As area residents were busy preparing themselves for Thanksgiving, they took time to reflect on what they were most thankful for this year, with family at the forefront for many.
After losing her mother and husband within a few months of each other earlier this year, Westover resident Melanie Roland said she is most grateful for her daughter, Caitlin, as the pair head into their first holiday season as a family of two.
Passing time in the Logan Town Center Barnes & Noble before a dog grooming appointment the week before Thanksgiving, Roland said that she and Caitlin had been adopted by a family from their church. So far, the two families have spent the Fourth of July and a family reunion together, with plans to also meet up on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve.
“This will be kind of a new tradition for us,” Roland said.
While the Westover Baptist Church doesn’t have a large congregation, Caitlin said she knew the family’s grandson through school.
“They’re good people,” Roland said. “We have to keep an eye on each other.”
Altoona residents Laura and daughter, Rachael, were similarly thankful for their family, saying a lot of them have recently dealt with COVID-19.
“I don’t wish that on anyone,” Laura said.
While their family has a cabin where they usually spend holidays, Laura said this year it already has a tenant staying in it so 18 people will have to fit into her 1,500-square-foot home.
“I don’t know where we’re going to fit everybody,” she said.
Gallitzin couple Mike and Molly Zerbee said they were most thankful for the upcoming time they’ll get to spend with their son, Michael, who served in the military for 26 years.
Joining the Air Force right out of high school before switching to the Army, Molly said Michael served in Desert Storm and now works as a registered nurse at the VA Hospital.
This year, they plan on getting together with extended family to exchange names for Christmas.
“We’re getting T-shirts with Christmas stuff put on them and we’re going to get photos taken,” Molly said. “We’re just thankful to have everyone together with Michael.”
The couple, married for 53 years, were out that day doing “some odds and ends shopping” and stopped at Barnes & Noble for word jumbles, Mike said. They’ll be looking through them on a plane to Florida after the New Year, as the family is taking a trip to Disney World.
Tyrone Area High School student Summer Shaw said she was hanging out until job shadowing an architect and that she would be having dinner with her parents and grandparents.
“I’m just very thankful for my family and friends,” she said.
Bellefonte resident Kathy Walizer said she was thankful for both her family and good health. In Altoona looking at toys and getting Christmas gift ideas for her grandchildren, Walizer said she would be spending Thanksgiving with her brother and his family because it was their tradition.
John Crawford V of Everett was similarly browsing for gifts, but was doing so in between taking his grandmother to various appointments.
“I’m just trying to get a leg up on my brothers to be the favorite,” Crawford said, laughing.
Crawford said he is just happy and thankful to spend time with his family, including his three brothers and their families.
“It’s all about family and love and being able to celebrate freely together,” Crawford said. “Every year we gather, watch football, eat and spend time with each other.”
Chloe Stoehr, a junior at Hollidaysburg Area High School, contributed to this article while job shadowing at the Mirror on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022.
Mirror Staff Writer Rachel Foor is at 814-946-7458.