Pictured on the left is Paul Cooney, THE classic example of a self made man. And Marcelle’ Cooney, THE classic example of the supporting woman behind every successful man. The Cooney family is THE major benefactor of the LWHS by a significant factor of more than $60,000.
Paul and his two brothers, Chuck and Jimmy, were raised on a farm and worked in mines during the 1940s and early 1950s. In December of 1955, Paul, who had just married Marcelle' Panek, approached Les Piper about strip mining the Piper coal properties. Many were pessimistic about the Cooney brother's chance of success in this new venture.
But Les Piper encouraged them, allowed them to strip the Piper properties and use his tipple. In addition he brokered all the coal that Cooney Bros. Coal Co. could strip. Paul always contended that “Les Piper was the best man that ever lived; and we would not have survived without him.”
The Cooneys were hard-working Irishmen who treated their employees with respect and dignity and worked along side them. The employees, in turn, were very loyal. By 1988, there were 200 employees producing a million and a half tons of coal a year and Cooney Bros. was the largest strip mining operation in Pennsylvania.
Charles (Chuck) always said Paul (Buddy) was the brains of the company, and was the brother that took care of business including the determination of to whom contributions would be made.
As the company became more and more successful, Paul's “giving” became more “generous.” The Cooney name is on donor's plaques throughout Lilly Borough and Washington Township. It is worth noting, that the Cooneys are residents of Cresson Township – although in 2011, Paul and Marcelle’ were made honorary citizens of Lilly Borough and Washington Township.
When I, as President of the LWHS, approached Paul with some project, he always came through, and told me he thought he owed the people of Lilly Borough and Washington Township a debt of gratitude for all the years they put up with his trucks coming through the community with their “dirty” loads of coal.
The donor plaques do not tell the whole story of Paul's generosity – there are countless cases of Paul covering bills of someone in need, leaving a basket of food on the porch of a hungry family, or making Christmas “merry” for a family down on their luck – always anonymously.