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American History, Social Studies and Economics Teacher
Baldwin-Whitehall High School
Art Strelick still enjoys travels that mix business, pleasure... By Ron Paglia, For The Tribune-Review, December 31, 2006
You might think Arthur "Art" Strelick may have longed to settle down in one place after more than 30 years of traveling around the world in myriad Foreign Service assignments with the U.S. State Department. On the contrary, the Charleroi native and his wife, Heidi, still enjoy going on the road as antique dealers. "We sell vintage costume jewelry, works of art, small furniture items, coins, militaria and other small collectibles," said Strelick, who now lives in Alexandria, Va. "We sell on weekends at indoor and a few outdoor antique shows in Washington, D.C., Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. We average 20 to 25 shows a year. It's a lot of fun, something we can do together." Strelick, 67, embarked on a desire to "see the world" only a few weeks after graduation from Charleroi High School in 1957. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. Upon completing boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., he was promoted to private first class and assigned to Advanced Infantry Training at Camp LeJeune, N.C. From there he drew duty at the Marine Corps Supply Depot in Albany, Ga., and entertained thoughts of going overseas. But that didn't happen. "I was a supply administrative clerk and spent the next two and a half years issuing supplies to Marine bases all over the world," Strelick said. It was during his tenure in the Marine Corps that Strelick made up his mind to attend college. He enrolled at The Pennsylvania State University and graduated in 1964 with a bachelor's degree in secondary education. "It was an unforgettable experience," he recalled. "From my first semester on, I worked as a campus police officer and in dining halls until graduation." Strelick fulfilled his student teaching requirements at a junior high school in Mt. Lebanon. After graduation from Penn State, he taught American history, social studies and economics at Baldwin-Whitehall High School, but longed for something else as a career path. "I wasn't satisfied with teaching and decided to attend law school at the University of Pittsburgh," he said. "Very early in that first year, however, I came to the conclusion that the law was not for me. In the spring of 1966, I took the Foreign Service exam and in June was accepted and assigned to the Basic Foreign Service Course in Rosslyn, Va." Strelick completed that schooling in September and his first assignment as a Foreign Service Officer was with the American Consulate General in Munich, Germany. He also was assigned to the Foreign Service Institute's German Language School. He completed that course in December 1966 and in the first week of January 1967 sailed for Europe on the SS United States, going, as he remembers, "first class!" "I like to tell my foreign friends that my grandfather sailed to America in the 1880s on the lower decks of an immigrant ship, and two generations later his grandson sailed to Europe as a diplomat and first-class passenger," he said. In Munich, Strelick began work as a consular officer and held that position for six months before transferring to the administrative section, where he spent the rest of his 30-year career with the Foreign Service before retiring in 1996. At other diplomatic posts he performed a variety of administrative duties "similar to those required for the day-to-day operations of a major company," he explained. "At an overseas embassy or consulate, administrative officers are responsible for providing leased or government-owned housing for its employees and, in many cases, household furniture and furnishings," Strelick said. "The administrative section meets new employees, clears them and their personal effects and household items through customs, imports or arranges for purchase of their vehicles, arranges for the children's education and makes sure that the employee has office space, furniture, machines, equipment and supplies to carry out the diplomatic responsibilities of the nation." In addition, Strelick said, administration also runs a motor pool, garage and repair facilities and operates a maintenance unit responsible for repairs of offices, equipment, buildings and households. "Needless to say, this requires a lot of management, coordination, record keeping, accountability, contracting and oversight," Strelick said. "I was responsible for all of the logistical support leading up to the signing of the Middle East Peace Treaty between Israel and Egypt in Cairo in 1979," Strelick said. While on assignment in a small European country not friendly to the United States, Strelick, on several occasions, assisted some 30 individuals from an East Bloc country who were vacationing to leave the country without the knowledge of the host nation or their own officials and seek political asylum in a friendly Western European country. "In April 1966 I was responsible for all the transportation arrangements for the then first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and her daughter, Chelsea, while they were in Greece to represent the United States at the lighting of the Olympic Flame in Olympia," Strelick said. "I am very proud to have a very nice photo and personal letter from Mrs. Clinton thanking me for my work." From a "strictly personal experience," Strelick and his wife received much satisfaction in 1995 when they rediscovered and documented about 200 graves from a long-lost Jewish cemetery in the jungles of Suriname. "Others took over our work after we finished our assignment, and today the site is under United Nations World Historical Protection," Strelick said. Strelick said he can't point to any one person or event that inspired him to join the Foreign Service. "Perhaps it was growing up in a closed environment of a working-class family in Charleroi combined with the fact that I did not travel outside the United States in the Marine Corps that inspired me to see the rest of the world," he said. "I can't think of a better way than in the Foreign Service." Strelick is the oldest of three sons of the late Paul and Margaret Nagy Strelick. Art Strelick said he had "few role models in life." "In the 30-plus years I was with the Foreign Service, I had only one supervisor who, while not a role model, really understood and appreciated my work," he said. "Things are very different today for high school student scholars seeking college admission," Strelick said. "I'm very proud of getting and staying married to a wonderful woman for 37 years and producing a daughter I'm very proud of," Strelick said from his home in Alexandria, Va. The Charleroi native met his wife, the former Adelheid "Heidi" A. Koob, in Munich, Germany, while he was assigned to the American Consulate General in the early part of his Foreign Service career. "We were married in Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in 1969," Strelick said. "Our daughter, Adelheid B., was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka in 1974 when we were on R&R leave from the American Embassy in Saigon, Vietnam." The Strelicks' daughter, also called Heidi, started going to ballet school at age 4. "For the next 12 years I tried to balance my career and assignments with providing my daughter with the best ballet training available," Strelick said. "She came into her own in Brazil where she won silver and bronze medals two years in a row at national dance competitions." While the family was assigned to diplomatic posts in Germany from 1990-93, Heidi attended and graduated from Bonn American High School with honors. At the same time, she attended schools of performing arts in Cologne and Frankfurt, Germany. "She mastered all aspects of the courses, in the German language, and graduated with a degree in performing arts," Strelick said. Heidi then accepted a position at the City Theater (Theater Ulm) in Ulm, Germany, where she is still performing. "She is the senior dancer and has won a local award for performer of the year and received much critical acclaim for her dancing and choreography," Strelick said. There's a touch of Charleroi in Heidi's repertoire. "My daughter received very good reviews for her production of the ballet '1118 Lincoln Avenue,'" Strelick said with a poignant tone in his voice. That address is where Strelick and his brothers, Paul and Gerald, grew up with their parents, the late Paul and Margaret Nagy Strelick. | Geraldine Marr, '56 | Kaye Eisenhower, '52 | Joseph Kormuth, '57 | Neil Lucas, '51 | Joseph Miller, '56 | David W. Jones, Sr., '57 | John (Jack) Stech, '51 | Bill & Joann Hagerty, '51 | Jack Fegela, '58 | Art Strelick, '59 | Roger Hough, '56 | Jack Young, '52 |