First Posted: 1/6/2013
What did Al have to say? I asked Joe Healey when he hung up the phone.
He said whenever he drives by the memorial he honks his horn at his son, Joe answered and right then and there I knew we had the right Person of the Year.
Joe had been talking with Al Kridlo, father of Dale Kridlo who was killed in Afghanistan on Nov. 7, 2010. Dale is one of five local fallen heroes and one living one who are honored at the Hometown Heroes memorial which was dedicated last July on the grounds of the Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce building.
Charlie Adonizio, the force behind the memorial, has been selected by the Sunday Dispatch as 2012 Greater Pittston Person of the Year. The award is presented to the person who had the greatest impact on life in Greater Pittston during the past year, with the emphasis on impact. We at the paper have the final choice but it stems from nominations from our readers. Quite frankly, we could not be more pleased that they nominated Charlie.
But in a way, he could not have been less pleased.
It was my duty to inform him and the news was met at first with nothing but silence. We were on cell phones and for a moment I thought we had a bad connection. Oh, Charlie finally said and then came more silence.
Don't get me wrong, he began again , this is a very nice gesture. But the memorial isn't about me. I just had an idea but it was Rosemary Dessoye (Chamber executive vice president) and her staff that ran with it. If anything, they deserve the award.
As the process unfolded, Charlie eventually – albeit reluctantly – agreed to accept but only on behalf of all those who were involved, from everyone at the Chamber, to everyone who donated money or materials or their time, to everyone who purchased a brick, to everyone who attended the ceremony on July 1, to every member of the families of the heroes who embraced the project from the start, and finally to the heroes, themselves, now memorialized in their home town.
In this year's recipient, we have exactly the type of person for which the award was intended when conceived – I'll admit, by me – as my first year as editor of the Dispatch concluded in 2000. As I contemplated what stories we had for that week's paper, I turned to then-managing editor Stephanie Bombay, and said, What do you think of us naming a person of the year and making it Mike Lombardo?
Lombardo was mayor of Pittston at the time and under his leadership, the year 2000 saw the launch of a downtown renaissance that continues to this day. It was the year of the dedication of the Millennium Clock on Main Street and breaking ground for the new Pittston Memorial Library. It was a year when more than $1.5 million in grant money was secured for downtown improvements, when Lombardo talked of a permanent location for the Pittston Tomato Festival and renovations on Main Street and, yes, even a giant mural.
Stephanie, with typical Stephanie Bombay enthusiasm, agreed and the Dispatch was suddenly in the Person of the Year business.
The following year, with hearts still heavy at the loss of beloved former Pittston mayor Atty. Joseph F. Saporito Sr., we instituted the Lifetime of Service Award with Atty. Saporito the posthumous recipient. We decided to name the award in his honor and have been presenting it ever since. If you heard a loud noise Wednesday evening it was the folks at the Care and Concern Free Health Clinic on William Street cheering when it was announced by director Gloria Blandina that this year's Saporito award recipient is Dr. Lewis Druffner.
Gloria, along with several dozen others, nominated Dr. Druffner, the most gentle of souls, who typified the lovable, caring family doctor during his years in practice and for the past few years has donated his services to the clinic. He will turn 79 on Jan. 15.
You can learn all about this year's recipients in stories that begin on page 3 and 4.
We are still working out the details for the reception at which the awards will be presented. Watch for an announcement on that.
In the meantime, please join us in congratulating these two fine gentlemen, and one of the best ways to do that is to support their causes. The Care and Concern Clinic can always use donations and a campaign is about to be launched to purchase the remaining bricks leading to the tribute to Capt. TJ Hromisin, who was severely wounded in Iraq, at the Hometown Heroes memorial.