Charles E. (Chuck) Senft
Brookline Recreation Director
Chuck Senft To Be Feted As Man Of The
He's faced guns, knives and gang fights throughout his 25-year career in athletics, and now the next thing he will face is a testimonial dinner in his honor.
Charles E. Senft, Brookline's Man of the Year, lives in the North Side with his wife, Rozella, and daughter Terri. However, Chuck spends most of his time in Brookline.
A native of the North Side, Chuck came to Brookline in 1960 where he managed three recreation sites and programs at Moore Park, Brookline School and East Brookline facilities.
"My first job assignment in 1957 was at West Park in the North Side where I produced the first championship baseball team," Chuck said. "The City Department of Parks and Recreation and the Pittsburgh Pirate organization honored our accomplishment by presenting us with medals at Forbes Field."
His outstanding work with the youth at West Park in developing a successful baseball program and in stopping a teenage gang element earned him praise from his superiors and a new assignment. It was a Cowley Recreation Center and Manchester School.
In 1958 Chuck was transferred to Moore Park where he faced a formidable challenge.
"It was the first time that I encountered the growing drug, drinking and social problems that were developing in the South Hills and at our centers," Chuck Said. "This was a real challenge."
It was in situations like these that Chuck found himself "fighting for my life to establish discipline and control." He recounted one incident at Moore Park where a child was trapped by five older people.
However CHuck is quick to point out that the situation at Moore Park has changed drastically since that incident.
"When I go to community meetings I always tell people that the majority of kids are good," Chuck said. "It's unfortunate that a small element puts a stigma on the whole group. Just because a small handful can't control themselves you can't let them get away with it."
And Chuck's secret to maintaining control is a proven winner.
"I've faced trying times, but I stick to the basic philosophy of treating everybody the same," Chuck said. "I set rules that they have to follow, but I tell them that they're free to enjoy the facilities the City has provided. They just can't be disruptive."
This philosophy has won Chuck the respect of the community, and more importantly, the respect of the kids.
"Parents never worried about drugs of kids smoking at my facility," Chuck said. "I believe in a wholesome-type facility where people don't have to be worried about walking around at night.
During his assignment at Moore Park, from 1958 to 1971, Chuck trained championship teams in track, boxing, basketball, football, volleyball, softball and baseball.
It's no secret that Brookline's junior and senior boxing teams have won Golden Glove, Silver Glove and Silver Belt championships, and gained a reputation throughout Pennsylvania and West Virginia. These accomplishments also took Chuck and his teams to the mayor's office where they were presented with trophies.
Perhaps more valuable to Chuck are the awards of appreciation from community groups and organizations for service in the Brookline-Beechview area.
"I try to assist all the community groups that I can," Chuck said. "I regularly attend and work closely with the Police-Citizens Council, the Chamber of Commerce, Brookline Lions, Brookline Knights Football Organization and the Brookline Little League.
I'm very community oriented, and I try to see that the goals of the community are achieved."
However, achieving these community goals is sometimes frustrating, according to Chuck.
"I enjoy extreme situations," he said. "But sometimes it's frustrating when I try to accomplish something and I feel it shouldn't be as hard as it is. You have to remember we're working with limited facilities, limited spaces and limited help.
Currently the Center Director at Brookline Memorial Park, a position he has held since 1971, Chuck has the opportunity to carry out these goals through his programming.
"I developed a fitness program that was the most attended in the city and brought Brookline the Punt, Pass and Kick competition in conjunction with the Ford Corporation.," he added.
A pioneer of programs like this, Chuck's record also boasts of promotional activities at the Center such as Tops, Yo-Yos, Hula Hoops, Frisbee, Zim-Zam and others.
And in these 21 years of service, Chuck has compiled a scrapbook that weighs about 10 pounds and is six inches thick. It is crammed with recommendations, photographs, biographical data and newspaper clippings on his teams and accomplishments.
Yet Chuck is quick to point out that the City of Pittsburgh is ultimately responsible for providing kids with the opportunity for achievement.
"For example," he said, "track is a big program here in Brookline. It's helped a lot of kids go to New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles. They wouldn't have the chance to go if it wasn't for the programs that are sponsored by the City of Pittsburgh and the Department of Parks and Recreation."
Another popular program at the Center, which has earned Brookline a state-wide reputation, is boxing.
"Boxing for the beginner," Chuck said, "is a real character builder for kids. With three-hour workouts held some two to four days a week, and more as a tournament gets closer, we still have 100-150 kids turn out for the boxing teams."
These "beginners" later developed and matured into an older team that took Brookline and the City of Pittsburgh by storm.
The success of programs at the Center is dependant on input from the community, according to Chuck.
"The community has been very supportive in every phase and facet of my job," Chuck said. "The parents, the merchants and the community groups have all been incredible. Some people criticize the Brookline community for being crisis-oriented, but they've always responded to me."
And this response hasn't wavered in his career in Brookline. Neither has the thrill of watching a youngster's raw talent developed into a skill.
"It's very rewarding to see how a kid turns out," he said. "They start out in a raw state and eventually become a polished athlete. Or sometimes it's the challenge of seeing something bad turn into something good."
Regardless of the close working relationship between Chuck and his kids, he refuses to disclose his age.
"If the kids guess too low it makes me feel good," he said. "And if they guess too high they still respect me because they figure even though I'm old, I'm still active."
Active is an understatement for this man who is involved in every phase of his programming.
A well-rounded coach and supervisor, Chuck has organized and taught the following sports at the Center: basketball, volleyball, boxing, street hockey, tackle football, softball, track and field, weightlifting, marble shooting, physical fitness and many special events.
In addition to these sporting events he has organized, Chuck is also responsible for a variety of social events at the Center: pizza parties, Halloween parties, Christmas parties, dances, banquets, animal shows, trips, bicycle rodeos and other events.
And from marble shooting to basketball shooting, Chuck instills a team-oriented spirit into the kids.
"Everything I try to do here is team-oriented," he said. "I build the idea of the team into each individual child and when we win - WE win. In life it's surely not one man for himself. Eventually you have to carry the load, responsibility for a wife, a family member or a friend."
The news of being honored as Man of the Year by the Brookline Chamber of Commerce came as a surprise to the man who usually thinks in a team-oriented way.
"I never gave the dinner a thought," Chuck said. "I always attended the Man of the Year dinners in the past and figured I'd do the same this year."
"I love the people that I've dealt with from the Lions Club, the Community Council, Brookline residents and members of the Chamber because they've been so important to me," he added. "For these people to name me Man of the Year is an extreme honor. I wanted to say 'No, not me,' but it was an honor I really couldn't refuse."
He stressed that the help of these organizations has been invaluable to the success of his programs.
"Their concern for the kids and the programs has been great," Chuck said. "And I can't stress enough that their continued help is going to be greatly needed. If there was ever a time when we needed then, it will be in the future."
Although Chuck said he couldn't be any happier than with what he's doing right now, he is looking to the future.
"I have mixed emotions," Chuck said. "Eventually I'd like to be an area supervisor, but I'm not sure this is the right time. I'm not sure that I'm ready to sit behind a desk because I'm still extremely active and it would be a whole new change."
The Brookline Community will have the opportunity to gather in a 'team-oriented' way and show their appreciation to Chuck for his years of community involvement by attending the dinner in his honor at La Cas Del Fredo on Wednesday, October 21, when the Brookline Chamber of Commerce installs the 1981-82 officers and honors Charles E. (Chuck) Senft as Man of the Year.
* Local Dignitaries on Chuck Senft *
with Brookline's youth, Chuck has demonstrated boundless energy and
enthusiasm. I must impress that in his contacts with the Brookline Area
Community Council, I have found him more than cooperative. He always
leaves one with the impression that his primary mission is to help youth
and the community at all times."
<> <> <> <> <> <> <>
instilled the finest values in the young people he worked with. It is no
understatement to say that the Brookline community would be much poorer
in the quality of its young people if it weren't for Chuck
<> <> <> <> <> <> <>
"...I have yet
to come across any one individual to measure up to or come close to Chuck
Senft. For his display of tremendous amount of initiative and energy, Mr.
Senft has a real ability to inspire young people in the activities at the
Brookline Community Center. He is a builder of true community spirit and
sportsmanship as well as a molder of character of the young people --
something which is drastically needed in this day and age."
<> <> <> <> <> <> <>
direction of Mr. Chuck Senft, the boxing program has attained high
distinction and respect, not only in the Brookline community, but
citywide. Mr. Senft's endeavors have not gone unnoticed by the various
leaders in Brookline and his concern for our youth and his cooperation
with youth-oriented programs has gained him the deepest respect and an
esteem he has justly earned."
Brookline's Message To Chuck Senft
Dignitaries, community leaders, city officials, parents and children gathered at La Casa Del Fredo to honor Chuck Senft as Brookline's Man of the Year, October 21.
In addition, new members of the Brookline Chamber of Commerce were installed for the 1981-82 club year. Incoming officers are: Linda Fazio (Boss), president; Jim Moran, vice-president, John Mussitsch, treasurer; and Phyllis Carver, secretary.
Rich Shuminsky, past-president of the Chamber, was presented with a plaque for the hard work during his administration, especially for his work with the Brookline Christmas lighting program.
George Cupples, director of athletics for the City of Pittsburgh, Department of Parks and Recreation and a 25-year friend of Senft, served as master of ceremonies.
"I'm honored to be here tonight to honor Chuck Senft as man of the year," Cupples said. "As you may know, Chuck worked for the Department of Parks and Recreation for 25 years, and over twenty of those have been in Brookline."
"We're here to recognize the energy, spirit and most importantly, his involvement with the community," he added. "When you have Chuck Senft working for you, it is truly a partnership between government and the people of the city."
Also present for Senft's "night of glory" was Carl Mancuso, superintendent for the City of Pittsburgh, Department of Parks and Recreation. He referred to Chuck's outstanding ability as an athletic director.
"The City of Pittsburgh, is always, always well served when Chuck Senft goes out to a function." he said. "When the Brookline team pulls in, generally the other teams leave."
Other city and county officials in attendance included Mayor Richard S. Caligiuri, and from the Department of Parks and Recreation: Louise Brown, director; Ross Rotunda, program director; John Mahoney, area supervisor; Arch Herron, area supervisor; Leonard Duncan, area president.
During the testimonial portion of the program, John Boris, a former participant in the Brookline Recreation programs, recalled how both he and his children had grown up under Chuck's supervision.
"No matter where you went, Chuck was there," Boris said. "When the troubled element came to Brookline, Chuck was like a clone. He was everywhere."
"Every single child that went down to the Center was like his own," he added.
Some of the thanks were more direct, like that of Billy Anderson, a star boxer on the Junior and Senior Brookline boxing teams.
"Thanks. You seemed like a dad to me," he said. "My parents owe about a million dollars to you for babysitting."
Other officials who could not be present at the dinner sent subsitutes or letters of congratulations. Michael Dawida went Vi Nolla as his representative, and Senator Eugene Scanlon also sent a letter expressing his regrets that he could not be present.
Community leaders who presented Senft with awards were: Elva McGibbeny, president of the Brookline Community Council; John Keenan, secreatary of the Brookline Lions Club; Jack Henry, Bob Forester and Phyllis Carver, of the Brookline Little League; Ralph Sestilli, of Brookline Knights Football.
Phyllis Carver, secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, presented Chuck's wife Rozella with a gold charm.
When the Man of the Year finally took the microphone, he thanked the many people who helped him in his job.
"I thank my wife for sticking by me and my daughter, Terri," he said. "I spent so many hours with kids other than my own that I sort of turned around and she was grown. I hope she understands because I love her."
In other comments, Senft recognized the following individuals for their support: George Cupples, Richard Shuminsky, Linda Fazio (Boss), Bill and Phyllis Carver, John Mussistch, Joe Tokar, Paul Palma, Jim Mongelli, Vince Mazza, Dan and Elva McGibbeny, Angelo Masullo, Jim Raimondi, Ed Motznik, Vi Nolla, Ronald Brown, Toxy Healy, John Keenan, Dale Noah, Dan Kahl, Eva Caye, Mr. and Mrs. Moran, Ralph and Gina Sestilli, Judy Ball, Bernice King, Granny Webb, Jack Henry, Mr. and Mrs. Frank DeBor, John Boris, Babe and Rich Anderson, Billy Anderson, Len Flowers, Lil Benson, Mr. and Mrs. Jack Dolan, Ed McGrath, Fred Goehringer, Bob Forester, Connie and Larry Lapolski, Tom Abbott, Jim Turcol, Danny O'Brien, Walt Niedbala, Mike Murin, Richard Macino, Michelle Trapolsi, Linda Melman, Jack Doyle, Kevin Nolla, Robert Healy, Jeff Buskirk, Bruno Riccardi, Jake Ratay, Phil Giampa, Jack Kobistek, Mike Trapolsi, David Covato, Jim Waters, Linda Phillips, Patti Anania, Ralph Ambrose, Pat McGrath, Sammy Parrotto, Pat Hebda and Andy Kail.
Chuck Senft Keeps Going And
Eighteen years have passed since Chuck Senft received his Man of the Year award, and you can still find him down at the Community Center, now refered to as the Brookline Memorial Recreation Center. He is still the master of ceremonies in the youth recreation arena, and his boxing club is still running wild in the ring.
Having begun his tenure in Brookline in 1958 at Moore Park, this season will mark Chuck's 42nd year as a mentor and caretaker of the neighborhood's children. Four generations of Brookliners have passed through his doors, and the majority have walked out the other side better people for the experience.
A quarter century plus fifteen seasons in the Director's seat haven't slowed Chuck down a bit. This is a man who is capable of extraordinary amounts of work. He still runs the track program, hosts a summer men's basketball league, stages events like the Brookline Breeze, the Easter Egg Hunt and the Halloween Party, and still has time for his true love, the Brookline Boxing Club, which has garnered numerous championships under Coach Senft.
And we still don't know how old he is! We may never know. If he wasn't old in 1981, then he must be getting there now. Only a nagging back problem in the early 90s, which kept him sidelined for a couple years, could slow him down. To watch him in action day after day leaves you with the impression that this is a man who shares a secret with the Energizer Bunny.
So much has happened since 1981. Brookline Park underwent extensive renovations, adding a pool, tennis courts, new fields, new playground equipment, and lots of recreation space. Kids have grown into adults and their children are now learning what the Center has to offer. Soccer has grown into one of the #1 sports in America, and the Center staff offered the best youth soccer camp in the entire parks department. Through it all, Chuck Senft has been there, offering kids the fundamental tools to grow into successful adults.
Chuck Senft never made it to Area Supervisor. The time was never right. Maybe he knew in his heart that he had found his home amidst the youth of Brookline. Maybe the thought of passing a winter season without his beloved "Angels" was just too much to swallow. Whatever his reasoning, Brookline as a whole has benefited considerably from his long and illustrious career as director of the Brookline Memorial Recreation Center.
To many of us who have grown up knowing Chuck - first as a second father, then as a coach and mentor, then in our later years as a friend - he may have been Man of the Year in 1981, but in our lifetime he could be considered the Man of the Decade, four decades running....and still going!
Learn more about what it took to be one of Charlie's Angels:
The Golden Years
In August of 2003, the Brookline Memorial Recreation Center closed due to financial difficulties. When it re-opened in February of 2005, there was one change that took some getting used to. Chuck Senft had retired. After forty-seven years of looking after the kids of Brookline, the only Director many Brookliners had ever known was no longer part of their daily lives.
Chuck had moved on to the quiet life with his family on the North Side. Although no longer active in a coaching capacity, Chuck is still very involved in the local boxing community. He still frequents the fight clubs and can often be found mingling with friends and former associates near ringside.
After a seven-year absence, Chuck returned to the Brookline Memorial Recreation Center on December 4, 2010, for the dedication of Citipark's newest Fitness Facility. The new gym is located on the lower level of the Recreation Center building that was Chuck's home for thirty-two years. The Fitness Center has completely altered the look of the Recreation Center, but Chuck still looked much the same as he did during his four decades as Director. It was great to have him back, if only for a day.
In April of 2010, Chuck Senft was elected to the Pennsylvania Golden Gloves Hall of Fame, along with John D. Robinson, Tony Tarentino and James Gruber. Together, these four legendary coaches were known as "The Four Horsemen." They are the winningest coaches in Golden Gloves history. The inscription on the award read: In recognition for your unselfish commitment to the Pennsylvania Golden Gloves Program and the spirit which you have helped it to grow in Pennsylvania. - April 2010.
Those of us who know Chuck can relate to that. His unselfish commitment to the children and community of Brookline endeared him to generations. Although he is no longer with us at the Recreation Center, Chuck's influence will always be close to us in our hearts and memories.
<Brookline Park> <> <Personalities>