My Corner, Your Corner: As floodwaters rose, so did Mayor Denisco’s courage

My Corner, Your Corner - Tony Callaio | April 29th, 2016 12:18 pm

West Pittston residents have lost a native son who loved the place where he was born and raised. Mayor Tony Denisco passed away Tuesday after battling an illness. He was 73.

I’ve known who Tony Denisco was for many years but never really had much contact with him until 2011, when he became mayor of West Pittston and I was a correspondent for the Sunday Dispatch.

I always found Tony to be accommodating and kind when I needed his attention. How many politicians would give their personal cell phone numbers to a journalist? Tony wasn’t a typical government figure; he was unique because he wasn’t a product of politics. He knew how it worked, but he was his own man.

Whenever I called him about something, he either answered the phone or called me back within minutes. It was a real pleasure to work with him. Over time, we eventually became good acquaintances and I looked forward to seeing him.

One place I’d see him socially was at Agolino’s Restaurant. Tony would join Dante Bovani, Dante Jr. and Charlie Alfano for their routine breakfast. When I hadn’t seen Tony at breakfast for the past few weeks, I was afraid something was wrong.

Tony became mayor just a few months prior to the great flood of 2011. Talk about baptism by fire. Tony was getting his bearings on his new position when, suddenly, he was the face of West Pittston, both on the state and national levels.

Local and national news teams descended upon the borough as floodwaters rose to record levels. As a photojournalist, I shot over 3,000 photos, including those taken while riding in a boat through the streets of the Garden Village, documenting the destruction. Tony was instrumental in allowing me to be as active as I was allowed to be.

I documented the mayor at the floodwaters’ edge as he held a press conference with U.S. Senators Bob Casey and Pat Tomey. He spoke to Weather Channel meteorologist Jim Cantore at Montgomery Avenue Elementary School.

I’ve been able to photograph the mayor at ribbon-cutting ceremonies, swear-in events (including his own as mayor), parades and other celebratory events.

Tony was Mr. West Pittston and in 2014, he was selected Outstanding Citizen of West Pittston at the 43rd Annual Cherry Blossom Festival.

He received that award not by being mayor, but for his commitment to the borough as a lifetime member of the Goodwill Volunteer Fire Company, his work as a constable and auxiliary police officer and his efforts as the borough’s emergency management agency director.

Tony has had a great support system in place with his family with his wife Carmella, son Tony Jr., and daughter Lori Capozucca.

The loves of his life were his grandchildren. When he was sworn-in as mayor, his wife stood by his side and he wanted his grandchildren there as well.

Tony’s grandson Anthony, a Pittston Area grad and currently a nursing student at Wilkes University, also helped me out many times with my reporting/photography duties. Like his grandfather, Anthony would take my calls or get back to me within minutes. As a nurse, I’m sure Anthony will dedicate his career to his proud grandfather.

Tony might have been short in stature, but the next mayor will have huge shoes to fill. Family, friends and the Borough of West Pittston will be forever indebted to Mayor Tony for his service to his community.

A crazy 2016

This year one topic of conversation is the loss of so many entertainers. Personally, I’ve lost several friends and relatives since January including three high school classmates along with my mother.

Some of the notable entertainers lost in 2016 are musicians David Bowie, Maurice White, Lemmy Kilmister, Frank Sinatra Jr., Merle Haggard, Glenn Frey, Billy Paul, Natalie Cole, Prince; actors Alan Rickman, Patty Duke, Ken Howard, Abe Vigoda, George Kennedy; and comedians Bob Elliot and Gary Shandling.

One theory for so many losses is the Baby Boomer generation is reaching the ages of 52 to 70. That group is made up of an estimated 76 million people, or 24 percent of the population, according to an article by the Discovery Channel.

It’s only May and I am already looking forward to 2017 and leaving this year far behind.

Quote of the week

“Anything you can do needs to be done, so pick up the tool of your of choice and get started.” – Ben Linder, American engineer.

Thought of the week

“Every human being, of whatever origin, of whatever station, deserves respect. We must each respect others even as we respect ourselves.” – Ulysses S. Grant, 18th U.S. president.

Bumper sticker

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” – Larry Elder, radio personality.

My Corner, Your Corner

Tony Callaio

Tony Callaio’s column My Corner, Your Corner runs weekly in the Sunday Dispatch. He can be reached at