The Lockport High School Foundation will host the 13th annual Distinguished Alumni induction ceremony Aug. 22 at the LHS auditorium. Seven graduates will be honored, two posthumously, for their professional and civic contributions.
A reception in the art gallery and foyer will begin at 6:15 p.m. and the induction ceremony will start at 7. Community members are invited to meet the honorees and show their support for the LHS Foundation.
Biographies of the honorees follow.
Keah Brown, class of 2009, is a journalist and writer whose work has been published by Harper’s Bazaar, Glamour, Teen Vogue, Marie Claire UK, Essence Magazine, Allure magazine and other outlets.
Brown received her Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in creative writing, from the State University of New York at Fredonia in 2013. She has traveled across the country to speak at conferences, symposium and universities about disability, pop culture and joy.
In 2017, Brown created the globally viral hashtag #DisabledAndCute as a place for disabled people to share photos of themselves and celebrate being happy and alive in their bodies. The hashtag landed in France, Russia, Spain, Australia, Sweden, Japan and South Korea. In the same year, Brown signed with her literary agent, Alex Slater of Trident Media Group, and was named Buffalo Niagara Chapter’s December 2017 Woman in Leadership.
In 2018, Brown was named one of The Root’s 100 Most Influential African Americans of the Year. This year, she went viral again when she profiled Brie Larson, who plays Captain Marvel in the newest addition to the Marvel franchise, for Marie Claire UK’s March cover.
Brown's first book was released on Aug. 6. The Pretty One: On Life, Pop Culture, Disability, and Other Reasons to Fall In Love With Me is an essay collection that explores pop culture, love, grief, music, joy and more. The book received early praise from accomplished writers including Jodi Picoult, Deepak Chopra and Roxane Gay. The Pretty One was released via Atria Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster.
After signing with Rachel Miller, a film and TV manager and cofounder of Haven Entertainment, Brown is hoping to expand into TV and film as well.
Veteran educator Dennis Devine, class of 1964, is always quick to thank the “Park Family” for assisting him in growing up in the north end of Lockport. Actually, there were two Park families: Outwater Park and North Park. In his own words, “It was wonderful living in the crazy 60s! The heartbreaks and the turbulent times.”
Devine graduated from SUC Buffalo in 1968 with a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education (his minor was English). His teaching career began in the City of Tonawanda, teaching grade 6.
Drafted into the military in 1969, he remembers how unpopular it was to serve during those uncertain years, but remains steadfastly proud to have served his country. He recalls learning a great deal about diversity, and the term “having your back” really meant something.
Upon returning from Vietnam in early 1971, Devine continued teaching in Tonawanda and received his master's degree in education from Buffalo State College in 1973.
Curriculum writing and implementation were always of interest to Devine. He became involved in various curriculum advisory councils, BOCES workshops and enrichment models, and continued his studies at Buff State. In June 1979, he was appointed an instructor of gifted and talented students in Tonawanda, and in 1981, he received a certificate of advanced studies for administration in 1981.
In 1984, Devine was appointed principal at Charles A. Upson Elementary School. He had always dreamed of returning to Lockport as an elementary principal, a position in which he felt he could “really make a difference.”
In 2001, Devine retired to train student teachers, a position he still enjoys today. Meanwhile, he's involved with a variety of professional organizations, from the School Administrators Association of New York State to the Buffalo State Foundation, and with a variety of local civic organizations including: Lockport Family YMCA, for which he has been a trustee and a member and president of the board of directors; United Way; and Greater Lockport Development Corporation.
Devine says terrific memories remain from him being at North Park from kindergarten through grade 9. He's grateful to Mrs. Chapman for her quality teaching — and for being one of the first people to send him a congratulatory note some 25 years later when he landed a job in his home school district. He says the late John Koplas had as big an influence on his career as anyone, recalling that Koplas motivated with sarcasm and praise, and expressing his appreciation of Koplas as a friend and a colleague.
Reading, golf, gardening, visiting the Y and traveling are among Devine's interests as he tries, still, to adapt to the "retirement thing." Devine and his wife, Mary Beth, reside in Lockport. They're the parents of two daughters, Kelley and Kristen, and five grandchildren, all boys.
Gareth R. Eaton
Chemist and educator Gareth R. Eaton, class of 1958, was born and raised in Lockport. After graduating LHS, he attended Harvard University on a U.S. Navy Holloway Plan scholarship. While an undergraduate he attended almost all of the graduate courses in chemistry and performed research in the laboratory of William N. Lipscomb, who later was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry.
Upon his graduation form Harvard in 1962, Eaton was selected by Admiral Rickover to be a chemist in the Navy’s nuclear power program, and spent five years assigned to Naval Reactors Branch of the Bureau of Ships and to the Atomic Energy Commission. During this time, he attended the six-month nuclear power school for certification in nuclear engineering.
In 1967, Eaton completed active duty and returned to school. While doing research at Harvard, he began writing a book on nuclear magnetic resonance spectra of boron hydrides, related to his undergraduate research with Lipscomb. The book was completed during his first year of graduate study at MIT and was published in 1969.
While at MIT, Eaton married Sandra Y. Shaw. They began research together while in graduate school, and in 1972 they moved to Denver, where they have conducted joint research in electron paramagnetic resonance with funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health to support their students and coworkers.
The Eaton group seeks to understand electron spin relaxation mechanisms, and develops new electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) methods and instrumentation to address significant biochemical and chemical problems. Currently the effort includes, for example, applying understanding of electron spin relaxation to areas as diverse as quantum computing and in vivo imaging related to cancer diagnosis and treatment. A major current emphasis is on EPR methods to improve sensitivity and solve biomedical problems.
The Eatons have published eight books and more than 400 scientific papers. At the University of Denver, Gareth Eaton has been the dean of science and engineering, as well as vice provost of research, and Sandra Eaton is now chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Both have been distinguished by selection as John Evans Professor at the school and they have received international awards for their research.
Patricia L. Evans
Thirteen years after her 1960 graduation from Lockport Senior High School, Patricia L. Evans enrolled in her first college course. In so doing, she was honoring a promise made to an LSHS teacher, Carol Harding, who strongly encouraged higher education for women and who believed in Evans' abilities. After taking that first step to try one college course, Evans went on to earn: a liberal arts degree with high distinction from Niagara County Community College; a Bachelor of Arts degree, summa cum laude, from the University at Buffalo; a National Institute of Health Fellowship for graduate studies and a Master of Science degree in social and preventive medicine from the University of Buffalo.
During the late 1970s, Evans could not fathom why so many people in the United States had to die agonizing in pain without adequate support for themselves or their family members. She had heard about the onset of a hospice movement and contemplated why a hospice couldn’t be developed in the local area. At about the same time, an article in area newspapers appeared requesting interested persons to attend a meeting for the formation of a hospice in Niagara County. Evans attended this meeting and soon was asked to take the lead role on an ad-hoc committee of concerned citizens.
Evans later became the first president of the board of directors for what was to become Niagara Hospice, Inc. She and the founding group of citizens cleared many hurdles, educated the community, raised adequate funding, completed a state-required Certificate of Need and achieved mandated state health department certification as a viable health care provider.
The first patient was admitted to Niagara Hospice during the summer of 1988. Since its' humble beginnings — three small, makeshift office rooms at the old air base in Cambria — Niagara Hospice has grown to include an administrative building and Hospice House on Sunset Drive. To date, it has provided professional, compassionate care for approximately 20,000 patients and their families.
Evans remains involved with Niagara Hospice to this day. In 2008, she was the recipient of the Time Warner WNY Heroes Award in the Community Crusader category.
Another passion of Evans' is her career-chosen involvement with education. In 1986, she accepted a faculty position at NCCC, where she designed, implemented and coordinated an AA Degree program in Human Services. She found challenge and joy in teaching students from diverse backgrounds who ranged in age from 16 to 80, many of whom had to overcome multiple life hardships.
During her tenure at NCCC, Evans was honored with a Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, a President’s Award for Excellence in Advisement and the NCCC Distinguished Alumni Award. She retired from full-time employment with the college in 2008 but continued as an adjunct professor through 2018.
Evans' service to the community includes her continuing involvement with Niagara Hospice. She also served on the board of directors of Presbyterian Senior Care of WNY for several years and is currently a volunteer and member of the auxiliary of Lockport Presbyterian Home.
Evans and her husband, Rich, have been married for 54 years. Together they raised two sons and now share the joy of grandparenting.
Frank R. Loiars
The late musician and bandleader Frank R. Loiars, class of 1950, was born and raised in Lockport. After graduating from LHS, where he had been active on the football team and also played basketball and baseball, he pursued his associates degree from Erie Community College and later attended the University of Buffalo Night School.
Loiars worked at New York State Electric and Gas for 38 years, initially as a first class lineman, and eventually as a supervisor. While there, he served as chairman of its United Way Appeal campaign. He retired from NYSEG in 1992.
Loiars' love of music was spurred in 1946, when he became an LHS band member, and the passion burned throughout his life. His instruments of choice were trombone, upright bass and bass guitar.
Loiars was the president of American Federation of Musicians, Local 97, for almost 50 years and was the leader of various local bands including The Larks and The Frank Loiars Orchestra. For more than 50 years, he performed at weddings and other social activities in the Lockport area, and his band once played backup for Sammy Davis Jr. at the Niagara Falls Air Force base. Through the years, he had the great honor of playing alongside many of Lockport’s finest musicians in both the VFW and American Legion marching bands, big band orchestras and the Bergholz German Band.
Loiars was a member of various local civic and fraternal organizations, including: Lockport Lions Club, of which he was a past president; Knights of Columbus, in which he was Third Degree Knight; the St. Joe's Usher Club and the Holy Name Society of St. Joseph's Church; and Niagara County March of Dimes, for which he was a board member for 10 years. He was also active in town government, having chaired its recreation committee and served on the planning and zoning boards as well as the town Republican committee.
Loiars' love of sports, especially baseball, led him to become a manager of Lockport Little League Baseball teams for seven years, coaching both his sons and many other young local athletes. He also served on the Little League board for a number of years. In addition, he was a past president of the Barone's Music House bowling league, and a devoted Buffalo Bills fan.
Loiars and his wife Helen (Krull) raised four children in Lockport and now have 10 grandchildren living throughout the United States. Loiars died in 2012.
Elaine Farchione-Sobieraski, class of 1960, is a pioneer in the memorials-monuments business. She purchased Orleans Monument Co. in 1977 and Niagara Monument Co. in 1990, and managed them both successfully over a 40-year period. When she broke into the field 40 years ago, it was dominated by men; for many years she was the only woman operating monument companies in all of New York state.
Farchione-Sobieraski's resume is replete with community service credits. She has been a member of the Chamber of Commerce, the Niagara Hospice board of directors, the city's Citizens Advisory Board under Mayor Ken Swan, the City and Town of Lockport Advisory Board, the town zoning board of appeals and the United Way events committee. The fourth woman to be inducted into Lockport Rotary Club, she was an active member for 25 years and received the club's Paul Harris Award for "Service Above Self" in 2016.
Farchione-Sobieraski also previously chaired Light Up Lockport, an initiative through which about 1,000 children were provided with a gift from and a picture with Santa, along with breakfast and fun activities including a free movie viewing. The Light Up Lockport committee was also responsible for many of the Christmas decorations seen around the city.
Farchione-Sobieraski's community service has been celebrated widely over time, by organizations ranging from the YWCA of Niagara, the City of Lockport and Lockport Business Association to the Lockport Midget League. In 2013, she was the first woman in Western New York to receive the Masons' DeWitt Clinton Award for community service.
Farchione-Sobieraski has three children: Joseph, a trial attorney in Colorado; Jim, who has taken over the family business; and Jennifer, a director of psychiatric outpatient care in Massachusetts. She's also the proud stepmother of four great men: Mike, a retired principal of Anna Merritt Elementary School; Mark, a City of Lockport employee; David, who works at GM's Tonawanda engine plant; and Dennis, a retired Lockport police officer. Among her 11 wonderful grandchildren, five have graduated from LHS and gone on to college.
Clara Ann Tilney
The late Clara Ann Tilney, daughter of Thomas and Lorenna Turco, graduated from LSHS in 1969 with a New York State Regents diploma. President of the LSHS Future Secretaries Club, recipient of a college scholarship from the National Secretaries Association and recipient of the Senior Award for Secretarial Science, she continued her studies and graduated from Bryant and Stratton Business Institute as a Dean’s List student in 1970.
Clara and Leonard G. Tilney, Jr. were married in 1974. After working for a local law office from 1970 to 1979, she took a leave of absence for the birth of her son, Thomas L. Tilney, then returned to the workforce and for the next 26 years worked as a title searcher and office assistant, performing all duties necessary for the preparation of property reports for lending institutions, local attorneys and real estate closings. From 2011 until 2015, she was the executive assistant to the president of Lacey Heavy Equipment Repair, Inc.
Tilney was a dedicated mother, supporting her son as a stay-at-home mom in his early years and as his coach in Lockport Little League for 10 years. She attended every LHS baseball and varsity golf event that Thomas took part in, as well as his Lockport Club Hockey events. As a member of that club's board of directors, Tilney worked hard to maintain the club's program, which eventually became the federation program that it is today. The club honored Tilney with its Athletic Supporter Award in 1995.
Tilney was a charter member of the Barge Canal Optimist Club, whose mission is to help youth in the community. As an Optimist, she received various accolades and awards including: life membership in Optimist International; a special appreciation award from Optimist International Executive Director Richard Arnold, for her work on the International Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1989; two Optimist International Presidential Youth Work and Humanitarian awards, in 1999 and 2003; and a commendation by the Tennessee District of Optimist International, in 1993. She was the first woman designated by the Optimist International Foundation as a district representative, in 1991, and was awarded a certificate of achievement for the highest dollar amount per member collected in all of Optimist International.
Tilney, a breast cancer survivor, was instrumental in founding and maintaining the Barge Canal Optimist Club's Tee Off Against Breast Cancer benefit tournament, which has raised more than $375,000 for cancer research and youth activities in its 21-year history. The Buffalo Bills Alumni Association had honored her back in 1991 for her work on breast cancer advocacy.
An excellent athlete, Tilney enjoyed softball, bowling and golf. A member of the Lockport Town and Country Club, she was the club bowling champion and member-member champion in 2008, as well as a winner in the team event at the Lilac Tournament in Rochester.
Tilney died in 2016.