Photo by Dianne Stuckman
Danny LaRocco, a 28-year council veteran, was honored at his last council meeting with various awards and accolades.
By Dianne Stuckman
By running off to join the Army and enter World War II’s Pacific Theater at the tender age of 16 – he’d tried for the Marines at age 14 – longtime Coraopolis Councilman Danny LaRocco missed out on receiving his high school diploma.
That rite of passage was just recently experienced when Cornell Principal Jeff Carter presented an honorary 1945 high school diploma signed by Superintendent Aaron Thomas to LaRocco during a celebration honoring his 28 years of political service.
“We have had Mr. LaRocco up at the school in the past to speak with our students, and we think the world of him so it was an honor to finally get him his diploma,” said Thomas in an email exchange after the event.
The celebration occurred during LaRocco’s final borough council meeting held Dec. 8.
“We [at the borough] thought it would be nice to do for Danny. He left school and went into the military and then served Coraopolis for decades,” said Borough Manager Ray McCutcheon.
State Rep. Anita Kulik (D-45) also awarded him with a citation from the House of Representatives.
The incumbent lost his Ward 4 seat to Allison Virus during the 2021 election season.
Now 93, LaRocco has always given back.
“I love helping people,” said LaRocco. “I love the people of Coraopolis.”
His early years on council, though, weren't easy. The board was contentious.
“Every time I made a motion, I got turned down,” he said.
In time, he gained his footing.
“My dad taught me if you give respect, you get respect.”
He first ran for office during a time when he said taxes were increasing and community members were facing financial hardship.
LaRocco said he is most proud of road improvements completed during his legacy, especially repairs to a hazardous stretch of Montour Street that had been the site of several accidents each year.
During an on-site meeting called to discuss the issues with PennDOT representatives, a legislator, the chief of police and the mayor the unthinkable happened. The group witnessed an automobile accident which was quickly cleared.
Minutes later they found themselves running for cover as a truck barreled down the hill, narrowly missing each of them.
Work began two days later.
“I was proud of that,” he said.
As to his military service, LaRocco first tried to enlist with the Marines but was turned away.
The reason? He was just 14.
“I was told to get the heck out of there, come back when I'm 18,” he said.
Two years later, just weeks after turning 16, he left school and enlisted in the Army.
“I lied about my age. I told them I was 17 and a half,” he said. He served first in the Philippines and then Korea during World War II.
Besides serving his country and community, LaRocco has served in lighthearted ways as well.
He has worn the borough's Santa Claus suit for 70 years.
After a woman reminded him recently that she sat on his lap as a child, he said he told her, “Honey, you sat on my lap, your mother sat on my lap and your grandmother sat on my lap.”
For 30 years, LaRocco worked in the Blaw-Knox Foundry and then for the Coraopolis Street Department.
As a councilman, he often made a point to praise the public works department during council meetings, understanding the hard work they do. A lifelong Coraopolis resident, LaRocco and his late wife of 65 years, Norma Jean, raised their three children in the community.
As his political career comes to a close, LaRocco says he'll still attend council meetings but as a borough resident. He will frequent monthly VFW meetings, mow his grass, cook homemade spaghetti sauce and spend time with grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
No matter what, Coraopolis is where you'll find him.
“I just love this town so much.”