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Race honors late Tamaqua teacher, mentor, friend

There was a gathering of heroes at the third annual Supurban 5K Run and 1-Mile Fun Run and Walk in Tamaqua on Saturday in memory of a real superhero who passed away two years ago.

The fundraising run, sponsored by the Thelma Urban Memorial Fund, was established in 2015 in memory of the late Tamaqua Area High School English/language arts teacher Thelma R. (Glatz) Urban, who died unexpectedly at the age of 40 on June 22, 2015. During her 15 years at the school, her love of learning and caring for others left an imprint on the hearts and minds of her students, fellow teachers and others.

Held at the Tamaqua Area School District Sports Complex, the event proceeds fund scholarships for her children, Sean and Violet, and for a graduating Tamaqua Area senior who will major in language arts or communications.

Because of the superhero theme, there were many participants dressed in costumes, the most popular with a Superman theme. Batman was also popular, Spider-Man and The Avengers were represented, and Leia Organa and Luke Skywalker also traveled from “a galaxy far, far away” by way of State College.

Race director Roseann M. Weinrich, who is a high school biology teacher and was a friend of Urban, has been an organizer of the event since the beginning. Weinrich was dressed in a blue costume with a Superman emblem, a bright red cape and blue socks with little capes on them.

“It’s called Supurban because Thelma was a superhero for everyone and we wanted to incorporate that superhero concept into her last name,” Weinrich said before the race.

She said the original idea was for the race to go through Tamaqua, but due to issues closing sections of Routes 209 and 309 in the borough on a Saturday morning, the race route has stayed mainly on the Tamaqua Area Sports Complex with some changes over the years. With the improvements in the cross-country course in the past year, the entire 3.1-mile course is on campus.

Weinrich has taught at Tamaqua Area for 24 years, so she knew Urban from when she became a teacher in 2000.

“She would always accommodate people. If you needed something, she was right there,” Weinrich said. “She was that nice. She would never say no to anybody. She was a kindhearted soul and really out for the underdog. She had a lot of students who felt marginalized in the school and they felt very comfortable with her.”

Urban was the wife of Michael H. Urban and was born in Coaldale. A 1993 graduate of Panther Valley High School, she earned her secondary education degree from Bloomsburg University, her master’s degree in English and publishing from Rosemont College, and was working toward her doctorate at Lehigh University.

“Most of the money raised will go to her children, Sean and Violet, and we take out $1,000 as a scholarship for a graduating Tamaqua Area senior who is majoring in some type of communications field,” Weinrich said.

In the first year, scholarships were awarded to two seniors, Victoria LaBar and Hoyt Gyuricsek.

“We gave out two scholarships that year because they were both very close to her,” Weinrich said. “It was important to us that we help somehow to help them heal, and plus we’re looking out for Sean and Violet.”

LaBar was ready to race on Saturday under the overcast skies, wearing her Albright College athletics T-shirt. She participated in the 2015 event, but missed 2016 due to a schedule conflict. LaBar had fond memories of Urban, who was her language teacher in freshman and junior years.

“She was my school mom,” LaBar said. “She was always so great, but also so humble and always cared for everyone around her. She put everyone else first before herself. I strive to be like her. She loved animals. She was perfect.”

Gyuricsek provided the music as a DJ and announcer. A Tamaqua Area graduate, he is a student at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He also was a student of Urban in his freshman and junior years.

“She’s a major reason why I am pursuing my career,” Gyuricsek said. “She was one specific teacher that always pushed me to just be myself and be who I am today. On one of my last papers that I wrote for her class, her comment was ‛You do you.’ So whenever I’m in a time of distress, my mom always says that to me. She is someone I keep near and dear to my heart.”

Gyuricsek said that he received $750 with the scholarship, with a similar amount going to LaBar. He explained that the first scholarship was planned to be $1,000 for one student, but when it was split, the total was $1,500 so he and LaBar would get $750 each.

Aimee Benulis of Schuylkill Haven was also dressed in a Superman-style costume for the race, which she has attended each year. Benulis did not know Urban, but her sister was a Tamaqua Area student, and her son is a friend of Sean Urban.

“When they said it was a superhero theme, I got the costume and wear it every year,” Benulis said.

Maizy Troxell of Walker Township volunteered at registration.

“We were the last class to have her as students. She was always such a sweet lady,” Troxell said.

Tamaqua Area elementary teachers Dylan and Amanda Peters of Tamaqua attended with their 5-year-old daughter, Madeline, who was dressed as Supergirl.

“I didn’t really know her because I’m an elementary teacher, but my wife attended Tamaqua Area and knew her, but we always support our school district,” Dylan Peters said.

“I graduated in 2003. She was wonderful. She was absolutely amazing,” Amanda Peters said.

Teacher’s aide Lynn Zancofsky of Tamaqua volunteered on Saturday and worked with Urban.

“She was a great lady and I had the opportunity to work with her over the years. You could not find a better person. She never put herself first. She always made sure the kids and the faculty she worked with was always first, as were her children and her husband. She was awesome.”

The event also included a bounce house, a Chinese auction, food and more.


The top five overall results of the race by rank, name, age and time for men and women:

Men’s Runners:

1. Jared Buchman, 41, 0:19:43.

2. Dair Miller, 17, 0:20:31.

3. Ray Beaver, 53, 0:20:58.

4. Matthew Nojiri, 29, 0:21:07.

5. Derian Stianche, 16, 0:21:54.

Women’s Runners:

1. Kailee Carroll, 17, 0:21:05.

2. Frances Kabana, 14, 0:22:03.

3. Grace Stegemerten, 12, 0:22:11.

4. Gina Manbeck, 29, 0:22:20.

5. Victoria LaBar, 18, 0:22:23.

Runners in the third annual Supurban 5K race on Saturday had a good day for the 3.1-mile run in and around the Tamaqua Area High School sports complex. In this group of runners is Victoria LaBar, front right, who is a Tamaqua Area graduate and one of two seniors who received scholarship funds raised in the first race in 2015. JOHN E. USALIS/TIMES NEWS
Aimee Benulis, right, of Schuylkill Haven, registers on Saturday morning for the third annual Supurban 5K held at the Tamaqua Area Sports Complex. Assisting in the registration of runners for the memorial fundraising event were, from left, Tamaqua Area senior Maizy Troxell of Walker Township, and Tamaqua Area graduate Kyle Weaver. JOHN E. USALIS/TIMES NEWS