Sid Michaels Kavulich was in no position to talk. Not with his dental hygienist’s hands in his mouth. But Paulette Kern, his hygienist, knew by the look in Sid’s eyes she had more than piqued his interest.
This was a little more than a year ago and Paulette, who happens to be not only my dental hygienist, too, but also my niece, was telling Sid about the Paint Pittston Pink Rockin’ Roast to be held a few days later at the Kirby Center. She told him her Uncle Eddie was one of the people to be roasted and that was all well and good, but when she said another was Sen. John Yudichak, Sid almost jumped out of the dental chair. She knew it was time for a rinse.
“I’ve got to get in on this,” Sid said. “What’s your uncle’s cell phone number?”
He called and asked if he could be a “surprise roaster” at the event. His intent was to poke fun at the senator, but he didn’t want anyone to know until that night. It was a no-brainer as far as I was concerned, but I had no idea the treat we were all in for. Sen. Yudichak was indeed surprised when Sid, state representative of the 114th district, took the stage. Then everyone was surprised when he started to speak. Sid was downright hilarious, a genuine stand-up comic. He clearly stole the show.
That was Sept. 22 of last year. I know because Sid called me earlier that day to assure me he would be at the Kirby that night, and to thank me for making it happen. I just listened to that message on my phone, which I’ve done from time to time over the past 12 months. I cannot bring myself to erase it. Those who knew Sid know why. On Oct. 16, 2018, 24 days after Sid had the crowd rolling in the aisles at the Kirby Center, he was dead. He was 62 years old.
Sid had a big heart, but also a damaged heart. He had survived an aortic aneurysm in 2007 but succumbed nine years later to complications following heart surgery.
Sid’s on my mind today as this year’s Paint Pittston Pink campaign, now in its sixth year, enters its final week of activities leading up to Saturday’s gala celebration on Main Street. While losing Sid still stings, I’d like to think he’ll be there with us in spirit, that his ghost will be smiling as this community deals with loss by overwhelming it with love. I picture by sister, Barbara, claimed by cancer 16 years ago, and my dad, who died of lung cancer in 1994, also there, their spirits soaring at the spectacle.
Paint Pittston Pink, the brainchild of Barbara Sciandra, herself a cancer survivor, has raised some $330,000 for cancer research over the past five years. This year’s goal is $100,000, a quarter of which will be used to establish a Paint Pittston Pink Fund. The rest, as always, will go to research. While pink, the color of the day, typically represents the fight against breast cancer, Barbara stresses that Paint Pittston Pink supports research to find a cure for all cancer.
Events, which actually began on Sept. 20, continue this Sunday with a purse bingo at 2 p.m. at St. Maria Goretti Church Hall in Laflin. On Monday, it will be Paint Pazzo Pink, a fundraiser at Pazzo restaurant on Route 315. Thursday is yoga with Dr. Christine Kiesinger at Sapphire Salon on South Main Street. And Friday is the annual Paint the Red Mill Pink celebrity bartending night at the Red Mill Tavern.
It culminates on Saturday when the city really does turn pink. From the 9 a.m. Mass at St. John the Evangelist, to the “Caped Cure-sader” fun walk at 11:05, to the Color Me Pink 5K, to the unique Gentleman’s Dash, this is one of my favorite days in downtown Pittston. Seeing a group of prominent local men running on Main Street in pink high heels never gets old.
Details on all of this can be found on Facebook and elsewhere online. For tickets to various events or to support one of the Gentleman’s Dash participants, go to www.raceroster.com.
Otherwise, just come to Main Street on Saturday morning and enjoy. Yes, we will carry memories of lost loved ones in our hearts, and yes, you may detect a tear or two in our eyes, but mostly we will be celebrating life, life in all its glory.
This is how we do things in Pittston. Negatives are turned into positives, grief becomes glory, and loss is counteracted with love. I strongly suggest you join the party.
Ed Ackerman writes The Optimist every week. Look for his blogs online during the week at pittstonprogress.com