September 10, 2015

Local Legend: John Minadeo

Local Legend: John Minadeo

Hazelwood Hero and Squirrel Hill School Namesake

Minadeo is a well-known name to some local Pittsburghers, but others may not have heard the brave tale of John Minadeo. He was a young man from Pittsburgh's Hazelwood area, the son of Italian immigrants in the 1950s, and a hero for an entire neighborhood.

This is John Minadeo's story of selfless sacrifice while patrolling as a student crossing guard for Gladstone Elementary School.

Hazelwood in the 1950s

It's important to note that Hazelwood was a bustling district of shops, corner stores, grocers, and offices back in the 1950s. As such, its streets were often filled with cars, buses, and trucks. The heavy traffic created the need for crossing guards to assist elementary-age children to and from school.

As appropriate for the time, the older kids from the junior high school would wear their belts and badges to help the younger children cross the street. John Minadeo's school, Gladstone Junior High School, provided crossing guards to monitor along Hazelwood Avenue and near the 2nd Avenue bus stop.

The Intrepid Crossing Guard

As a boy, John Minadeo and his family emigrated from Italy in 1950, arriving in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Hazelwood. He quickly integrated into American life. John became a well-known, well-respected young man in the community, working as both a crossing guard and providing for his family as a stock boy at a local grocer.

In 1954, during his freshman year of high school, John was elected captain of the crossing guards. It was a responsibility he didn't take lightly. John ensured the safe passage of the elementary students before and after school.

A Hero's Sacrifice

Local Legend: John Minadeo

On the afternoon of October 7th, 1954, Crossing Guard Captain John Minadeo was at his post on the corner of Hazelwood Avenue at Second Avenue. A car at the top of Hazelwood Avenue lost its brakes and careened down the hill. The driver, trying desperately to avoid a car in the intersection of Hazelwood at Second Avenue, swerved to the right. His car popped onto the sidewalk, plunging straight into a group of school children.

John Minadeo, in a last ditch effort, threw aside a number of children just before the runaway car crashed into him. John's actions that day saved four fellow students. Unfortunately, the crash still took the lives of John Minadeo and classmate Ella Cornelious.

Honoring the Fallen Captain

Both local and national press outlets lauded John Minadeo for his heroic efforts. Over 7,000 community members attended John Minadeo's funeral, wishing to pay their respects. Mayor David L. Lawrence recognized John Minadeo's bravery, and, in 1956, then-Vice President Richard Nixon awarded Minadeo the Lifesaver Citation.

In 1957, Minadeo Elementary School was opened in Squirrel Hill in honor of John Minadeo's sacrifice for his community peers. Each year, the school holds a talent competition on Minadeo's birthday as a celebration of his life and service to his community.

Prepare Your Kids With Back-to-School Safety Tips

School is back in session, so make sure you prepare your children with these back-to-school safety tips. Make sure they know exactly where and when to cross the street, and to always follow the crossing guard's instruction.

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