Burns bills naming bridges after WWII veteran and state trooper, both killed in line of duty, unanimously pass House

HARRISBURG, Feb. 10 – Bills to name separate Cambria County bridges after a World War II soldier killed in action and a state trooper who died in the line of duty unanimously passed the House this week, said state Rep. Frank Burns, their prime sponsor.

“It is gratifying to see full support in the House for these bills, which would honor the memories of two brave men – one a soldier, the other a state trooper – who died in the performance of their duties,” said Burns, D-Cambria.

House Bill 1260 would rename a bridge on a portion of Cooney Road spanning Route 22 in Munster Township as the PFC Thomas A. Cooney Memorial Bridge.

Born on April 28, 1917 and the son of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Cooney of Cambria County, Thomas Cooney and his three brothers were raised on a farm outside Lilly. 

While serving in the European Theater of Operation on Oct. 20, 1944, Thomas Cooney volunteered for a mine removal mission and continued in the face of enemy observation and direct hostile fire. He and his fellow engineers encountered heavy sniper and machine gun fire as they cleared mines along a strategically important road in France.
Although seeking to find cover as ordered and awarded the Silver Star for gallantry, Cooney was later killed in action along with three other engineers when a delayed-action mine detonated.

House Bill 1371 would rename a bridge spanning U.S. 219 on Tower Road in Croyle Township as the Trooper Herbert A. Wirfel Memorial Bridge, to honor the Pennsylvania state trooper who lost his life Feb. 7, 1982 while on duty.

Born in New Germany, Pa., on Oct. 16, 1936 and the second-oldest of nine children of John and Genevieve Wirfel, Herbert Wirfel served with the U.S. Air Force from December 1956 to December 1960. Enlisting in the Pennsylvania State Police in Portage in 1961, he was assigned to Troop D in Butler following graduation.

On Feb. 7, 1982, Wirfel was patrolling U.S. Route 22 in Cambria County when an unidentified vehicle ran through the radar zone at a high rate of speed. While in pursuit, his vehicle struck a snow drift partially covering the passing lane and skidded off the highway into a frozen snow bank. He was pronounced dead at the scene. 
Herbert Wirfel, 45, had completed 20 years and five months as a Pennsylvania state trooper. He was buried with full military honors, and was survived by his wife and seven children.


The bills now move to the state Senate for consideration.