From Somerset County forest to the world: Local maple flooring headed to USS Somerset

By Pete Bosak Daily American

JOHNSTOWN — Nearly 600 square feet of high-quality Somerset County sugar maple flooring is on its way to the USS Somerset free of charge to the United States Navy.

Nearly 20 trees donated from the Route 219 right of way in Somerset County was [sic] converted into high-quality tongue-and groove sets of flooring in 10-foot and eight-foot sections that will be used in a planned Flight 93 museum on the USS Somerset. The ship is to be commissioned by the Navy in Philadelphia in January 2014.

“It was so awesome to see the community come together,” said John Frick Jr., a regional manager for state Sen. Pat Toomey. Frick is a woodworker and got to know Somerset County Commissioner John Vatavuk while working together on a Route 219 committee. Vatavuk worked to put a piece of Somerset County on the USS Somerset to honor the passengers of Flight 93, and Frick enthusiastically joined in, turning to friends he had in the woodworking industry.

“All I could think was I had to do this at no cost to the Navy,” Frick said.

And he pulled it off.

Vatavuk, his wife and son, donated a custom-made maple display case of Somerset County maps and signs. Frick got the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to donate more than 20 sugar maples to the cause.

Frick then turned to friends he had in the woodworking industry to complete 575-square-feet of sugar maple flooring.

“There is a lot of pride in what we’ve accomplished,” Vatavuk said. “And it will be a great tribute to the people who died on Flight 93. This will be a tribute to them for the next 50 years, the life expectancy of a Navy ship.”

Flight 93 was hijacked on September 11, 2001. It crashed in a field near Shanksville, killing 40 passengers and crew.

The last piece of the puzzle is to have the lumber sent to the USS Somerset. So Frick reached out to yet another friend, Rex McQuaide, who owns and operates a Richland Township-based trucking company.

“When I reached out to Rex McQuaide, he did not even hesitate,” Frick said. “He said immediately, wherever that has to go, I’ll get it there, free of charge for the Navy.”

The flooring leaves for the USS Somerset this morning via McQuaide Trucking.

Vatavuk and Frick credited a number of local companies for the creation and shipping of the lumber, including: Penn DOT, Beeghly Tree Service, Eutsey Lumber Co. and Holt and Bugbee Kiln Dryers.

“So many Somerset County businesses have been a part of this.” Vatavuk said. “This is truly history.”

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