Murrysville’s exceptional parks and open spaces that we value so highly today have been made possible in part by the vision, strength, and effort of many who acted as trailblazers for our community. This page is a tribute to those Murrysville Trailblazers who have passed on. Please let us know of names or information to be added.
Murrysville Trailblazers, in alphabetical order:
Jim Dunbar played a key role in the 1994 establishment of the 56-acre Lillian Kellman Nature Reserve off North Hills Road. This conservation effort was the catalyst for the formation of the Westmoreland Conservancy. The Kellman Reserve is now a municipal park maintained as open space, with hiking trails, and is adjacent to a complementary 22-acre municipal park, the Peter and Victoria Skena Nature Reserve.
Jim served as president of Friends of Rural Murrysville, a group dedicated to protecting open space and the rural environment of Murrysville. He loved nature and the outdoors, especially enjoying backpacking, hunting, fishing, and observing wildlife. He was a member of the Sierra Club and the Newlonsburg Presbyterian Church. Jim donated a print of a bald eagle to the Murrysville Community Library.
Jim passed away in December 2003. A bench honoring Jim sits in front of the Murrysville Municipal Building.
Mount served as president of the Westmoreland Conservancy and was a key member of the PV Volunteers, who helped to secure conservation of PV Park and helped to build its parking lot and first trails. Mount was an electrical engineer for Duquesne Light for his entire careeer. Mount was a lifelong lover of nature, and an avid hiker, cyclist, and boater, and also enjoyed repairing antique clocks and watches in hi spare time.
Mount passed away in April 2005. His many friends remember his kindness, his service to the Westmoreland Conservancy, and his commitment to conserving nature.
Bill Funk served as a long time member and Chair of the Murrysville Parks & Recreation Commission.
Bill had been a transport plane pilot during WWII. After the war, he worked as a commercial pilot for Capital Airlines and then United Airlines. Bill owned a Swift single engine two-seat plane that he used to fly to Baltimore where his commercial flights originated. He was trained as a forester, was a member of the Murrysville District Sportsmen Association on Gun Club Road, helped build a rifle range for the Franklin Township High School, and taught rifle team members how to shoot.
Bill also was responsible for the establishment of the broad trail alongside Turtle Creek in Duff Park. Bill worked with his bulldozer pro bono for much of this effort, and then for nominal compensation. The main trail through Duff Park, along Turtle Creek by the park’s northern boundary, was named the William Funk Bikeway to commemorate his effort. Bill passed away in January 1995.
Maury Hanes was a volunteer who contributed a steadfast commitment and much work on trail maintenance to Murrysville parks and Westmoreland Conservancy nature reserves.
Maury also served as a Governor of the Westmoreland Conservancy and was a member of Emmanuel Lutheran Church and Friends of Murrysville Parks. His quietly principled support of the environment, interest in nature, and ready willingness to lend a hand with heavy work such as chain sawing are well remembered.
Maury passed away in August 2008. His family donated a bench to the Lillian Kellman Nature Reserve in his memory, and a trail in the Kellman Reserve has been named for him.
Don was active with the Westmoreland Conservancy from 1994 to 2011, helping the Conservancy in many ways after his retirement from Westmoreland Research and Development Laboratories as a research engineer and division manager. The Conservancy acquired the King, Walter, Tomer, and Flinn Reserves during Don's service as President of the Conservancy.
His humility, generosity, kindness, and commitment to the community are well remembered.
Don passed away in August 2017. Murrysville's Don Harrison Community Trail has been named for him.
Hank Kendall served as president of Friends of Rural Murrysville, was a long-time member and Governor of the Westmoreland Conservancy, and was a Pleasant Valley Volunteer who was instrumental in work related to the conservation and establishment of Murrysville’s Pleasant Valley Park (PV Park).
Hank led the effort to construct the PV Park parking lot, providing key support for its design, layout and construction. His knowledge of PennDOT requirements ensured adequate site distance for the entrance to the parking lot. Hank also significantly helped with chainsaw and other construction work at the park.
With Friends of Rural Murrysville, Hank actively supported many causes related to conservation of land and open space in Murrysville.
Hank passed away in December 2006. At the family’s request, money was contributed towards PV Park in lieu of flowers; that money was used to buy trail signs for the park. "Hank's Trail" in PV Park has been named for him.
Helen Marquard organized many skiing, hiking, canoeing and other outdoor events throughout western Pennsylvania. She was a supporter of the Western PA Conservancy and a member of the Pittsburgh Climbers, the Keystone Trails Association, and the Daughters of the American Revolution. Helen taught briefly at Geneva College, and also worked for the Gulf Oil Corporation in the early 1960s. In addition to organizing many hiking, canoeing, and skiing excursions, Helen volunteered with the Girl Scouts, Meals on Wheels, and actively supported many conservation projects.
Helen passed away in October 2015.
Dave Mottorn loved nature and the outdoors, especially enjoying hiking, cycling, and kayaking. He was active in trail building and maintenance in the Laurel Highlands. Dave went on a 30 mile plus bike ride every week, as well as hikes and kayak outings. A committed trail volunteer, Dave was a member of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and of the East Suburban Unitarian Universalist Church. Dave was a prizewinner in the Murrysville Photo Contest.
Dave passed away in July 2011. His family has donated a bench in Duff Park to honor Dave’s memory; it bears his advice, “If you don’t sing good, sing loud”.
In November 2011 the Murrysville Trail Alliance donated the Appalachian Mountain Club's Complete Guide to Trail Building and Maintenance to the Murrysville Community Library in Dave's memory.
Dorothy was a founding member of Murrysville’s Parks & Recreation Commission, and played an important role in conserving Duff Park and subsequently defending the park against a proposed realignment of Route 22.
Dorothy was also instrumental in developing the first trail plan for Murrysville, prepared in 1976, when a “Murrysville Bicentennial Bikeway” was proposed as an “off-the-road system of bike-pedestrian routes”. Construction of this Bikeway commenced in 1977 with completion of a length of trail along Turtle Creek in Duff Park that is now known as the Funk Bikeway.
Dorothy also was a musician with the Edgewood Symphony Orchestra, and served on Council and as Mayor of Murrysville. She passed away in October 1999. The pavilion at the wetlands in Murrysville Community Park has been named for Dorothy.
Brien Palmer was a long-time member of the Murrysville Trail Alliance (MTA), and was serving as Vice-Chair of the MTA at the time of his unexpected death in March 2013 from complications after surgery. Brien had a long history of active involvement in Murrysville community affairs: he served on Murrysville’s Library Board; chaired Citizens for the Protection of Rural Murrysville (“an organization dedicated to the preservation of the open and natural rural character of Murrysville PA as related to its appearance, topography, ecology, traffic and sense of community”); was a member of the Murrysville Stream Monitoring Group; facilitated Socrates Café discussions in Murrysville; and was a member of the East Suburban Unitarian Universalist Church (ESUUC). Brien also served on several Murrysville committees, including a comprehensive plan committee and a Route 22 corridor task force.
Brien loved nature and the outdoors, and was a strong advocate for trails and conservation of open space in Murrysville. He helped to organize hikes for the MTA, and secured the MTA’s former meeting venue at the ESUUC.
Brien enjoyed the outdoors with his wife Kate Codd-Palmer and daughter Erin, especially enjoying hiking, camping, bicycling, and motorcycling. Brien frequently expressed thoughts and ideas during Citizen Input at Murrysville Council meetings, and was unusual in his willingness to speak out for causes, and to express his thoughts in Letters to the Editor of the Penn-Franklin News and the Murrysville Star.
A management consultant, Brien was steadfast in his commitment to the environment and to trails and greenways in Murrysville. A donation to Murrysville by Brien's family secured naming of the "Brien Palmer Trail" in Pleasant Valley Park for Brien. Brien’s commitment to trails, to rural Murrysville and to active engagement in community matters continues to inspire the MTA.
William Paxton studied Forestry and Landscape Architecture, and worked for the U.S. Forest Service and the Westmoreland County Department of Parks and Recreation before becoming a self-employed landscape architect and consulting forester. Bill taught landscape design at Westmoreland County Community College and other area schools, including the Franklin Regional Adult School. He was a dedicated birder, as well as a self-taught artist and professional photographer.
Bill was a charter member of the Botanical Society of Westmoreland County, and served as an officer of the group for over 20 years. Familiar with Murrysville's Duff Park and its old growth forest area, Bill strongly defended the park against adverse impacts including a proposal to log part of the park. Bill observed and catalogued many of the park's plants and trees, and consistently offered assistance and advice about conservation of the park, and help with plant identification.
Fred Shirland played a key role in the 1994 establishment of the Lillian Kellman Nature Reserve off North Hills Road. This conservation effort was the catalyst for the formation of the Westmoreland Conservancy. The Kellman Reserve is now a municipal park maintained as open space, with hiking trails, and is adjacent to a complementary municipal park, the Peter and Victoria Skena Nature Reserve.
Fred was a founding member and served as president of the Westmoreland Conservancy. He also served on the Murrysville Library Board.
Fred passed away in June 2001. His unwavering support for the environment helped to start distinguish Murrysville as a green community. A bench in front of the Murrysville Municipal Building honors his memory.
Ed Straub served as a volunteer for Murrysville over many years in many capacities, and was a founding member of the MTA. Ed also served as a long time member and Chair of Murrysville’s Parks and Recreation Commission. He was a frequent user of Murrysville’s parks, and built trails in several Murrysville parks including Duff, Townsend, and Pleasant Valley (PV) Parks.
Ed developed the first website for the Municipality of Murrysville, and maintained this website for many years on a pro bono basis and then for nominal compensation. Ed also developed websites for the Franklin Regional Adult School, the East Suburban Artists’ League (ESAL), PV Park, and the Murrysville Trail Alliance. A member of the ESAL, Ed organized plein air painting events in Murrysville parks, set up exhibits, led photography walks, and was a prizewinner in the Murrysville Photo Contest. Ed was a key member of the Pleasant Valley (PV) Volunteers, who helped to secure conservation of PV Park and helped to build its parking lot and first trails.
Ed enjoyed many outdoor activities with his wife Alice and children Douglas and Nancy, including hiking, cycling, and kayaking. While on the Parks and Recreation Commission, Ed was involved in development of a proposed trail plan for Murrysville. Unfortunately that plan was lost over the years. Ed subsequently became a core member of a committee that worked to develop a new Murrysville Trail Plan; it is that committee that grew into the MTA. Ed played a key role in developing the Murrysville Trail Plan proposed in 2012, envisioning and mapping several potential trail corridors for detailed exploration and evaluation. Actively committed to the Murrysville trail initiative throughout a battle with cancer, Ed’s vision, unfailing enthusiasm, and positive outlook continue to inspire the MTA.
Ed passed away in January 2011. The trail in Bear Hollow Park has been named for Ed.
Dr. James Townsend was a founding member and chair of the Murrysville Parks & Recreation Commission, and was instrumental in conserving Duff Park and subsequently defending the park against a proposed realignment of Route 22. He was heavily involved in establishing Duff Park and cataloging the flora and fauna of the park.
Dr. Townsend passed away in July 1978. Murrysville’s Townsend Park has been named for him.