I’ve known Steve Purich for a decade and a half, but I never really knew him until last Friday afternoon. Steve’s Father, an Orthodox priest, was forced to flee the Eastern Block in the mid-40s when the Communists took over. Consequently, Steve and his sister spent the next 12 years living first in tiny shacks and finally in a one-bedroom house that was home to about a dozen other family members. Every one of these kids ended up as successful professionals: physicians, attorneys, dentists, and business people. And that’s where this story begins.
Steve, too, was a successful businessman who, although Johnstown-based, was an international traveler. As it turns out, he was a student of world philosophies and ideologies, too. During his travels, he became exceptionally curious about ruins and, more importantly, their back stories. He wanted to know what worked in each civilization. He was inquisitive about the beliefs that helped these societies forge their way through each level of intellectual development and growth. This journey led him to create Tranquility Gardens.
It’s a retreat center unlike any other: a center for self-discovery, spiritual growth, and character building that, once experienced, provides a very clear message. That message is HOPE–hope for mankind and hope for the future.
In order to visualize this special place, just think of a location where there are butterfly and dragonfly habitats, a labyrinth, meandering walking trails filled with both authentic and replicated ruins from ancient civilizations, and a collection of life-altering learning and educational opportunities all tucked into nearly 10 acres of beauty, boulders, and bountiful Nature. And that’s just the beginning.
You’ll also find the philosophies and beliefs of many of the greatest thinkers in world history presented to you in succinct carvings on understated stone tablets or on breathtaking, multi-colored mosaics in various meditation areas. The street to this hidden yet very public treasure requires you to turn left off Rockwood Lane in Upper Yoder Township onto a short gravel and dirt road. Returning to pavement you’ll see the water running freely through the streams filling small reflecting ponds and creating little waterfalls. Less than 100 yards away are inexplicably large rock formations to be appreciated in their magnificent splendor.
Now, add a glimpse into the similarities subtly displayed among the practices and beliefs of people from all cultures–India, Asia, the Roman Empire, Africa, Western Europe, the United States, the Middle East, the Native Americans–and you quickly see unifying threads of sanity spoken by all civilizations that have helped us survive to date.
You will see that it’s a non-violent, education-based journey into peaceful places to explore the words of Socrates, Martin Luther King, Aristotle, Confucius, and a myriad of other brilliant people who said things like, “Enlightenment, happiness, peace, and beauty come from within.” It’s not a message of narcissism, but one of strength through knowledge, through perseverance, through education, and through practices of mind-calming and focus.
Steve doesn’t restrict access to his personal garden because he truly wants to donate it to an organization that “gets it,” an organization that will embrace the transformational opportunities presented to each person who walks these grounds. I’m anxious to see who actually does get it because it’s difficult to be recognized as a genius in your home area, but Steve is a genius who has planted plenty of those proverbial diamonds in his own backyard.
When you wrap all of this in a rags to riches story that ends in extreme generosity and caring for the future of mankind, it’s critical to realize that Steve’s primary messages at this self-constructed slice of Pennsylvania paradise is simple … if I did it, so can you.