By Garret Roberts
Beaver County Times
HOPEWELL TWP. – A leading voice for Aliquippa and the Beaver Valley has been silenced.
Sept 1, 2022 – Longtime Aliquippa historian, sports reporter and Times columnist Gino Piroli, 96, died Saturday at his Hopewell Township home surrounded by his family. And in the days since, people from throughout the Beaver Valley have shared their respect and admiration for a man who not only shared tales of the community but also helped shape it in so many ways.
“We were fortunate to have such a positive role model to emulate,” said David Piroli, speaking for the family. “He was a bridge between the generations that came before to ours of today.”
Gino Piroli played an influential part in the creation of various athletic organizations across the Beaver County community, with his legacy of service being honored by the Beaver County Sports Hall of Fame in 2016. He also served in numerous public roles and influenced many in the generations to follow.
Serving in the Navy during World War II, Piroli was always willing to help and be an active part of his community. Both before and after the war, Piroli was an active coach and athlete in Aliquippa, serving as a leader for softball and basketball teams within the Aliquippa Community League and the Jones and Laughlin sports programs.
Piroli would begin his influential sports writing career in 1961, serving as a reporter for The News for over 27 years. During this time, he would quickly rise through the ranks to become the sports editor at the publication, making a name for himself with his writing skills.
In addition to his career in writing, Piroli could be heard on the local airwaves at various points over the decades. He was a play-by-play announcer for games around Beaver County and hosted shows on WBVP and WMBA.
Adding to this deep involvement with sports in Beaver County, Piroli was the founder of the Aliquippa Sports Hall of Fame in 1972 and served as the chairman of the organization. He also served as a charter member in the creation of the Beaver County Sports Hall of Fame in 1975, later being inducted into the organization’s Class of 2016.
Piroli’s influence wasn’t just in Aliquippa, as he was also the founder of the Hopewell Basketball Boosters and served as the first commissioner of the Beaver County Bantam Basketball League. Piroli was heavily involved with the Hopewell Township Little League as well, acting as a coach, manager and officer for the league over a period of 17 years.
Beyond the world of sports, Piroli’s community involvement includes his role as the Aliquippa postmaster, a member of the Hopewell Township Commissioners and serving as the President of the Aliquippa Hospital Board of Directors. Throughout the years, he was also known as a leader for various local church and library organizations.
In 1998, Piroli began a popular column with The Beaver County Times. Discussing his love of the Aliquippa area and the history of the steel town, the series continued for over 24 years, with the last one posted this past May.
“I don’t know how you could even begin to categorize his legacy, because it goes in so many different directions,” said Tom Bickert, a former managing editor at The Times who worked closely with Piroli. “He was all about sports, but he was also all about the community, especially in his columns for The Times. He established a standard for reporting on the history of the community. I don’t think there’s anybody out there today who could even come close to knowing and sharing and being a champion for Aliquippa the way he was.”
Sharing some of his own experiences as a member of the Aliquippa community, Piroli often gave readers an in-depth history of what makes the old steel town special. Friends and family described his enthusiasm for the project, which helped many younger generations learn about the region their families remember.
“He is one of the last of the Greatest Generation,” David Piroli said. “He contemplated retiring his article from The Times due to the absence of his generation. We expressed to him how much the recollections and stories he passed on in the Times articles were the memories of the parents and grandparents of today’s readers.”
“He just loved sharing what he knew about Aliquippa with other people,” Bickert said. “It was never about the money, it was always about wanting people to know what he knew about the town, the community and the people. Anybody who came from Aliquippa who had any kind of national standing or national notoriety, Gino knew the person and he would share stories about them. He was a priceless historian for the community.”
One of those impacted by Piroli’s writings was fellow history columnist Jeffery Snedden, who grew up reading the column in the Times “Little News” newspapers.
“I was always fascinated with our local history, specifically the stories I would hear from my parents and grandparents about the glory days of Aliquippa and J&L Steel,” Snedden said. “Gino’s writings gave several generations of Beaver Countians a peek behind that curtain into the golden years of our area. For others, his frequent columns were a welcome reminder of days gone by. Whether he was educating readers about the labor industry, remembering an old colleague, or simply writing about the history of his beloved hometown of Aliquippa, Gino Piroli was loved and appreciated by thousands of people each and every week.”
Serving as both an inspiration and mentor, Piroli was one of the first people to give Snedden feedback on his column when it began at The Times.
“He called me to say that he enjoyed my writing and that he had learned a lot from reading it,” Snedden said. “That simple validation meant the world to me, and it gave me confidence as I crafted my own era of local history coverage for Times readers. Over the years, Gino would provide me with vital research and a helping hand in my work. I cherished his friendship and I am blessed to have learned from the man I would often call ‘Mr. Aliquippa.’”
For his role in local athletics, Piroli was honored as the Aliquippa Sportsman of the Year in 1972 and Hopewell Junior Chamber of Commerce Sportsman of the Year in 1973. He was also named Citizen of the Year by the Aliquippa Chamber of Commerce in 1980 and honored for his service by the Sons of American Revolution in 2000.
Visitation will be Wednesday from 2 to 7 p.m. at Aliquippa’s Anthony Mastrofrancesco Funeral Home, located at 2026 McMinn Street. Memorial contributions can be contributed to the B.F. Jones Library.
“We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and respect that has been shown by so many,” Piroli’s family said in a statement.
This article originally appeared on Beaver County Times: Voice of Aliquippa: Gino Piroli was champion for community