Texas Family Finds Nostalgic Waystation in North Belle Vernon

Article excerpt

One of the first things Shannon Lackey did when she learned that her husband, Wes, would be working on a project at Pittsburgh International Airport was to launch a search for housing in the region.

She didn't expect that quest to lead to North Belle Vernon.

"We looked at hotels and motels as well as private rental properties, but the costs were extremely high for a family of five," Lackey said. "Then I found Melanie's Web site, called her and knew her guesthouse was exactly what we needed.

"It's been a godsend to us."

Wes, an electrician, and Shannon are the parents of three children -- daughter Kody, 10, and sons Payton, 8, and Ethan, 6. They live in Bertram, Texas, a quiet community of 1,300 some 45 miles northwest of Austin and 1,412 miles from the Mon Valley.

"Melanie" is Melanie Stringhill Patterson, owner of The Good Ol' Days Nostalgic Guesthouse at 914 Broad Ave., in North Belle Vernon.

"We're delighted to have them here," Patterson said of the Lackeys. "They are a wonderful family, very outgoing and friendly. I'm going to miss them when they leave."

Wes, 36, works for Wells Global, a power systems integration firm based in Raleigh, N.C. that does work throughout the United States as well as internationally. His assignment at Pittsburgh International Airport involved installation of generators that help power the approach lights on one of the runways at the facility.

He was scheduled to work there for 30 days as part of a career that takes him to various parts of the country.

"I'm fortunate that all of my jobs have been in the United States," he said. "That affords Shannon and me the opportunity to have the children with us."

Lackey doesn't mind the daily round trip drive to and from the airport.

"It's really an easy trip," he said. "It's about 50 miles from here (North Belle Vernon) to the airport, but it's all interstate highway. It takes an hour or so each way, but the time passes quickly."

While her husband is working, Shannon, 31, a native of Louisiana, keeps busy with homeschooling their children.

"We're on the road a lot because of Wes' work," she said. "Family is very important to us and the children travel with us, so it's imperative that they continue to receive their educations. We follow an approved curriculum that focuses on the basics -- math, history, English, science. The children love it and it's something we can do together."

History and science studies have been enhanced by journeys throughout the Valley and beyond and at Patterson's guesthouse.

"This area has so much history," Shannon said. "Melanie has been so kind in taking us around the Valley. We spent a very enjoyable day in Donora and saw many beautiful buildings that were built decades ago. We learned a lot about the town and its history. It's fascinating to learn about the heritage of the communities and the people here. …