Berks

American Red Cross honors heroes among us

The local heroes whose stories we've been sharing with you over the past two weeks gathered at the Crowne Plaza in Wyomissing on Thursday for the 13th annual Berks County Heroes Breakfast.

The Tri-County Chapter of the American Red Cross honored the heroes for their brave and sometimes life-saving actions.

Taylor Waligorski, a telecommunicator for the Berks County Department of Emergency Services, was honored as the 911 dispatch hero for helping to save the life of a caller's husband, who was found not breathing. Waligorski calmly led the caller with instructions to perform CPR on her husband. The caller later sent a letter to Waligorski, thanking her for her efforts on that Easter Sunday in 2016.

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Berks County Deputy Sheriff Terry Ely was honored as the law enforcement hero for his actions in stopping an armed robbery inside a taxi cab in Reading in 2016. Ely happened to be in the right place at the right time to notice the suspicious activity inside the car, approach it with his gun drawn, and stop the crime in progress, preventing any physical harm to the driver, Ralph Valletta, a 26-year veteran cabbie.

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Jeff Parr, a retired Reading police captain, was honored as the adult good Samaritan for his life-saving actions during a lunch meeting with his new boss and a client at the 3rd and Spruce Cafe in West Reading in July 2016. It was his first day on the job with Security Guards Inc. when the client began choking on a piece of food. Parr got up and quickly took action, clearing the man's airway.

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The Marion Township Fire Company's firefighters were honored for their heroic efforts in helping farm owners Martin and Missy Moyer to save the lives of 70 cows that were trapped inside the family's burning barn in October 2016. "On a farm like this, each cow has a name," Chief Darryl Brubaker said of the cows. "They're like pets. They're not just a number."

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Spencer DeTurk was honored as the military hero for his heroic service to our country as a member of the United States Army and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. In December 2005, while deployed to the war in Iraq, DeTurk, under enemy fire, risked his own life to help save the lives of his fellow soldiers who were injured when their humvee hit a roadside bomb.

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Abigail White, a student at Wilson High School in Berks County, was honored as the youth good Samaritan for her heroic actions in founding Clean Teens, an official chapter of SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), educating her peers about addiction, and encouraging them to avoid drugs and alcohol. She's helped to empower hundreds of high school students to make better decisions.

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Renee George, Muhlenberg Township. police Ofc. Erik Schwendeman, and Muhlenberg Ambulance paramedic Chad Schaner and EMT Mike Texter were honored as medical heroes for teaming up to save the life of John Bonanno, a 79-year-old man who suffered a heart attack and collapsed while training for a marathon along River Road in Muhlenberg Township on Father's Day 2016.

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Chief Dave Bentz, Fire Marshal Bruce Squibb, Engineer Leonard Hoffert, Firefighter Eric Kohl, Lt. Konner Kegerise -- members of Keystone Fire Company No. 1 of Shillington -- were honored as fire safety heroes for rescuing Paul Potier Jr. from a burning apartment building in Shillington in 2016. Squibb managed to pull Potier out of a window and carry him down a ladder.

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Hamid Chaudhry, the owner of the Wyomissing Restaurant & Bakery on Penn Avenue in Wyomissing, was honored as the community impact hero for his selfless generosity to countless organizations, schools, and individuals in Berks County. Born in Pakistan, Hamid has gone above and beyond to give back to the community since making Berks County his home in 2002.

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