In Greater Pittston, 2018 was a good year for charitable giving, historical anniversaries, and athletic accomplishments. It was a good year for quilters, bell-ringers and history buffs. It was a good year for festivals, picnics and parties.
During Anthracite Mining Heritage Month, the Greater Pittston Historical Society presented “Ethnicity in the Anthracite Region: An Appreciation of Five Local Heritage Groups” in the John’s the Evangelist Church basement.
Moderator Ron Faraday introduced five presenters to talk about the immigration patterns and the cultures of different ethnicities: Carol Gargan, Lithuanians, Jim McFarland, Irish; Fiona Powell, Welsh; Stephanie Longo, Italians, and Christine Patterson, Africans.
On Super Bowl Sunday, the Progress featured a pair of fans — Eagles fan Gary Patrick and Patriots fan Alex Gross.
According to the story, “One is a retired senior citizen. The other is an 18-year-old high school senior. One is from the east side, one from the west side. One is an Eagles fan and one a Patriots fan. But they have one thing in common — they love football and rooting for their teams.”
In honor of Black History Month, a Greater Pittston Progress story explored the large and vibrant African-American community in West Pittston from the early 1890s to 1930s. In 1915, the Gazette estimated there were 150 African-Americans living in West Pittston. So what happened to the descendants of the Spans, Cuffs, Moores, Calloways, Glovers and other prominent African-American families in West Pittston? They left, and the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s emphasis on education was a big reason why. Generations of African-American families left the area to go to college and find better economic opportunities.
Former Palazzo 53 Restaurant in Pittston reopened as Rikasa on Main under new owner Nancy Medico. She said she was going for a New York feel. The name Rikasa is an anagram of Sakari, her Salon and Spa in Forty Fort.
“Pittston is a great town with wonderful people,” Medico said. “And I want to be part of it.”
Members of the local chapters of the Ancient Order of Hibernians — the Neil McLaughlin Division and the Wolfe Tone Division — based in Avoca and Pittston issued a call for new membership, as featured in a Greater Pittston Progress story before St. Patrick’s Day. The Order has a long history in the area, but the current membership is aging.
It took a small army of public works employees and volunteers with shovels to make it happen after several inches of snow fell, but the fifth annual Pittston City St. Patrick’s Parade stepped off as planned.
A Greater Pittston Progress story featured a new baseball coach at Wyoming Area. According to the story, “After nine seasons of bleeding red and blue as Pittston Area’s starting shortstop and infield coach, Rob Lemoncelli is going to need a transfusion of green and gold.”
“I had nervous feelings in the beginning,” Lemoncelli said. “But now I couldn’t be any happier.”
The newspaper took a historical look at the Suburban League. Four teams — Hamtown, Sebastopol, Browntown and Cork Lane, — joined the first Pittston Suburban League in 1915.
By the time the league disbanded in the mid-1960s, the Suburban was one of the oldest, longest-lasting and most competitive amateur leagues in the state.
Two local athletes were in the news this month. Sarah Baylor was a field hockey player for Wyoming Area, but she didn’t make the news for that. Baylor is a race car driver in SOLO, the Sports Car Club of America brand name for autocross competition.
Meanwhile, Pittston Area graduate Marley O’Brien was a national champion with the Penn State Women’s Club track and field team, which won the National Intercollegiate Running Club Association Spring Track & Field National Championships. Marley won gold in the shot put and discus.
In other news, Marie Brown opened a new restaurant on McAlpine Street in Duryea. Marie’s is a traditional family restaurant. She makes her own homemade soups, scrapple, corned beef hash and wiener sauce from old family recipes. Recipes used in the restaurant have come down from both sides of her Italian family, as well as her husband’s Polish side.
Joleen Lazecki and Mary Kroptavich took on the city’s Second Friday Art Walks this month. They added two more Art Walk events for 2018 — one in August before the Pittston Tomato Festival and another in October.
Members of the the Wyoming Area Quilting Club displayed their work during a two-day quilting show. Antoinette Jones, quilting and sewing teacher and adviser said, “I have 88 students. Some are on their fourth or fifth quilt.”
A Greater Pittston Progress story updated the boxing program at Prospective Church on Broad Street, where boxing is less about fighting a gloved opponent than it is about fighting truancy, drug and alcohol abuse and bullying.
The Rev. Samuel Washington is pastor, boxing program director and head trainer.
“Some nights after we work out, they don’t want to leave. We sit down in the middle of the ring and talk about life,” he said.
Also this month, Greg Russick demonstrated an 1800s method of wet-plate photography to his Advanced Placement history students at Pittston Area High School.
“The film has to be made immediately before use,” he said. “Then it has a shelf life of 10-15 minutes.”
The wet-plate photography process requires the material for the photo be coated, sensitized, exposed and developed all within minutes.
Leading up to the 240th anniversary commemoration of the Battle of Wyoming on the Fourth of July, a Greater Pittston Progress story recounted the centennial commemoration in 1878, when women fainted in the crush of bodies and 100 degree heat.Also on that day, pickpockets lifted gold watches and pocketbooks and boats from Wilkes-Barre ran aground in the shallow Susquehanna. The centennial ceremony orators were drowned out by the noise of the crowd of 30,000 to 60,000 who had come to see Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th president of the United States.
The newspaper also marked the 100th anniversary of the death of Cpl. John D. Stark. He was the first soldier from West Pittston to enlist, fight and die in World War I.
The Pittston City Farmers Market opened and ran every Tuesday in the lower Pittston Tomato Festival lot through November. The market featured two children’s days this year, planned by coordinator Sarah Donahue.
Six months of planning and work by Gina Malsky, West Pittston resident and chairwoman of the Governor’s Awards for the Arts, and her planning committee culminated in a gala event on at the Scranton Cultural Center
As Gov. Tom Wolf and his wife, Frances, walked into the Cultural Center they were escorted by Cirque du Scranton arts, a sort of gauntlet of 50 plus artists, dancers, glass blowers, and musicians lining the sidewalk.
The family of World War I veteran Cpl. David Boone received his Purple Heart on Aug. 18, the 100th anniversary of the day Boone was poisoned by mustard gas from a German shell. State Sen. Matt Cartwright and his aide, Bob Morgan got the medal.
When the ribbon was cut to open Pittston’s new Luzerne County Community College campus, it also signaled the start of the 2018 Pittston Tomato Festival. During the festival, local music legend Billy Kelly, a West Wyoming native and 1968 Wyoming Area graduate, and his partner Jerry Hludzik performed on the festival main stage for a packed crowd. Flaxy Morgan joined them for a rousing version of the Buoys “Timothy.” At the 2019 Tomato Fight, Greg Serfass of West Pittston wore a full white tuxedo.
Mike Lizonitz and his wife Patricia left their Hughestown home Aug. 5 on the ultimate road trip in their Kia Sedona modified for car camping — Arctic Ocean or bust. They got back to Hughestown on Aug. 22, having traveled 9,997 miles.
A Greater Pittston Progress feature told of a little-known piece of baseball history in Pittston. The city, a hot bed of amateur baseball, had a professional minor league team in the Atlantic League in 1908. The opening day pitcher was Christy Mathewson’s teenaged brother, Nick.
A Greater Pittston Progress profile showcased city fire Chief Jim Rooney , who was 18 in 1976 when he joined the Niagara Engine Company No. 2. He worked his way up the ranks all the way to fire chief in 2006.
Edgar Hartman and his son Patrick, were walking in the Pittston Cemetery when they noticed the grave of William Kause, a Pittston marine who was killed in Vietnam in 1968, when he was 19. Hartman adopted the grave and organized a service to honor Kause on the 50th anniversary of his death. About 50 people attended, including several from the Carroll Street neighborhood where Kause grew up.
Twenty-five lucky people learned about some of West Pittston’s historical homes when Mary Portelli, West Pittston Historical Society president, led a walking tour of vintage Garden Village houses. Portelli narrated the walk.
In Duryea, Lois Komensky organized a group of citizens with a mission to create a monument at the historic Mosier Cemetery on Foote Avenue where the graves of 15 Civil War veterans, a Revolutionary War colonel and Pittston’s first medical doctor are buried.
Paint Pittston Pink organizers raised close to $90,000 with a week of events in October and estimated they raised $315,000 for breast cancer research over the past five years.
A history story in the Greater Pittston Progress told of the impact of the Spanish flu, which peaked in October and November 1918.
The epidemic killed 261 in the Pittston and 53 in West Pittston between Oct. 1 and Dec. 15. Those numbers were four times the usual death rate. Homes were quarantined and public meetings and schools were closed.
Also this month, the Art e Fekts co-op, run by officials involved with the Pittston Second Friday Art Walk opened to the public.
At Wyoming Area Catholic School, the students and staff prepared for spent the weeks before the holiday gathering food to donate to Little Sisters of the Poor and clothes to fill the closets of the Care and Concern Ministry in Pittston.
A Greater Pittston Progress story related how a bell that hadn’t been rung or even seen for decades was saved from the bell tower of the Wyoming Institute. Workers discovered while the tower’s skeleton beams were solid, the bell’s infrastructure was rotting. They recommended taking the bell down. This was done and it was cleaned up. One of the workers fabricated a replica of the bell’s infrastructure and it is now on display in the Institute’s yard.
The bell was cast from the Meneely Foundry in West Troy, New York, around 1850.
The true bells of Sacred Heart Church church rang for Christmas for the first Christmas since 1963, when the automated ringing system broke. The parish raised $50,000 for a new system.
Froggy 101 hosted the Toy Truck Parade this year. Santa Claus arrived before the parade, making his way down from the library. The event also featured the lighting of the city Christmas tree, horse and carriage rides
A Greater Pittston Progress story told of the Duryea school system in the 1910s, when students walked in and out of classrooms at will without explanation or permission. Teachers enforced no discipline, but instead let the students discipline themselves. Such was the culture of Duryea public schools under innovative, think-out-of-the-box principal Fredrick J. Regan.