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Ain’t no mountain high enough
Ain't no mountain high enough: McMurray couple raises funds with Kilimanjaro adventure

Dave and Brenda Tenison, of McMurray, liken their 18-year marriage to climbing a summit – it takes work, but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

And they would know.

The Tenisons returned last month from climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, East Africa. It was six days up and two days back, 43 miles and an elevation of 19,341 feet. Mt. Kilimanjaro is the world’s tallest free-standing mountain, and it was the first Brenda had ever climbed.

“I’d do it again,” she said. “I had never done anything like that before, so now I know I can do whatever.”

Dave, general manager of the Perryman Company, had been mountaineering, rock climbing and ice climbing for decades.

“I was worried she was going to hate me,” he said. “But she impressed the heck out of me.”

She’s been impressing the heck out of him since the first day they met in August of 2000 at a NASCAR race in Michigan. She lived in Michigan, while he lived in Pittsburgh.

For their first date that September, they agreed to meet in Chicago, as Dave was in town for a machine tool show. The one condition was he had to pay for her to have a hotel room, which was very expensive and difficult to find considering the convention in town.

“Dave was a gentleman, and it was the most expensive first date he’s ever had,” she said.

“But actually,” he responded, “it was priceless.”

They were married eight months later.

Dave proposed to her on Christmas Eve that year, and exactly 19 years later to the day, they started climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Living on the mountain for eight days was more difficult than the actual climbing, Brenda said, with getting little sleep in tents on rocky ground to not being able to bathe. They started their hike in rain forest conditions and ended in arctic weather and high altitude air quality. They had a guide and porters to carry the majority of their food and supplies.

Parts of the climb were also very steep, slippery and looked more like rock climbing than hiking. These portions were terrifying to Brenda, she said, but she was determined to not be the reason they had to abort the climb, “especially since this was his dream,” she said.

“I was in my 20s when I said I would climb Kilimanjaro someday,” Dave said. “Two years ago, at 58, I decided that I wanted to use this as a goal to get in shape and be young at 60. Overall, it exceeded my expectations, but it was tougher than I thought.”

The couple trained together for a year, hiking areas in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. They even used weighted vests while hiking the hills in their own neighborhood to condition for the trip.

That training paid off on the sixth day of their climb, or “summit day.”

The couple rested in the afternoon and woke up at 11 p.m. to start a six-hour overnight hike to the summit, Uhuru Peak – the tallest peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro. It was very dark, 15 degrees with 20 mph winds.

“That’s when all the frozen rock and ice and snow stay frozen,” Brenda said. “Once the sun hits, it could melt and start falling on you. All the way up, you’re trying not to get hurt, you’re trying not to rip anything, you’re trying not to get any digestive sicknesses and be very careful. Once we hit the summit, it was complete relief.”

The Tenisons completed their hike on New Year’s Eve, and soon after used it to raise money for Washington City Mission, where they’ve been volunteering for years. They set up a GoFundMe page and campaigned for people to donate to the City Mission a penny per meter of their hike. So far, the campaign raised more than $1,400.

“We wanted to make it more than just a climb,” Dave said. “There are similarities between climbing a mountain and recovering from addiction. Climbing a mountain is like step by step, and recovery can be taking it minute by minute.”

The Mission’s chief development officer, Sally Mounts, called the Tenisons “phenomenal supporters,” since Dave serves on the Mission’s board of directors and Brenda has led several galas and events.

“They are also very generous donors, and this climb to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro was a special way to blend their passion for City Mission with their love for travel and adventure,” Mounts said in an emailed statement. “We knew they would reach the top. They accomplish everything they set out to do, and then some.”

The Tenisons are already planning their next adventure. They’ve been traveling together for 18 years with a goal to see all seven continents and all 50 states. They each have five continents under their belts and Brenda needs to visit 14 more states to reach their goal. The only state Dave has yet to see is Hawaii.

“It’s not all flowers and rainbows,” Brenda said. “There’s a lot that goes into having a great marriage – it is a climb. We think marriage is the best thing on this earth.”

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Jury selection in Pagans' trial begins

Jury selection began Monday morning in Washington County Court in the trial of two members of the Pagans motorcycle club who are accused of attempted homicide in the beating of a former club member last year in Charleroi.

Additional summonses were mailed to ensure a large pool of potential jurors.

Judge John DiSalle is presiding at the trial of Joseph Olinsky III, 46, of McKeesport, and Matthew Vasquez, 31, of Monessen.

Troy Harris, 54, was injured the night of April 18 inside the Slovak Club, 700 McKean Ave.

Harris was formerly a Pagan, but left at some point and joined the offshoot Sutars Soldiers Motorcycle Club.

The victim was unconscious when he was hospitalized at Allegheny General, Pittsburgh. He spent several months as a patient and in various other care facilities, using a cane and undergoing speech therapy because of the extent of his injuries.

One member of the Pagans is cooperating with the government. So are several nonmembers who are charged with having been involved.

The jury selection process continued throughout the day Monday and beyond the usual courthouse closing time of 4:30 p.m.

Deputy District Attorneys Jason Walsh and Leslie Ridge are prosecuting the case. Olinsky is represented by Renee Colbert and Vasquez’s attorney is Stephen Colafella.

Caucus voting underway; Iowa may clarify Democratic field

DES MOINES, Iowa – Iowa voters packed caucus sites across the state Monday night as Democrats balanced a strong preference for fundamental change with an overwhelming desire to defeat President Donald Trump in the opening contest of the 2020 presidential primary season.

State party officials were counting votes amid reports of strong turnout in some precincts, with at least four leading candidates battling for the chance to take on Trump in November. Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses have been expected to provide some clarity for what has been a muddled nomination fight for much of the last year.

The caucuses offered the opening test suggesting who and what the party stands for in the turbulent age of Trump. It’s just the first in a primary season that will span all 50 states and several U.S. territories, ending only at the party’s national convention in mid-July.

For Democrats, the moment was thick with promise for a party that has seized major gains in states since Trump won the White House in 2016. But instead of clear optimism, a cloud of uncertainty and intraparty resentment hung over Monday’s election as the prospect of an unclear result raised fears of a long and divisive primary fight in the months ahead.

The candidates fanned out across the state to rally their supporters.

“I’m the one who can pull our party together,” Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren told supporters on a telephone call before voting began, suggesting her rivals could not. They said they were the ones to bring unity.

One unsurprising development: Trump won the Republican caucus, a largely symbolic victory given that he faced no significant opposition.

Polls suggested that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders might have a narrow lead, but any of the top four candidates – Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden, Warren and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg – could score a victory in Iowa’s unpredictable and quirky caucus system as organizers prepared for record turnout. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who represents neighboring Minnesota, was also claiming momentum, while outsider candidates including entrepreneur Andrew Yang, billionaire activist Tom Steyer and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard could be factors.

Roughly two-thirds of Iowa caucusgoers said supporting a candidate who would fundamentally change how the system in Washington works was important to their vote, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of voters who said they planned to take part in Monday’s Democratic caucuses.

That compared to about a third of caucusgoers who said it was more important to support a candidate who would restore the political system to how it was before Trump’s election in 2016.

Not surprisingly, nearly every Iowa Democrat said the ability to beat Trump was an important quality for a presidential nominee. VoteCast found that measure outranked others as the most important quality for a nominee.

Iowa Democrats also reported two major issues dominating their thoughts: health care and climate change.

By midday Monday, a handful of satellite caucuses had already taken place–some thousands of miles away from Iowa. In Glasgow, Scotland, Sanders received the most support from the 19 caucus-goers who attended, while Warren came in second and Buttigieg came in third. No other candidates were viable.

In Iowa, some 200,000 voters were expected.

Three senators in the field left Iowa late Sunday to return to the U.S. Capitol for Trump’s impeachment trial, but did what they could to keep their campaigns going from Washington. While Warren held her telephone town hall, Klobuchar’s husband and daughter appeared at a canvass launch in Des Moines.

In suburban Des Moines, Buttigieg delivered about 100 volunteers a last shot of encouragement before they stepped out into the chill to knock on doors for him around midday Monday.

“We are exactly where we need to be to astonish the political world,” he said, igniting cheers for the 38-year-old former midsize-city mayor, who was an asterisk a year ago and is now among the top candidates.

Meanwhile, Biden and his wife, Jill, delivered pizza Monday to a few dozen volunteers working the phones at his south Des Moines field office.

“I feel good,” he said as he walked in, sporting his signature aviator sunglasses.

Iowa offers just a tiny percentage of the delegates needed to win the nomination but plays an outsize role in culling primary fields. A poor showing in Iowa could cause a front-runner’s fundraising to slow and support in later states to dwindle, while a strong result can give a candidate much needed momentum.

The past several Democrats who won the Iowa caucuses went on to clinch the party’s nomination.

The 2020 fight has played out over myriad distractions, particularly congressional Democrats’ push to impeach Trump, which has often overshadowed the primary and effectively pinned several leading candidates to Washington at the pinnacle of the early campaign season.

Meanwhile, ultrabillionaire Mike Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, is running a parallel campaign that ignores Iowa as he prepares to pounce on any perceived weaknesses in the field come March.

The amalgam of oddities, including new rules for reporting the already complicated caucus results, was building toward what could be a murky Iowa finale before the race pivots quickly to New Hampshire, which votes just eight days later.

New party rules may give more than one candidate an opportunity to claim victory in Iowa, even if they aren’t the official winner.

For the first time, the Iowa Democratic Party reported three sets of results at the end of the state’s first-in-the-nation caucuses: a tally of caucus-goers’ initial candidate preference; vote totals from the “final alignment” after supporters of lower-ranking candidates were able to make a second choice, and the total number of State Delegate Equivalents each candidate receives.

There is no guarantee that all three will show the same winner.

The Associated Press will declare a winner based on the number of state delegates each candidate wins, which has been the traditional standard.

Many of the Democratic presidential candidates have possible weaknesses when challenging Trump, VoteCast found.

Some 4 in 10 Iowa voters said it would be harder for a woman to unseat the president. Almost 6 in 10 said a gay candidate would have more difficulty defeating Trump, a potential risk for Buttigieg. Roughly the same share said a nominee with “strongly liberal views” would also face a harder time, while close to half said a nominee older than 75 – Biden and Sanders – would have a tougher time versus Trump.


Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”