s the Fourth of July, and it’s an honor to be in it. It’s a very important, patriotic day.”

It’s a day Boab defended for decades — he served in the Air Force for 32 years, retiring as a brigadier general.

One of his achievements was saving a crippled C-130. The military aircraft lost its hydraulic systems, but he landed it, saving nine lives. His active duty time included serving in Operation Looking and three deployments to Vietnam.

Boyd Spicher asked himself the same thing they did.

He served in the Navy for 23 years, achieving the rank of chief petty officer. He served during the hostage crises in Iran and Cuba, in three tours in Beirut and Operation Desert Shield.

“I don’t know how it happened,” he said. “I’m not necessarily a hero. It’s an honor to participate. There are a lot of people out there who could and should be honored here. There are a lot of people who are more deserving heroes, so I’m really honored to be here.”

The parade’s heroes were comprised of seven others for their efforts in the community.

Virginia “Ginny” Poorman helps the homeless of Centre County through Hearts for Homeless; Donald Boller was deployed during the Berlin crisis, served in local government and sponsored local youth sports team; and Christopher Hawn served in the Army.

The highlights of their experiences and service to our country and communities are just snapshots of what makes them heroes.

Some of them, like Neff, went right back to work.

“I think of all the things these great people have done to better ourselves and the United States,” Neff said. “They are pretty special. I’m just doing what I’m supposed to do.”

Shawn Annarelli: 814-235-3928, @Shawn_Annarelli

2016 4th Fest Parade of Heroes

▪ Patrick Boab

▪ Virginia Poorman

▪ Donald Boller

▪ Christopher Hawn

▪ Jerry Helsel

▪ Mel Curtis

▪ Isaac Messner

▪ Ernest Harpster

▪ Stew Neff

▪ Boyd Spicher

▪ Samar Almarzooqi