White Swan Park founder Roy C. Todd dies at 95

By | September 10, 2012

Roy C. Todd, founder and builder of the former White Swan Park near Moon, Pa., died Sept. 2 at his daughter’s home in Mesa, Ariz. He was 95.

Born on Nov. 14, 1916, Todd grew up in North Fayette, Pa. At 17, he found employment in area coal mines and worked the coal veins for five years. He married Katherine Valenti in 1941, just seven weeks before Peal Harbor was attacked by the Japanese. After the U.S. military rejected him because of a heart murmur, he spent the war years as a welder at Westinghouse where he built electric switch gear boxes for warships.

Beginning in 1949, Todd, along with his wife, his sister Margaret Kleenan and her husband, Edward, built and opened the Crafton Diner on Route 60 followed by the Pittsburgh Motel. Though successful, Todd and his team longed for a more family-friendly business. And so began the dream that would become White Swan Park.

Todd purchased 47 acres in 1952 at what is now the intersection of I-376 and Route 60. He drained a swamp, created three lakes, poured concrete and built the park’s signature picnic shelters. From the start, White Swan was a family enterprise, with the owners living on the property.

The name ‘White Swan Park’ was selected because Todd planned to feature swans in the lakes. The idea was scrapped after it was determined the birds would be prey for local wildlife. However, the park’s name was retained. According to records, White Swan opened in 1955 with seven rides. The arsenal eventually grew to 15 along with mini-golf, a skating rink, arcade games and fishing. Though White Swan was smaller than its competitors like Kennywood and West View, it still had a loyal following with locals due to its inexpensive pricing. During its most successful seasons, the park drew up to 100,000 people each year and was a popular site for company picnics and reunions.

Todd absolutely loved White Swan. He wore many hats, even serving as the maintenance man and grounds keeper when it was necessary. It is said that when ride operators needed a break, he filled in because he wouldn’t trust anyone who didn’t know the attractions intimately.

Following his wife’s death in 1985, it was discovered the park stood in the way of a planned highway that would lead to the expanding Pittsburgh International Airport. White Swan Park closed in 1989. PennDOT paid more than $4 million for the property and attractions. The Galaxi Coaster went to Joyland Park in Lubbock, Texas with the Mad Mouse finding an extension on life at Lakemont Park in Altoona, Pa.

Todd purchased a home in Findlay, Pa. where he maintained the grounds with the love and perfection he had once lavished on White Swan.

Todd is survived by a sister, Grace Siry; three daughters, Janet Bundy of Moon, Marlene Moore of Bluffton, S.C., and Kathy McDonald of Mesa, Ariz; five grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.

A memorial service was held Sept. 8 at Wharton-Herrick Funeral Home, Imperial, with interment in the Valley Cemetery in Imperial, Pa.


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