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An unwavering pride in the face of urban decay



Published: Tue, September 28, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

By PETER H. MILLIKEN

milliken@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Thomas J. Repchic deeply cared about the South Side neighborhood in which he lived, worshipped and died.

Neighbors remembered Repchic, 75, who was killed Saturday in a drive-by shooting, as a man who would do favors for people, such as helping people with disabled cars, upon request.

Repchic and other members of his family mowed grass on vacant lots where houses once stood, and Repchic fought to keep open the post office around the corner from his house, recalled Bill Boston, owner of Boston Machine Co.

“If you asked him for [help], he’d give you anything he had. You couldn’t have asked for a greater guy,” Boston said.

Repchic declined to follow the decades-long population-migration trend from the city to the suburbs.

“He wouldn’t do it. He said he would die here. He would never leave this area,” recalled Boston, who resides in New Castle, Pa.

The machine shop Boston has owned since 1996 is on Trenton Avenue, across the street from the two-story house Repchic and his wife, Jacqueline, occupied for 46 years.

When Boston would work late hours in the shop, Repchic would sit with him because of his concern for Boston’s safety, Boston recalled.

“His grandchildren were all out cutting grass. Why? Because grandpa didn’t want it looking like a dump, and he didn’t want it to look like somebody wasn’t living here,” Boston said of Repchic’s neighborhood philosophy.

Jacqueline Repchic, who survived the shooting, suffered the amputation of her leg, which was hit by a bullet.

“They were both very soft-hearted to anybody that ever came to their porch, their door, or even walking down the street. You wish you had these people in your neighborhood,” Boston said of the Repchics.

Shaded by stately old trees but plagued with urban blight, Trenton Avenue is a short north-south street in the city’s Uptown district, one block west of Market Street.

City directories list only a handful of occupied houses; and a drive down this three-block-long street reveals many vacant residences, some boarded up and some simply displaying broken or missing windows.

Repchic, an Army veteran and a General Motors Lordstown retiree, was fatally shot in the car he was driving after picking up his wife from her job as a receptionist at St. Dominic Church, where Repchic and his wife were members.

The Repchic homicide was the second slaying of an elderly St. Dominic Church parishioner this year, the first having been the Jan. 23 shooting death of Angeline Fimognari in the church parking lot after a Saturday morning Mass.

Jamar Houser awaits trial in the Fimognari case, but no suspects have been arrested in the Repchic case.

As to what the city needs to prevent a repeat of these tragedies, Boston said: “It needs to have a culture change.”

“The only people that actually deal with the problems around here are the police. And it’s like the families, they bury their heads. Nobody saw what happened” when police respond to an incident, Boston added.

“There’s nobody being held responsible for what’s going on,” he added. “We need to support the police as much as we can. They work hard.”

“When Boardman put up all those flags coming down 224, [Repchic] begged the city to put them up and down Market Street. Tom was a patriot, and he wanted the city to display these flags,” said John Syphard of Boardman, a supplier of machine parts to Boston’s shop.

“If they wanted to do a service or honor Tom in any way, they would do that,” Syphard said of city officials.

“He was great. He’d do anything for anybody,” Janice Whitfield, a Trenton Avenue homeowner, said of Thomas Repchic. “He always sat on the porch and watched all the houses,” alerting his neighbors and police to suspicious activity, she said.

The Repchics would help serve meals to elderly people at St. Dominic, she recalled.

The neighborhood needs more vigilance by residents to prevent a repeat of the tragedies, said Whitfield, who displays a “Crime Watch” sign in her front window.

“The cops come by here, but it’s just really not enough,” she added.

“There are too many gangs, just too many unruly kids out here,” she observed.

Christopher Buday, another Trenton Avenue homeowner, described Repchic as “a pretty nice guy,” adding: “He’d help you out if you needed it.”

A lifelong Uptown area resident, Buday, 49, is a Mahoning County 911 dispatcher, a former Craig Beach police chief and a former city taxi driver.

“I have no desire to move out to Boardman or Poland or Canfield,” said Buday, adding that he thinks suburban houses are “overpriced.”

As for what it would take to improve the neighborhood, he said: “Returning to traditional family values would help. It’s a combination of everything. I mean it’s not just more police presence.”

“People have just got to start being decent people. That’s basically what it is,” he added. “I think a lot of people now in this city are just surviving. They’re just existing. They’re not looking forward to anything but just to survive from day to day.”


Comments

1Lifes2Short(3877 comments)posted 3 years, 12 months ago

He seemed like a wonderful man. Disgusts me that he had to die the way he did. Why murder a innocent person. Kill each other over drugs and what not, but leave the innocent alone. What a tragedy.

Agree 100%

"As to what the city needs to prevent a repeat of these tragedies, Boston said: “It needs to have a culture change.”

"And it’s like the families, they bury their heads. Nobody saw what happened” when police respond to an incident, Boston added."

"“There are too many gangs, just too many unruly kids out here,” she observed."

"“Returning to traditional family values would help. It’s a combination of everything. I mean it’s not just more police presence.”

“People have just got to start being decent people."

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2gizzym(20 comments)posted 3 years, 12 months ago

whoa...to say the Repcic inadvertingly brought death to their son and him for not moving...Tommy died 20 years ago when the neighborhood was still decent. They were in no way responsible for his death, how dare you. The Repcics finally left the neighborhood years ago, forced out of the place they loved because of the violence and "ghettoizm". We also were forced to leave the surrounding neighborhood for the same reasons 15 years ago. When your kids can't ride their bikes and dodge bullets at the same time, it's time to move. The closing of South High school we believe started it all when the attendees transferred to Wilson. It was all downhill from there. Houses up for sale might have well stated EMPTY...were stripped as you stated. People who lived there were forced to move or rent out properties. Home owners care about the appearance of their homes, renters could give a chit most of the time, leaving trash and furniture everywhere, letting grass to overgrow, windows broken, etc...Landlords in my opinion need to get after the renters to keep the properties up. And landlords should be held accountable for the repairs other than abuse repairs. Someone owns vacant properties and mayor Williams needs to force landlords to keep them up to standards or be heavily fined. The cost to fix delapitated homes is close to the price to rip them down. Years ago there was a bumper sticker that said YOUNGSTOWN A WHOLE LOT OF LIVING.....NOW IT WOULD SAY...YOUNGSTOWN WHAT A HOLE..

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3UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 3 years, 12 months ago

Fine people who did not deserve what happened to them Saturday. I hope the YPD solves this one quickly so that justice can be served on those who did this terrible crime. Mayor Jay needs a plan to cleanup the southside before more die.

God bless his family and make them stronger!!!

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4Stan(9923 comments)posted 3 years, 12 months ago

Twenty years ago Forest City Auto Parts was forced to hire armed guards . The decay of the SouthSide is nothing new .

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5author50(1121 comments)posted 3 years, 12 months ago

Did Mr. Repchic stand up one too many times to the bad guys? He sounds like a man of valor and courage who wouldn't hesitate to get in the face of a punk. Sort of reminds me of the Clint Eastwood character from 'Gran Torino'.

The majority of small business owners and decent people in Youngstown are prisioners of their zip codes and this will not change until wholesale changes take place.

The former Craig Beach cop knows what he is saying when he says "...mere police presence isn't the only answer."

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6bob041(20 comments)posted 3 years, 12 months ago

i had a house in austintown that was abandon for 3 years the township tore it down and sent me the bill when i didnt pay it they put a lean on my house why dont youngstown do this why do we have to pay for someone else crap to clean up?

this is a horiable story to read about eldery people being victims of a senseless violence

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7mike10(84 comments)posted 3 years, 12 months ago

The thugs of Youngstown are like rats & wild dogs. They need be spayed, neutered and euthanatized.

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8One_Who_Stayed(237 comments)posted 3 years, 12 months ago

@censoredship
Yet again you've shown yourself to be a self-serving passive coward.

To take a tragedy like this and use it to spew more of your vile opinions about crime being a reason to run away to the burbs just disgusts me. This guy stood up for his home his family and what he believed in - which is a ton more than will ever be said about your sorry ass.

You do need to run away to the burbs, because when all of you cowards are gone then I'll know who I can count on to actually effect change around here. Please - stay out in the burbs with your head buried in the sand and when we run the gangstas out of town and they wind up in your backyard, you'll just have to run-away again (but by now you seem to be pretty good at that).

Coward - no more - no less.

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9redvert(2064 comments)posted 3 years, 12 months ago

“The only people that actually deal with the problems around here are the police. And it’s like the families, they bury their heads. NOBODY SAW WHAT HAPPENED” when police respond to an incident, Boston added.

That says it all! Think about that the next time you see some momma wailing about her son getting shot and crying about how he was trying to turn his life around since getting out of jail. Oh yes, he was also trying to take care of his babies, at least the ones he was aware of.

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10One_Who_Stayed(237 comments)posted 3 years, 12 months ago

Wow - what a badass you must be censoredship.
I'm sure the mean streets of Canfield are much safer with you on the lookout.

I see a lot of people posting things about the lack of police and such. The reason the burbs are safer is, in large part, due to the concerted efforts of the State Highway Patrol, who routinely patrol these places rather than confronting the areas where the actual crime is and their presence is desperately needed. Ever seen a state cop on the southside of Youngstown? - Neither have I, unless it was one of those stupid ass once a year "Zero Tolerance" days.

I pay every bit as much state tax as the average Poland or Boardman or Canfield resident. . . why do the OSP never patrol in Youngstown?

I agree - we need more cops. How about re-aligning the ones we are already paying for into the areas the problems are, rather than chasing stolen bicycles and broken mailboxes in the burbs.

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11walter_sobchak(1910 comments)posted 3 years, 12 months ago

censoredship,

I have to say, you couldn't be more correct. What we have here is the '60s coming home to roost. Government not holding anyone accountable for their actions and giving people money and housing, expecting nothing in return, including the obeyance of laws. So, we have a decrease in traditional families and an increase in broken homes. Women having more children out of wedlock and the govt giving them another check. Now, we have third generation of children having children, looking for more handouts, and a total lack of respect for self, others, and the law. What do we expect?

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12walter_sobchak(1910 comments)posted 3 years, 12 months ago

one_who_saved,

The reason the "mean streets of Canfield" are safe is because we demand it from our police force. They have zero-tolerance for any crime. If you don't believe me, go 40mph on 224 or 46 and you WILL find out. We do have crime, vandalism, hooliganism, shop-lifting, car break-ins, etc. But, we in Canfield have a vigilant police force that WE pay taxes (1% income tax) for and they do a great job keeping my neighborhood safe. It makes me feel good when I see a Canfield patrolman having a car pulled over and having it searched.

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13redvert(2064 comments)posted 3 years, 12 months ago

One_Who_Stayed, I am not sure whether the state charter is setup for the highway patrol to actually patrol streets like Market etc. inside Ytown city limits. perhaps someone with more knowledge on this can offer some info.

Reading comments about how Mr. Repchic would do his own neighborhood watch makes me wonder if this was a accidental shooting. I think he may of ruffled the culture. After all as stated earlier, I don't think his caddy would be mistaken for a pimped out ride!

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14redvert(2064 comments)posted 3 years, 12 months ago

I might add that censoredship's comments go for Poland also. The key is to not let it get out of control in the first place.

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15redvert(2064 comments)posted 3 years, 12 months ago

Opps, let me add New Middletown to the list also.

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16citizenx(9 comments)posted 3 years, 12 months ago

RIP Tom. Your kind heart will be missed by all who knew you. My heart goes out to the Repchic family. They have lost a loving husband, father and grandfather to senseless violence. It is frightening what little regard these young kids have for human life.

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17One_Who_Stayed(237 comments)posted 3 years, 12 months ago

"Is Youngstown entitled to use State Police resources? Sure, but I suspect the State folks are well spread out since they cover quite a bit more area than a small spec of a place like Youngstown."

Spread out keeping a strong presence in crime hot-beads like Alliance and Ravenna. . . As you have so often pointed out - the crime areas are in Youngstown - wouldn't it make more sense to put the cops there?

I must say though, your idea of the National Guard has merit. Personally, I wouldn't mind the National Guard's help at all. What the hell - they're just hanging out anyhow and I'm sure most of them would rather a deployment to Y-town more than one to Kabul.

"I am sure you don't see the State Patrol in Youngstown due to some political issues on Youngstown's part."

And you base this statement on what exactly? Your ESP of the inner workings of the city? I'm sure they aren't here because they're busy making money for the burbs from DUI's and speeding tickets.

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18BiggD357(9 comments)posted 3 years, 12 months ago

This is just another case of life in Youngstown. I live on the south side of town and it just gets worse and worse, year after year. It's not the good people of this city tearing down our foundation, obviously. It is these young thugs and wanna-be gangsters who ruin things for everyone. Take a ride down Market Street one day and look at what we have left there. Nothing. Rally's, gone. Giant Eagle, gone. Dollar General, gone and on and on. These animals have managed to run every business out of town. Store owners getting shot or robbed while trying to make an honest living for their families. People being shot in the parking lot after coming out of the Lord's house. What happened to values and morals? When will it end? Our city leaders need to step in, at some point, and get these animals off our city streets! If our current city leaders can't remedy this problem, we need to make our voices heard come election time.

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19Bigben(1996 comments)posted 3 years, 12 months ago

Ship the scum off to prison and keep them there.They don't seem to mind being there so give them what they want. Longer sentences are needed as well. What is this revolving door concept-the cops bust them then they are let out soon after-B.S. Lock them up and keep them there. Why is that such a difficult concept?I bet if you looked at these killer's rap sheets they would be quite long.If a person has proven time and time again that they can't adapt in society then what is the point of waiting until they kill?I would give these young thugs guilty of lesser crimes a choice of military school or prison.They need to be taught about what makes a decent human with firmness.

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20redvert(2064 comments)posted 3 years, 12 months ago

What would be the difference between the ONG "Ohio National Guard", the "National Guard" which would be the ONG in this case and the Ohio Guard which would be the ONG?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National...

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21redvert(2064 comments)posted 3 years, 12 months ago

The very first line of the URL you posted states,

"The Ohio Army National Guard is a part of the United States National Guard"

If you read the section about Korea you will see the terms Ohio National Guard and Ohio Guard used interchangeably in the same paragraph. I think they are the same thing. If I am wrong perhaps a current or past member of the guard can put this to rest.

Don't care to nitpick so I will leave it at that!

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22ytown_kills_me(64 comments)posted 3 years, 12 months ago

the thugs are like locust...they wait...move in....destroy and move on...and the south side is on their hit list....next it will be boardman etc....its already happening on the west side, just ask anyone who lives near Chaney

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23redvert(2064 comments)posted 3 years, 12 months ago

I will have to come back to agree with you on that point. I think that the federal government has final say on deployment to other countries. Brings up another point, could Pa. guardsman be deployed to Ohio if needed? Don't remember if a situation like that has occured in the past.

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24ash29(2 comments)posted 3 years, 12 months ago

Hey censoredship,I agree with what you said about the fact. By the way, I'm actually moving to Youngstown,where can I go online to find local rental ads in Youngstown?

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25DarrenJoyce(1 comment)posted 3 years, 12 months ago

I actually grew up in the house in the photo.
2920 Trenton Ave. a block from the Thomas Repchic Family. They are great people and were good neighbors. I live in California Now but lived with my family in that Home from Aprox. 1971-1986 What a shame to see the condition of my childhood home. It used to be beautiful.
God Bless the Repchic Family and our hearts and prayers are with them.
Darren Joyce

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26Bigben(1996 comments)posted 3 years, 12 months ago

Guard- They are one and the same. Both the Pres and the Governor may call upon them.

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27LikeaG20(2 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

Hey ash29,This is a phenomenal place to find local rental ads in Youngstown: http://www.acerenting.com/youngstown. I like it because their search feature allows you to
organize results based on exactly what you're looking for. And, the free rental alert email lets you know when what you're looking for become available immediately.

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