Motorists driving around Greater Pittston this time of year make sure every trip includes a cruise along the Pittston Bypass. That’s so they can enjoy the Christmas splendor of the home of Jerry and Cindy Ranieli.
The Ranielis live at 196 Market St., but the spectacular decorations on their property are best viewed from the bypass, near the Tedrick Street intersection. It’s not unusual for drivers to slow to 25 mph along that stretch to make the view last a little longer.
The Ranielis moved into their home 27 years ago and began decorating it for Christmas two years later.
The display includes thousands of lights and holiday figures Jerry made himself. The reindeer across the roof and figures in the manger scene in the yard he cut out of plywood. The ingenious collapsible Christmas tree he says he wishes he patented.
Contrary to what many “regular” viewers of his home think, Jerry says he does not add more lights every year, but rather has taken a few away.
“I shoot for a gingerbread house theme,” he says. “I want it to be just right, not overdone.”
Jerry, 65, says he starts decorating the house in early November and just “does a little bit every day.” As Christmas draws closer, however, he says some nights he is “out there ‘til 11 o’clock.”
Recently retired, Jerry babysits his grandson, 2½ year-old Jack Walski, three days a week and says he got him involved “helping Pop Pop” this year.
Jerry says up until a few years ago, the display would raise his electric bill by “about $100,” but new, more efficient LED lights have helped lower that bill.
Those wishing to see the display better do so soon. Jerry says he begins taking it down right after New Year’s day.
“Gotta get it put away before the snow and ice,” he says. “One year I waited too long and it was up there until April.”
Unlike the Ranielis, Rosa and Daniel Sosa-Gonzales put up their very first Christmas display this year. They moved into their home at 117 Butler St., Pittston, in June and looked forward to the Christmas season since. They had lived in Avoca the previous 14 years but the home did not lend itself to the type of decorating they now have.
“She gets all the credit,” Daniel says of his wife. “She’s the artistic one.”
While the display features several large inflatable figures, a giant Santa, giant polar bear, welcome arch with Santa and a snowman, and adorable penguin, a closer look reveals several smaller items all created by Rosa.
Living at the home with Rosa and Daniel are their sons, Santiago and Agustin, both 14 years old (they were born just 10 months apart.) The couple also has two daughters, Fiorella, who resides in Puerto Rico, and Yanina, of Florida. They also have two grandchildren.
Rosa says she used to dream of decorating her home like this when she was just a child growing up in Uruguay. She says of all the decorations, the inflatable penguin is her favorite because her daughter, Fiorella, gave it to her.
For more than 60 years, their home was the residence of the Adonizio family. Seeing the current Christmas display, Charlie Adonizio said, “My mother would have loved it.”
Rosa and Daniel, by the way, keep the figures inflated around the clock.
While the elaborate displays at the Ranieli and Sosa-Gonzales homes include a variety of Christmas characters, the home of John and Nancy Grill, at 85 Union St. in the Junction section of Pittston, has just one.
But one is more than enough.
It’s a 60-foot evergreen that John decorates with lights from top to bottom. More than 10,000 lights. The star alone is illuminated with 1,500 lights.
John, who made the star, says it’s “a star, within a star, within a star.” He climbs to the top of the tree and places it there himself.
John says he’s been lighting the tree for the past 20 years, but added perhaps its most unique feature five or six years ago. That’s when his son, Jerry, synchronized a musical track with the lights. If you park your car near the home and tune your radio to 99.9 FM, you will hear Christmas music as the lights “dance” along. It is quite spectacular.
Jerry now resides in Bradford County, where he is the assistant district attorney, but the musical system he devised still works fine, John said.
Lighting the tree is a big job, especially since John does it all by climbing up the branches. At 63 that’s a little harder than it was at 43, he says.
The project was a long way from completion when John discussed it with this reporter.
“I can only work on it on weekends,” he said, “and with all the wet weather, the branches have been too slippery for climbing. But don’t worry, it will be done in plenty of time for Christmas.”
The lighted tree draws a lot of cars to narrow Union Street but the neighbors don’t seem to mind. It is clearly visible from Susquehanna Avenue in West Pittston, as well.
Even without the lights, the tree itself is pretty special. Already a giant when John and his family moved in 33 years ago, it was planted by the previous owners some 80 years ago when their little boy brought it home as merely a twig, given to him in school on Arbor Day.
John said he had the tree “trimmed and shaped” a few years ago by a professional arborist. For that, they used a bucket truck. Yes, he could rent a similar truck each Christmas, but where would be the fun in that? John prefers to keep climbing. “Well, as long as I can,” he added.