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After 70 years, Kilgore Towing passing (PA)


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Passing from father to son to great-grandson this is:


HERMITAGE — Even before Josh Cidila could walk, he was going on tow truck runs with his grandfather.

He even had a onesie emblazoned with the name of the family business.


Kilgore Towing, which marked its 70th anniversary this week, is a family business, and not just in the sense that Roger took over the business in 1972 from his father, Grant. The child safety seats in his big flatbed emphasize the primacy of family.

“When they were born, before they went home from the hospital, they each got a picture with my dad in front of a tow truck,” said Roger’s daughter, and Josh’s mom, Jennifer Cidila.

Roger Kilgore grew up in the solid brick building on East State Street in Hermitage that then — as now — serves as the headquarters of Kilgore Towing. The business was founded as an Esso gas station in 1948.

By the time Roger took over the business, it was an Ashland station, about to become Union 76, before he tore out the pumps to concentrate on service, towing and truck rentals.

After taking over the business from his father and seeing it through for 46 years, Roger is preparing to hand over the business, not to the next generation, but the generation after that. When the time comes, which won’t be for at least a few more years, 15-year-old Josh will be the next Kilgore to run business.

And he’s been waiting for a long time, his mom said. Josh has been his grandfather’s sidekick since he went on that first tow truck run at the age of 6 weeks.

“Since he went to preschool, he called it his business,” Jennifer said. “People used to say that he was a 50-year-man in a 4-year-old body.”

Josh won’t have a driver’s license for about another year, so Roger drives the tow truck on its runs, but Josh does most of the tow truck runs, except when he is in school at Hickory High School.


But he would much rather be at the former than the latter.

“I’d choose here over school any day,” he said. 


And Roger would rather have Josh or one of his other grandchildren — Joey Cidila, 12, Emma Kate Wanchisn, 5, and Isabelle Wanchisn, 3. When he ordered his latest flatbed tow truck, Roger wanted a four-door cab, which made it larger than normal, in case all four of his grandchildren went along for the ride.

But even if they aren’t with him in body, they always accompany him in spirit. Their names are painted in blue on the big flatbed’s white cab.

Jennifer said her father instilled his daughters with a strong work ethic. She works at an accounting firm in New Castle, and her sister, Amy Wanchisn, is principal at Artman Elementary School in the Hermitage School District.

“His philosophy was you treat the customer the way you’d like to be treated and you’ll do just fine,” Jennifer said.

He is now passing those lessons along to his grandchildren.

Josh said he is looking forward to the day when he can drive and hook up vehicles, and beyond that to when he is behind the counter at Kilgore Towing.

“I haven’t gotten a chance to think about it that much,” he said. “It’s more about the shoes I’m going to have to fill, my grandfather, my great-grandfather.”


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