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Hospice program introduces Steelers fans to heroes

Canton Repository

Kelly Byer
CantonRep.com staff writer

JACKSON TWP.

Former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Franco Harris held David Petrick’s hand while the hospice patient looked on in awe and cameras clicked at Sunday’s meet and greet.

Pro Football Hall of Famer Harris and Ron Blackledge, a former Steelers coach, met two Steelers fanatics at the Courtyard by Marriott as part of the Crossroad Hospice Gift of a Day program.

Hospice patient Edwin Meanor, 73, of Dover, held a picture of Harris autographed to the “#1 Steeler fan.”

“I think he just made his day,” said Stacy Vargason, a home health aid to Meanor.

Vargason said she has learned Meanor is a “huge Steeler fan” and occasionally talks football as a fellow Steelers fan. Meanor has followed the Steelers since his upbringing in Pennsylvania.

“I grew up just down the river from Pittsburgh,” he said.

Although he never saw a game in person, Meanor said he watches the team on television with his wife, Judy. She said she had no choice about becoming a Steelers fan and was as excited, if not more, than her husband.

“This was a big surprise for him,” she said. “He didn’t know what was going on.”

Petrick, 79, a Canton native, also has been a lifelong fan. The former mechanic and Navy serviceman has three sons and a daughter. Although his family couldn’t attend Sunday’s event, hospice Volunteer Assistant Rachel Sinsel said, they told staff of his love for the Pittsburgh team.

“The Pittsburgh Steelers was always his team,” she said.

Audra Seymour, with Crossroads Hospice, said the Gift of a Day program was inspired by Jim Stovall’s book, “The Ultimate Gift.” After learning Petrick and Meanor were Steelers fans, staff made arrangements for the visit with the help of Alicia Swink, a social worker who knew Blackledge.

Seymour said she and the hospice workers do “as much as we can” to provide a memorable experience through the program.

Reach Kelly at 330-580-8323 or kelly.byer@cantonrep.com
On Twitter: @kbyerREP