St. Clair Village reunion to continue in spite of demolition

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Old friends and families who grew up in the St. Clair Village Community gathered for the 16th annual St. Clair Village reunion July 16-18.

The reunion started in 1995 because of the close- knit neighborhood. Lou Shealey, president of the St. Clair Village Committee, will keep the reunion going along with his committee members as long as there is breath in his body. He moved to St. Clair Village in 1954 and moved out in 1967. St. Clair Village was built in October 1953. It was once a thriving neighborhood with families who were very close. It wasn’t until recent years that crime took a toll on the neighborhood and reduced it to a high crime area. With the Pittsburgh Housing Authority demolishing the housing complex, it will be nothing but a memory for the former residents.

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THE ST. CLAIR VILLAGE REUNION COMMITTEE

The St. Clair Village Committee will hold a reunion every year to keep those memories alive and to share with others what a vibrant neighborhood St. Clair Village was once. This year it was held at Schenley Park’s Veteran’s Pavillion as the community came out to celebrate the memories and good times.

“We decided that we wanted to bring everyone back together to commemorate old times. We are sorry to see St. Clair Village torn down, but we are hopeful that they will build something in its place that will be beneficial to the people. I have been trying to find out what they are going to do with St. Clair Village, but I am not sure yet. We intend to keep this going as long as we have breath in our bodies. We have people coming in for this reunion from all over the tri-state area and from out-of-town. This is our 16th year and we continue to get larger every year. We started a three-day weekend which consists of a meet and greet at CJ’s in the Strip District on Friday. We have an adult cabaret at the Greater Pittsburgh Homewood Coliseum and then we have our annual picnic which started in 1995. There are nine members on our committee and God has taken some members from us,” said Shealey.

When the reunion started the committee generated a list of people from the community to get the word out about the reunion. Originally the word went out by word of mouth and it was originally started by Melvin Hutchinson, Donna Jackson, Gary Chambers, Bobby White, Alamae Johnson, Barbara Hamlett, Lou Shealey and Janessa Lench who passed away.

“I was also a committee member of the original group and then I took over in 1998. When you start something that keeps people together and it is a worthwhile cause, some people will get frustrated. Because of what St. Clair Village meant to me, I mentioned that we want to keep this going because this is something we should never let go. In 1999 we started the St. Clair Village Scholarship Fund and the three- day weekend to generate funds for our scholarship fund. If you are a resident of St. Clair Village at that time, you are eligible to receive a scholarship. We have given out 44 scholarships to date and we plan on giving out four more today. If you are a senior in high school going on to any form of higher education and you are a resident of St. Clair Village and you maintain a 2.0 grade average, you are eligible for our scholarship fund. We are proud of what we are doing because it is giving something back to the community. Being that St. Clair Village is being torn down, I want to make it clear as long as we have our committee we are going to have this reunion every year,” said Shealey.

Also in attendance was author Stephon Dillard, who wrote a book about St. Clair Village called “Destruction.” This book speaks about the destruction of a community by crack cocaine, shootings and other crimes that brought St. Clair Village to its knees.

Residents who lived in St. Clair Village in the past reflected on the importance of why the reunion is vital to stay connected.

“It is important that we have this reunion to see all of my old friends and to see the children that everyone grew up with in the neighborhood. A lot of times you don’t see people for a whole year and it’s just great to reunite with others,” said Beverly McKinney.

“It’s great to see the people that I haven’t seen in a while and to be around people from the community. You never know when we will no longer be around, so it is very important to stay connected”, said Melvin Robinson Jr., a longtime resident of St. Clair Village.

“With all of the people who moved away from the area, it is great that we can come together in this way. Some of us have not seen each other in years and others have passed away. This is one opportunity for a lot of us to come together and say hello and just to say we love you,” said Denise Grisham.

“The families and children who grew up in St. Clair Village get to come together and reunite. This is like going back 40-something years ago for me because I lived in St. Clair Village for over 20 years. My daughter, Stacey Barnett-Germany, will be 43 years old and this is great so she can also keep up with people from the old neighborhood. Also back in the day, we dressed with class and style and we were sharp as a tack,” said Sylvia Barnett.

“This keeps us going us a whole as we come together year after year. I do see a lot of familiar faces and it’s great to see because unity is what keeps us together and we should not be separated,” said Barbara Graham.

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