Toner Institute - 1945
Toner Institute, established in 1899, was an orphanage for boy's run by the Capuchin Franciscan Fathers. The school was named for Dr. James L. Toner of Westmoreland County, who provided in his will a fund to establish a school for boys from broken or disrupted homes. Originally located in Derry Township (Westmoreland County) and known as Toner Farm, the school moved to Brookline in 1917, relocating to homes along Dorchester Avenue.
A new complex, with a chapel, school and dormitories was built on the hilltop above Dorchester Avenue, at the end of Castlegate Avenue. Chartered and renamed Toner Institute in 1941, the campus was in operation until 1977.
Toner was a military type academy. The boys were taught the fundamentals of military drill and discipline while receiving a quality education. It was a common site at Brookline parades to see the finely dressed cadets from the school marching in formation in their West Point style dress uniforms.
The Toner Institute boy's choir was one of the finest in the area, performing during Mass at the local Catholic churches on holidays and special occasions.
The photo below was submitted by Annette Liscio of Dallas, Texas. It shows the Toner Institute boys at Confirmation in the Spring of 1940. Annette's brother-in-law, John Liscio, is shown in the top row, sixth from left. The son of Italian immigrants, John was born June 27, 1926. He lived in the Homewood-Brushton area with five brothers and a sister, including Annette's future husband Tony.
John was accepted into Toner through assignment from the juvenile courts. In February 1943, at the age of 16, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He listed his birthdate as 1925 so he could be eligible.
As a member of the 4th Marine Division, John fought at the battles of Kwajalein, Saipan, Tinian and Iwo Jima. A decorated veteran, John returned to Pittsburgh after the war and settled in Homewood, where he married and raised a family. John Liscio passed away in June 1989.
Note: John's brother Anthony Liscio played football for Westinghouse High School and went on to a nine year professional career with the Dallas Cowboys from 1963-1972.
Today, the area where the Toner Institute campus once stood is the site of The Devonshire of Mount Lebanon, a Senior assisted-living highrise complex.
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