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2009 Inductee Profiles



Thomas Holme Map Thomas Holme, 1624-1695
Appointed by William Penn as Surveyor General of Pennsylvania in 1682, Thomas Holme laid out the original plan for the City of Philadelphia. He drafted the first map of the City in 1683 and the first map of the settled parts of Pennsylvania in 1687. He served in Pennsylvania’s first Assembly in 1682 and on its first Provincial Council, 1683-1686. He often presided over the Council, the highest governing body in Pennsylvania, in William Penn’s absence. He also served as Justice of the Peace for Philadelphia County, as Commissioner of Property, and in a number of other official positions.
    Thomas Holme was also a leader in the Religious Society of Friends, commonly known as Quakers. Prior to coming to Pennsylvania, he had served as Captain in the British Army under Oliver Cromwell and as a surveyor in Ireland, where he had settled after Cromwell’s Irish campaign. While in Ireland he would embrace the Quaker faith and meet William Penn. A trusted friend and advisor to Penn, Holme came to Pennsylvania in 1682 and played a key role in its formation. He oversaw the surveying and early settlement of the Province, helped establish its government, and participated in important treaty conferences with the Lenape Indians and in negotiations between Penn and Lord Baltimore to resolve the dispute regarding the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland. Thomas Holme established his country estate, Wellspring, in what is now the Holmesburg section of Philadelphia and is buried there, off of Holme Avenue east of Holme Circle.


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Henry and Mary Disston Henry (1819-1878) and Mary (1822-1895) Disston
Henry Disston founded one of the nation’s major manufacturing companies in the nineteenth century and with his wife Mary pursued a vision of developing Tacony into an ideal family-centered community for the company’s workers. Henry founded what would become Disston Saw Works in 1840 in the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia and began relocating it to Tacony in the 1870s. Under his guidance, and later that of his sons and grandsons, the company grew into one of the world’s largest saw manufacturers, employing thousands of workers and selling its products the world over.
    Concerned that Disston workers should have affordable housing and a pleasant community in which to live and work, Henry and Mary created the Mary Disston Estate to purchase land, build homes, and provide amenities for company employees. After Henry’s death in 1878, Mary oversaw the work of the Estate, ensuring that Disston workers had access to decent homes while also donating land for schools, churches, parks, and other civic uses. Upon Mary’s death in 1895, the Mary Disston Estate Trust was created, which continued to provide these services to the community until 1940. Through their foresight and benevolence, Henry and Mary Disston played a major role in shaping the history and development of Tacony.


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Katharine Drexel Katharine Drexel, 1858-1955
Born into great wealth, Katharine Drexel devoted her life to the service of America’s poorest citizens. As the daughter of a wealthy financier, she enjoyed a life of luxury and privilege. However, she was a deeply spiritual and compassionate woman whose life’s work was shaped by her Catholic faith and a commitment to help those less fortunate. Her parents had instilled in Katharine and her sisters a sense of Christian stewardship and service to others. In her travels in the American South and Southwest she saw firsthand the poverty in which Native Americans and African Americans lived, while in her counsels with her family and spiritual mentors she sought to find meaning and purpose in her life. In 1891 she professed her vows as the first member of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, a religious order that she established. In addition to vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, she pledged “to be a mother and servant of the Indian and Negro races.” The order was originally based at the Drexel family homestead in Torresdale, but later relocated to the Mother House that Katharine had built in nearby Bensalem.
    Under Katharine Drexel’s guidance, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament established schools and missions throughout the United States and ministered to countless African Americans and Native Americans. Mother Katharine also supported Father Augustus Tolton, a former slave and the nation’s first known African American Catholic priest, and his ministry in Chicago. The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament remain active today in both rural and urban areas and continue to fulfill their founder’s vision of helping the poor and needy. Katharine Drexel died in 1955 and is buried on the grounds of the Mother House in Bensalem. On October 1, 2000 she was canonized a saint by Pope John Paul II.


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Tom Gola Tom Gola
Tom Gola has had a distinguished career in sports and public life. After a stellar basketball career at La Salle University, where he was the first modern, four-time college All-American and was named the 1955 College Player of the Year, he went on to a ten-year NBA career playing for the Philadelphia Warriors, San Francisco Warriors, and New York Knicks. Elected to the NBA Hall of Fame in 1976 and the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006 — he is considered one of the greatest college players ever — he is one of a select group of players to win an NIT, NCAA, and NBA title. He returned to La Salle University as basketball coach for two successful seasons in 1968 and 1969. The University’s Tom Gola Arena is named for him.
    Following his playing career in basketball, Tom Gola went into politics, serving as Pennsylvania State Representative for the 170th Legislative District from 1967 to 1970 and as Philadelphia City Controller from 1970 to 1974. He also ran for Mayor of Philadelphia in 1983. He was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as Regional Administrator for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, served on various boards, including the original board for the Pennsylvania Convention Center, and was involved in a number of business ventures.


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Joan Krajewski Joan Krajewski
Longtime Philadelphia City Councilwoman Joan Krajewski has been serving the citizens of Northeast Philadelphia for many years. Born in Port Richmond into a large family with supportive parents, she began her career as a public servant in 1972 as an investigator for the Philadelphia Department of Revenue and later served as President of Local 1660 — School Board Employees, District Council 33, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Union. She was elected Ward Leader of the 65th Democratic Ward in 1978 and to Philadelphia City Council in 1979. She has represented the 6th District on City Council since 1979.
    Councilwoman Krajewski is chairwoman of the City Council’s Appropriations Committee and sits on numerous other committees. She is the first woman in council history to hold the position of Majority Leader. She has been a longtime advocate for quality of life issues in Northeast Philadelphia and founded the successful Community Life Improvement Program (CLIP), which addresses a wide range of quality of life issues in area neighborhoods. She has also worked to ensure the development of the Delaware River waterfront for the benefit of the community. Known as the “Queen of Constituent Service,” her office has answered over 300,000 calls for help and service from the people of Northeast Philadelphia. Joan Krajewski was honored as Best Councilperson in Philadelphia Magazine’s Best of Philly awards in 1987, 1990, and 1991 and was inducted into the magazine’s Hall of Fame in 1993.


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Harry Silcox Harry Silcox
Educator and historian Harry Silcox first came to prominence in the 1950s as a star basketball player for Temple University. He earned a doctorate in education from Temple and had a long career at Abraham Lincoln High School, where he started as basketball coach in 1957 and later moved into administration. He served as Assistant Principal of Lincoln High from 1967 to 1976 and as Principal from 1976 to 1992. An innovative educator, in 1987 he was recognized with the prestigious Marcus Foster Memorial Award, given annually to a Philadelphia public school administrator who exemplifies leadership, compassion, and intellectual curiosity. A leading proponent of service learning, a teaching strategy that integrates community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities, he sought to integrate this philosophy into his work for the Philadelphia School District.
    After retiring from the School District in 1992, Harry Silcox established and served as Director of the Pennsylvania Institute for Environmental and Community Service Learning at Philadelphia University. Through the Institute, he consulted on service learning programs nationally and internationally and oversaw many local service learning projects, including a number that brought together students, seniors, and community members to document Northeast Philadelphia history. Best known in his later years as a historian, he has written numerous books and articles and lectured widely on Northeast Philadelphia history and is generally considered the foremost historian of the area.


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Aid for Friends Aid for Friends
Aid for Friends has been providing meals and services to homebound elderly residents of the area since 1974. Begun by founder Rita Ungaro-Schiavone as an effort to provide meals and friendship to a poor elderly woman in Frankford, it soon grew into helping other area shut-ins and eventually into an organization that services thousands of people annually. Prior to founding Aid for Friends, Rita Ungaro-Schiavone had worked on a volunteer basis as Director of Volunteers for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Cardinal’s Commission on Human Relations, where she developed a Community Food Distribution Centers program and managed various social services and relief programs. After leaving the Cardinal’s Commission, she began volunteering at the Frankford YWCA, where she became aware of the needs of one elderly shut-in woman and then of the many other frail, elderly, homebound residents of the area. She began cooking and delivering meals and providing companionship to these needy shut-ins — and Aid for Friends was born.
    With the help and support of family, friends, volunteers, and area religious organizations, particularly St. Jerome’s Catholic Church, the Aid for Friends organization grew. Working first out of the Schiavone home, then from a trailer provided by St. Jerome’s, then a storefront at Holme Circle, and finally to the organization’s new headquarters in Far Northeast Philadelphia, Aid for Friends has grown into a major social service organization whose staff and volunteers provide a wide range of services to thousands of the area’s elderly residents annually. Since its founding it has provided 14 million meals to over 11,700 shut-ins and offered 1.5 million hours of compassionate visiting. Both the organization and its founder Rita Ungaro-Schiavone have received countless awards and much recognition for their important work.


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For more information contact Project Director Jack McCarthy at 215-824-1636 / jacksnotes88@verizon.net