BOARDMAN – Boardman’s Richard Scarsella wears a lot of hats these days, but that’s nothing new for this Valley native.
Since he was a young boy, he developed a passion for giving back and does so today through several organizations, including several that he leads. Scarsella was born and raised on the West Side of Youngstown. He attended Ursuline High School and graduated in 1972.
He was taught to give at an early age by his father, Alfred Scarsella, and he did so through lectures and by example.
“My dad believed you should give back to your community,” Scarsella said. “He used to buy YMCA passes and give them to the kids. I learned (early in life) that you either talk about it or do something about it. I decided to be a doer.
It grew around much of the area’s local history. His great-uncle, PJ Ross, bought the Renner family mansion in Youngstown. The Renners operated Renner Brewing Co. Scarsella said he remembers running into that huge mansion.
After graduating from high school, Scarsella went to Europe as part of a foreign study league. His passion for history has taken him across Eastern and Western Europe as well as the former Soviet Union. Upon returning to the area, he became involved in the family business, Scarsella Furniture.
“I worked there for several years and then taught interior design at Mahoning County Career and Technical Center (MCCTC),” he said.
He also got a teaching job at Youngstown State University, continued his job at the MCCTC, and helped his mother, Marie Antoinette Scarsella, who ran Marie Antoinette Bridal and Edie’s Bridal of Boardman.
After a fire destroyed the valley’s most popular amusement park (Idora Park) on April 26, 1984, Scarsella tried to help save what was left. He co-founded the Idora Park Historical Society and founded the Idora Park Institute. He commissioned prints of Idora Park from local artists, Marty Cohol and Bob Barko Jr. The groups were divided on how to save the park, and it was eventually sold to a church and the rides and equipment were sold. been sold at auction.
“We were so close to opening the park,” he said.
While working with the Idora groups, he said he met an architect named Tom Bode, who was part of the William Holmes McGuffey Historical Society. The company owned 73 acres of land near where McGuffey grew up. McGuffey, a professor at the University of Miami in Oxford, Ohio, and a Presbyterian minister, is known for developing the McGuffey Reader in the 1830s, which became one of the first American textbooks intended to teach reading to students in 1st to 6th grade.
Scarsella said Bode involved him in the company and he eventually became president. Under his leadership, the company was able to deed the 73 acres to Mill Creek MetroParks, which maintains them as the McGuffey Wildlife Preserve in Coitsville.
“We gave the property to Mill Creek Park because we didn’t want it to be drilled or built on,” Scarsella said.
In his passion for history, he was also involved in the Boardman Historical Society, of which he remains a member and served one term as president. He is also a founding member of the Mahoning Valley Preservation Society and has served on the advisory board of the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor (Steel Museum) and the board of the Youngstown Steel Heritage Foundation.
As an educator, Scarsella is a member of the Ohio Education Association, Youngstown Education Association, National Education Association, Association of Career and Technical Education, and Ohio School Boards Association. He is a long-time member of the local Youngstown Schools Professional Development Committee.
In 2005, Scarsella was elected to the Education Service Center of Eastern Ohio (ESCEO) Board of Trustees and was also appointed to the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center (MCCTC). He still sits on both and is the current president of ESCEO.
A graduate summa cum laude from Boston College, with a Bachelor of Arts in History/Secondary Education, he also earned a Master of Science in Educational Administration from Youngstown State University and a Master of Science in Special Education. He continued his education at Ashland University, Walsh College, and Kent State University, where he earned transition-to-work approval.
Besides history and educational organizations, Scarsella has also been involved in government and community efforts. He was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Mahoning Valley Regional Council of Governments (MVRCOG) in 2017, where he is Chairman, and he is the former Chairman, Supervisor and Associate Supervisor of the Mahoning Soil and Water Conservation Board of Supervisors since 2010 He is also active in Boardman Boosters, St. Charles Home and School Executive Cabinet, Ethnic Heritage Society, Sister Jerome’s Mission College Advisory Board, Mill Creek MetroParks’ Board of Commissioners Interview Committee and Citizens’ Advisory Development Committee and Brier Hill Cultural Center. He is a long-time member of the Boardman Civic Association, Friends of Boardman Library and Friends of Fellows Riverside Gardens. On the Mahoning Valley Vision for Education Task Force, he represented Boardman. As if all that wasn’t enough, he also founded Sacred Places Dialogue in 2012.
Sacred Places Dialogue has given religious congregations faced with the closure of their church a procedure to try to save or reuse it. He led the congregation of St. Casimir’s Polish Catholic Church, in the Brier Hill neighborhood of Youngstown, in the purchase of the parish land and its reopening as the Brier Hill Cultural Center. He also consulted with the parish councils of John Knox Presbyterian, Mahoning Methodist and Metropolitan Baptist, all in Youngstown.
Today, Scarsella is still involved with most of the organizations he has been a part of over the years. The McGuffey Historical Society is the one he still runs and helps plan a list of speakers at each monthly meeting. He is doing similar planning with the Boardman Historical Society.
In 2005 Scarsella published “Memories and Melancholy: Reflections of the Mahoning Valley”, which is still in print today. He previously wrote a column for Town Crier newspapers and was a frequent guest speaker at many different venues.
All of these volunteer efforts are managed while working full-time as an administrator with the Youngstown City School District and the Choffin Career and Tech Center as the Vocational Training Coordinator.
When asked how he does it, Scarsella replied, “You have to multitask, prioritize and take care of your own health. I know that when I finally retire, it will all still feel like a full-time job.
At 67, he finds time to relax a bit and enjoys visiting the library, reading about history and watching period films and old news reels. And he’s not shy about encouraging people to “get involved” and make a difference. He credits three people for helping him along his path in life.
“My role models and inspiration came from good friends Senator Harry Meshel, Sister Jerome Corcoran and Professor Al Bright,” Scarsella said. “They had a great influence on me and motivated me to become an agent of change.”