Jimmy Maslanka selected as Man of the Year

Thursday, April 4, 2019 | 6:00 AM

Jimmy Maslanka’s introduction to the Sewickley community occurred in 1979, when he visited the area for a mail carrier job at the Sewickley Post Office.

The Bellevue resident had the opportunity to work in other post offices in the region, but he was charmed by Sewickley’s idyllic setting.

“It was late spring, and things were starting to come alive,” he said. “I grew up on the North Side. We don’t have trees in our yards.”

When a woman riding in horse and buggy went by, the bucolic scene was complete.

“I said, ‘This is me,’ ” Maslanka said. “It’s a small town. People are nice. It’s real comfortable and pleasant. Over the years, I’ve been friendly, and they’re friendly back.”

In the four decades that he’s been a part of the community, Maslanka has come to be known as someone with a selfless spirit.

“Throughout those years, any time that he saw an opportunity to assist Sewickley residents … he has provided his support,” said Sewickley resident Diane Hulings in an email.

For his contributions to the community, Maslanka has been named the Sewickley Herald Man of the year for the newspaper’s 43rd Sewickley Herald Man, Woman & Citizen of the year. The award celebrates people and organizations whose commitment drives community spirit.

The annual dinner honoring this year’s group is set for May 10 at the Edgeworth Club.

Though raised a city boy, Maslanka first started to acquire a green thumb through his mother, who was involved with the Pittsburgh Rose Society. Years later, while delivering mail, Maslanka would give tips to his customers on caring for their rose bushes.

Even through his job, Maslanka found an opportunity to help others. He and his fellow mail carriers participated in a food drive every year, collecting nonperishable items from the community. He was touched by how much food was collected.

“We would take the canned goods to St. James (Church). For a community this size…they would give us the total pounds of food collected, and we were always at the top,” he said. “The community really supported that, and after that, I started getting more involved.”

One day while on his route, Maslanka saw longtime resident Peggy Standish struggle to lift a heavy container she was using to water planters around the community.

Maslanka helped her lift it, then offered to take over watering duties from the garden club. Eventually, he would get a custom bike, outfitted with a watering unit, that he would ride around the Village to water hanging baskets.

But Maslanka wanted to know more about taking care of plants than just watering. So anytime he encountered someone with knowledge of the outdoors, he would ask them about it.

When Standish mentioned the master gardener program at Phipps, Maslanka enthusiastically enrolled. He graduated in 2001, and began to impart the knowledge he gained to others. He continued to seek out opportunities to learn — attending seminars on tree care with arborist Jimmy Edson and taking beekeeping classes with apiarist Tom McCormack.

“I’m pretty busy, and I like it that way. I think health-wise, it helped,” said Maslanka, who has had hip and knee replacements, and back and shoulder surgeries. “You can’t pity yourself. Every time I went in (for surgery), I went in with the thought that I’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Maslanka has given his time and knowledge to Fern Hollow Nature Center, Mary Roberts Rinehart Nature Park, Sewickley Garden Tour and North Hills Community Outreach. He has worked with men and women in shelters and with Sewickley Academy students.

And, when he’s not helping out around the community, he can usually be found visiting his son, a pastor, and his family in Cleveland, Ohio. The proud grandfather imparts his knowledge to his four grandchildren, and works with missions through his son’s church.

“You’ve got to get kids to understand there’s something out there for you. Even if you don’t know what it is yet, doors will open up for you,” Maslanka said. “I’m fortunate to have something that keeps me going. You can hike forever, you can keep going. It’s just a matter of doing it.”

Bill Boswell, president of the Mary Roberts Rinehart Trail & Park Association, called Maslanka “an absolute treasure, giving much to us and to the community.”

“I try to be friendly and share what I know,” said Maslanka, who just embarked on a new undertaking — the Pennsylvania Master Naturalist program. “I know if somebody needs something, they’ll get in touch and ask me to help out, and nine times out of 10, I will. Working at the post office, time flew. It was good, I loved it. It’s a good job, working for people. It takes a village…You reach out to me, I reach out to others.”