Former Altoonan publishes book on Johnstown flood

A former Altoona man has written a novel — inspired by a visit to Baker Mansion where he viewed a painting depicting the 1889 Johnstown Flood.

Steve Bell, a 1968 graduate of Altoona Area High School, has self-published “Katherine O’Neill: Scores Settled, Futures Forged in One of America’s Greatest Disasters,” now available on Amazon.

While only in elementary school, Bell said, “the images in that painting stayed with me … the basic idea of writing a story around the flood germinated for a long time.”

A Philadelphia resident, Bell said the novel takes place primarily in Johnstown and South Fork and portrays the devastating dam collapse and staggering loss of life through the eyes of the title character.

Beginning with a tour of Vietnam, he served more than 14 years of active military service with the U.S. Army and then established a career in banking. Bell received his bachelor’s degree from Widener University and master’s from LaSalle University.

Bell previously published a book of short stories and is working on the second book to continue the Katherine O’Neill series.

He married his wife, the former Connie Castiglione, in Johnstown 49 years ago. His brother Nick Bell and many cousins remain in Altoona.

Mirror Staff Writer Patt Keith is at 949-7030.