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The flood of September, 2011 was so devastating in Greater Pittston – more than 1400 homes and 60 businesses destroyed or damaged – that the Sunday Dispatch was moved to name Our Flooded Neighbors as Persons of the Year for 2011. The announcement came in the first issue of 2012 but was hardly the end of the story.


Our flooded neighbors continued to make the news through 2012 thus making the efforts of local communities, governing bodies and individuals alike, to deal with flood damage one of the top stories of 2012 as well.


On the one-year anniversary of the flood, Sept. 8, 2012, West Pittston Mayor Tony Denisco stood on the bank of the Susquehanna, took a deep breath, and said, This river changed the life of the citizens of West Pittston forever. He could not have been more correct.


Across that very river, on the east side of the Susquehanna, a different story dominated local news in 2012 – the continuing story of the revitalization of downtown Pittston. New businesses continued to set up shop, a credit union cut the ribbon on a brand new building, a breathtaking mural was unveiled in the heart of town, a famous London clothing manufacturer opened an outlet, ground was broken for a 5,000 sq. ft. extension of the library, and projects began for two new buildings, one of which will bring 40 permanent professional jobs to the city and the other 30 upscale housing units.


Oh, that all 2012 stories in the Sunday Dispatch could have been so upbeat.


In late September, all of Greater Pittston, the Pittston Area School District in particular, was shaken at the deaths of two Pittston Area students who ended their own lives. Hundreds gathered at a candlelight vigil at Albert West Park on the night of Sept. 26 to remember Matthew M. Montagna, 16, a junior from Jenkins Township, and Jamie Baker, 15, a sophomore from Avoca, who died less then a week apart on Sept. 21 and Sept. 24, respectively.


Pittston Area School District quickly put together a public forum on suicide and bullying, although several experts said bullying was not the cause of the suicides. I felt it was important to put this together as soon as possible because the events that occurred have been tragic and a great loss for our community and our schools, said Dr. Michael Garzella, Pittston Area district superintendent. If bullying played a part in any of these incidents, it will not be tolerated in our schools. If we need to press charges, we will press charges. This is a real crisis and we need to work together.


At the November meeting of the Pittston Area School Board, four students announced they are forming an anti-bullying club.


Flood recovery

At the time Mayor Denisco spoke about the flood of the previous year, West Pittston, which saw 880 homes and 26 businesses either destroyed or severely damaged, still had an outstanding cleanup debt of $2.5 million and FEMA breathing down its neck about compliance issues related to reconstruction. FEMA did put West Pittston on probation when it failed to meet a compliance deadline of Dec. 1 meaning residents that own property in the borough will incur a $50 surcharge when they renew their flood insurance policies. It was reported West Pittston had 358 flood insurance policies in force with coverage totaling $73,191,100.


In July, U.S. Senator Bob Casey went to bat for West Pittston urging FEMA to work with borough officials. And on October 26, Gov. Tom Corbett made a walking tour of the borough.


Robberies in flood areas of West Pittston made the news as the year began. Police reported that early on the morning Jan. 6, four West Pittston homes were broken into, three in the same neighborhood. Mayor Denisco said police were called to investigate 12 to 15 burglaries. Scott Koppenhofer and two members of the Wilkes-Barre Chapter of the Guardian Angels began patrolling the streets at night but unknowingly created a bit of controversy because they apparently never notified Police Chief Paul Porfirio.


One by one businesses began to come back. Piontek Funeral Home, 204 Main St., Duryea, was one of the first in 2012, announcing in January they were operating at their original location after conducting services out of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church on Stephenson Street.


While West Pittston was the hardest hit by the flood of 2011, some 339 homes were damaged in Duryea as well, including Holy Rosary School, which finally opened its doors on March 12. Principal Kathleen Gilmartin personally welcomed the 283 students at the door and Bishop Joseph Bambera celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving.


The Salvation Army, which took on 8 feet of water, at 214 Luzerne Ave., West Pittston, but still spent most of its time feeding and caring for its flooded neighbors, also put itself back together and reopened its doors.


Not all flooded properties could be refurbished and in July, it was announced that 67 properties in the Patch section of Port Blanchard in Jenkins Twp. were among 81 slated for buyouts and subsequent demolition. The others included five in West Pittston and nine in Exeter Twp.


The former Bank of America building in West Pittston, heavily damaged by the flood, was razed in July. The structure, which once housed the West Side Bank, was nearly 100 years old.


A $10 million National Emergency Grant the state received from the Department of Labor – of which $1,053,00 came to Luzerne and Schuylkill counties Workforce Investment Board – funded unemployed workers to clean up flood debris along the river. PA Career Link provided 80 such workers.


The flood devastation spawned the formation of West Pittston Tomorrow, a group determined to restore the borough to the status it enjoyed when earning its nickname The Garden Village. More than 200 attended the first meeting hosted in part by Shea Christilaw, a Wyoming Area graduate and part of the FEMA Recovery Team. A word cloud was created featuring words people want associated with West Pittston, words such as: safe, family, community, clean, historic, residential, progressive, beautiful, green, scenic … and levee.


Main Street

A marquee was added to open space at 73 S. Main St., Pittston, just in time to herald the grand opening of the Boden factory outlet for which shoppers lined up around the block the morning of March 24. Boden is a London-based clothing manufacturer with a distribution warehouse in CentrePointe Commerce and Trade Park, in Jenkins Twp.


The downtown Millennium Clock, dedicated in 2000 and considered the very beginning of Pittston's revitalization, was restored by Verdin Clock Company of Ohio. The restoration came 100 years after its inspiration, the Miners Savings Bank clock, was erected on Main Street in roughly the same location.


The exterior of Napoli's Pizza Restaurant, 26 S. Main Street, was redone in a period motif and a pocket park created next door.


On Spring Street, adjacent to the Pittston Tomato Festival lot, work began on what purportedly will be called The Tomato Bar. Around the corner, a luxury apartment project began.


Announcement was made that an Asian fusion/sushi restaurant called Fuji would be coming to the former LaFratte's Restaurant building on North Main Street.


Two lawyers, Greg Skibitsky and Gene Molino, opened a practice at 457 N. Main Street, in the same location where Molino's great grandparents once operated the legendary Detato's Supermarket.


A mural covering the entire side of the Pittston Dental building on S. Main Street, Pittston, and depicting in sepia-tone paint Pittston's heritage of coal mining, the garment industry, and railroading, was unveiled on Dec. 12. This is us, this is who we are, Mayor Jason Klush said of the Heritage Mural.


A reception for the unveiling of the mural was hosted and tied into the ribbon-cutting of the new United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) credit union building at 450 S. Main St.


Dempsey's Fashionable Laundry, of Dunmore, opened a branch at 16 S. Main Street.


Just weeks ago, construction began on a new building at the corner of William and Main streets. When completed, the building, according to developer Gilbro Realty Inc., will house North Penn Legal Services on its second and third floors employing 30 people including 22 lawyers. Cawley Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation is scheduled to move into one of the first floor offices. Construction is expected to take 18 months and occupy more than 100 workers.


It was also announced that the oft-talked-about Pittston Riverfront condominium project was on track and construction should start soon. The multi-million dollar 4-story project is being developed by Rob Grimm and Daniel Siniawa & Associates. The condo will offer 30 market-rate housing units. Construction is expected to last 18 months to two years.


Fidelity Bank announced plans to construct a green banking facility along Kennedy Boulevard in the City, roughly across the street from the condo building.


Not on Main Street, but near it, St. Casimir's Church, 65 Church St., Pittston, is being transformed into a performing arts center. Gina Malsky, owner of Downtown Arts in a former Methodist church in Wilkes-Barre, will call it Downtown Arts II. Ray Hassey bought the former church for Malsky to manage.


Just south of Pittston proper in Jenkins Township, Susquehanna Brewing Company, an $8.5 million brewery, was opened by Mark Nobile and partners Ed and Fred Maier, descendants of Charles Stegmaier. Under the guidance of master brewer Jamie Jurado Susquehanna Brewery rolled out two barrels for the first time and offered a tour and tasting on May 11. Some 100 guests tasted Goldencold Lager and Sixth Generation Stock Ale.


With the help of Sen. Bob Casey, Pittston Library secured a $751,000 federal loan enabling it to set a groundbreaking for the Cogrove Annex, an addition that among other things, will allow for proper display of the John P. Cosgrove collection of books, photos and memorabilia. Cosgrove, 94, is a Pittston native who spent more than 70 years working in the media in Washington, D.C. He donated his personal library along with a check for $50,000 to the Pittston Library, who promptly launched a capital campaign for expansion. Co-chairing the $1.5 million campaign are Patrick Solano and Thomas Tigue. Ground was broken for the annex in November with John P. Cosgrove in attendance.


Five local men who lost their lives in service to their fellow Americans and a sixth who was severely wounded were honored as Hometown Heroes with the dedication of a flag pole and six monuments on the grounds of the Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce building on Sunday, July 1.


Charlie Adonizio, president of the Chamber board, who conceived of the idea and spearheaded the fund drive to make it a reality, served as master of ceremonies for the event.


Honored were U.S. Army Corporal Dave Kridlo, killed in Afghanistan; First Lt. Jeffrey DePrimo, Pennsylvania National Guard, killed in Afghanistan; Lt. Col. Richard Berrettini, Pennsylvania National Guard, killed in Afghanistan; State Trooper Joshua Miller, killed in the line of duty; Virginia Beach Policeman Rodney Pocceschi, killed in the line of duty; and Army Captain Thomas TJ Hromisin, severely wounded while serving in Iraq. Hromisin, who is blind, attended the ceremony and addressed the crowd.


Trooper Miller, who was killed in the line of duty on June 7, 2009, while rescuing a nine-year old boy from his father who had kidnapped him, was recognized again on Oct. 24, when the Pittston Post Office was renamed in his honor.


Congressman Lou Barletta helped Angela Miller, Trooper Miller's widow, unveil a marker proclaiming the building the Trooper Joshua D. Miller Post Office Building. Miller was a graduate of Pittston Area high School. He was 34 when he died and left behind three daughters as well as his wife.


The same day as the re-naming ceremony at the Pittston Post Office, Cong. Lou Barletta had another mission in Pittston: to deliver several World War II medals to a Pittston man who had been waiting nearly 70 years to receive them.


Louis Roman, 88, flew 19 bombing missions over Germany as a flight engineer and top turret gunner but the medals he earned for his heroism were never presented until this past year.


Change in government

As 2012 began, the Pittston Home Rule Study Commission of Mayor Jason Klush, Fred Stuccio, former Mayor Mike Lombardo, Ginger Murphy, Art Bobbouine, Joe Chernouskas, and Ben Tielle was sworn in.


In the November general election, Pittston City voters approved the commission's work, the Home Rule Referendum, by a 3 to 2 margin bringing significant change to the way the City will be run. Among other things, Home Rule allows the City to raise the earned income tax on residents and begin to shift the tax burden away from homeowners, many of whom in Pittston are retired and on fixed incomes.


Enacting Home Rule basically allows elected city officials flexibility in governing not allowed by the current Third Class City Code, especially when it comes to taxation, said Joe Moskovitz, city manager.


The City eventually passed a $6.62 million budget for 2013 keeping the property tax rate at 6.85 mills but raising the earned income tax by .5 percent to 1.5 percent.


Month by month


January


New Luzerne County judges were sworn in including four from Greater Pittston: Fred Pierantoni, Michael Vogue, Lesa Gelb, and Jennifer Rogers.


Also sworn in was new District Attorney Stephanie Salavantis, whose dad, Harry Salavantis, is a member of the family that ran the Majeski Lunch on Main Street for decades.


On Friday, Jan. 6, a partially nude man was taken into custody after he allegedly discharged two rounds from a rifle striking a residence used as the municipal tax office. Police reported Michael Kozloski, 28, was wearing only a T-shirt when apprehended.


The first West Wyoming Junior Council member, Jared Saporito, was sworn in.


Congressman Tim Holden visited libraries and flooded homes of West Pittston on January 9.


At a reception at Open Space, Rep. Mike Carroll explained that redistricting put much of Greater Pittston in Holden's reconfigured 17th Congressional District. Most of the Greater Pittston communities were previously served by Cong. Lou Barletta in the 11th District.


A victory in the May primary and November election would have given Holden an 11th term in Congress, but he was defeated in the Democrat primary by Atty. Matt Cartwright who also won in November.


Surprisingly, despite the endorsement of Holden by most local officials, Cartwright was victorious in every community in Greater Pittston.


Leadership Wilkes-Barre honored Patrick J. Solano with the 2012 Community Leaderhsip Award. Solano, 86, had flown 23 combat missions during World War II with the Eighth U.S. Air Force Heavy Bombardment Group.


Gov. Tom Corbett attended the event at the Westmoreland Club saying in his remarks: There's only one dignitary in this room – Pat Solano.


Cousins Dave and Albert Brocca announced they were producing a documentary film titled The Knox Mine Disaster: The End of Anthracite. The trailer was set to be screened at King's Colleg and at the Anthractie Museum in Scranton.


A story in the Jan. 22 issue revealed that Tracey Nawroski Jumper, a PA grad, had worked as an HVAC engineer on the construction of Lucas Oil Stadium, site of Super Bowl XLVI. The stadium opened in 2008.


Grico's Restaurant, destroyed by fire in August 2011, announced it was coming back. Pat Greenfield, owner and chef, had kept herself busy serving a Sunday brunch at the Moose Club, attended regularly by many flooded West Pittston residents.


Jimmy Cefalo, former Pittston Area, Penn State and Miami Dolphin football star, spoke on the ‘70s decade at a memorial to Joe Paterno on Jan. 26 at State College. Cefalo was also a member of the honor guard at Paterno's funeral.


Richard B. Cosgrove, 87, a member of the first Sunday Dispatch staff in 1987, was laid to rest.


Some 250 mourners attended the funeral mass at St. John the Evangelist Church, including actor Charlie Sheen, a friend of the family.


Cosgrove died on Jan. 21.



February


On Feb. 5, Super Bowl Sunday, the front page of the Dispatch featured Taylor Crawford, Giants fan, and Alex Gross, 12 Patriots fan, symbolically squaring off.


Taylor had been on the front page of the Dispatch 25 years earlier on Super Bowl Sunday in 1987 when, at 14 months old, her father Joe, a Giants fan, brought her into the Dispatch office and instructed her: do a touchdown. The Dispatch snapped her photo and there she was.


290 local fans predicted the Giants would win, which they did. 171 had picked the Patriots.


Joel Skursky, 42, one giant of a Giant's fan, was also featured. Among his memorabilia is 200 signed mini helmets.


Oakland As baseball announcer Dick Callahan was announced as speaker for the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick banquet scheduled for March 17.


In was announced that Chris Semon of Pittston had landed a gig on Bronson Pinchot's TV show The Bronson Pinchot Project.


Adam Turoni, son of Christine and the late Sam Turoni and grandson of Frank and Theresa Colella and Sonny Turoni, all of Greater Pittston, became associated with TV chef Paula Deen. Turoni owns Chocolate by Adam Turoni in Savanna, Georgia, where Dean runs her restaurant.


Bernard J. Novabilski, Port Griffith native, was named Man of the Year by the Slovak League of America Branch #474.


Among the local winners at the 13th annual Corrado's Amateur Winemaking Competition in New Jersey: Charlie Adonizio, two gold medals; Leo Sperrazza, a gold and three bronze; team of Richard Gumbravich, Pat Flynn, Wally Songalia and Allister McNee, gold; Paul Savakinas, three silver, one with partner Kerry Kufta, and a bronze; Dave and Fran Drozda, silver and bronze; Michael Pugliese Sr., silver; Tom Zabresky, bronze.



March


Patrick M. Bilbow was named Greater Pittston Friendly Sons of St. Patrick Man of the Year.


Camille Stanis, Hughestown, was featured in a story after visiting Cuba for 12 days under a religious exception.


Phil Gianfarcaro, once 368 pounds, with a 56-inch waist, lost 140 pounds. His secret: laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery.


Joseph A. Graziano joined the family funeral home business becoming the fourth generation in the business which was started in 1900. Joseph is the son of Charles and Mary Lou Graziano; his grandfather was Joseph Graziano. The business was begun by brothers Jacob, Charles and Caesar, as Graziano Brothers Funeral Home on Oak St., Old Forge in 1900. A branch on Main St., Pittston opened in 1906. The current location is on the Pittston By-pass.


The Salvation Army noted its 100th anniversary in West Pittston. Judge Thomas Burke was named speaker for the dinner and Michael and Sandy Insalaco were honored.


Parents fought the proposed closing of Sarah J. Dymond and JFK Elementary schools in the Wyoming Area School District and were successful, at least for now.


Warm weather was the big story in March. One year to the date of a 9-inch snow fall on March 23, 2011, local temps flirted with 80 degrees. It was an unusually warm and snow-free winter prompting the Dispatch to write a story about snow plow drivers under the headline: There's no business for snow business


A $461,000 gaming fund grant resulted in the Regional Compost Center in Dupont, which opened later in the year with Sen. John Blake and Rep. Mike Carroll on hand. Dupont Borough Council President Stanley Knick took the lead on the project located on four acres in the Grimes Industrial Park.



April


Artie Lori and family opened Arturo's Restaurant in Dupont after a year-and-a-half makeover of the former Celestino's Restaurant.


Eva Mae Falcone was named recipient of the Jean Yates Award by the Pittston Memorial Library Board. Toastmaster for the event was Michael Ostrowski, retired executive director of Intermediate Unit 18. It was one of his last public appearances as he succumbed to cancer later in the year.


The Sunday Dispatch won four of Impressions Media's 24 Keystone Awards, competing in Division VI, non-dailies with a circulation of 5,000 to 9,999.


Rick Notari won a first place for sports story; Jack Smiles second for sports story and news beat reporting; and Bill Tarutis first place for a photo essay on the opening mass of Queen of the Apostles Church in Avoca.


Beloved 92-year-old priest Father Hugh McGroarty was laid to rest died on April 16. He was still actively performing his priestly duties at St. John the Evangelist Church.


Martha Stewart ordered kielbasa from Komensky's Market, Duryea. Brenda Sepelyak, co-owner, got a call and was given one day's notice to come through, which she did.


TW Shoemaker hardware business, 312 Wyoming Ave., Wyoming, was re-opened as an art gallery by Jamie Smith, great grandson of TW Shoemaker.


Toni Valenti was named Grand Marshal of the West Pittston Cherry Blossom Festival


Bill Lewis, Jenkins Township, a board member of the County Historical Society, released a book on local passengers on The Titanic.


Good Health Natural Products, maker of health snack foods, moved into 162 Commerce Drive in the Grimes Industrial Park where it employs 12 people.



May


Morgan Hosier, 8, was crowned Little Miss Cherry Blossom on May 5


James Sox Ruane died May 3. He was considered Pittston's surrogate grandfather.


The Earthly Angels Autism Fund, founded in 2001 by Brenda and Ron D'Eliseo after their son Robert was diagnosed with autism, established an endowment fund with the Luzerne Foundation. Earthly Angels have given away more than $150,000 in funding for non-profit organizations working with autistic children.


Nicole Ciali and Joe Bradigan opened a new ice cream parlor at the former Main Diner in Exeter


Dr. Vanessa Silla-Zaleski Talarico, resident and native of Pittston, was named Teacher of the Year at the University of Scranton.


Jumpin Jon McHale died on May 21 at 68. A former Pittston Area teacher and football coach, he got his nickname from a front page photo in the Dispatch on Sept. 27, 1959, in which he is shown jumping over a would-be tackler as a member of the St. John's Johnnies football team.


Cadet James Castellino was honored at Bucknell University with the Silver ROTC Medal from the Sons of the American Revolution.


Eric Fino, Avoca, received the Sons of the America Revolution Eagle Scout Award.



June


Bryan Anderson who lost both legs and a hand in an explosion in Iraq, spoke at the Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner in May.


Interstate Building Materials was honored with the annual Outstanding Business Award. Don Montini, operations manager, accepted.


The Care and Concern Free Health Clinic in Pittston served its 5000th patient on Wed., May 30. The clinic opened in November of 2007.


Kent Bratlee, 63, a former board member, was named to the Pittston Area School Board to fill the seat left vacant when Ross Latona resigned.


PA School District was honored by the Pennsylvania State Police for the role the district played in the funeral services for PA grad Trooper Joshua Miller who was killed in the line of duty in 2009. The plaque was presented on the third anniversary of Miller's death.


On Father's Day, a story appeared about a father/daughter team – Ben and Jennifer Gadomski – who operate a street and parking lots lining business. They operate M Mayo Striping. Jennifer, 22, has helped her dad since she was 12 years old.


A second Father's Day story was about Atty. Rocco Schillaci who put off opening his own practice, with wife Allison, also an attorney, at his side, when their newborn daughter, Maria, was hospitalized with a heart problem. He often sat at her bedside with his laptop serving clients while being the dad he wanted to be.


Allison and Rocco finally opened their office at 733 Main St., Avoca, in mid-March, with Maria doing just fine.


Pittston City hired David Allen Hines as its new operations coordinator. He also was assigned the zoning/code enforcement duties.


The closing mass was celebrated on Sunday, July 1, at 92-year-old St. Rocco's Church on Tompkins Street in south Pittston. Ida Bartoli and Chester Montante, oldest parishioners, were called upon to lock the doors for the final time.


Rev. Steven Paul Roth, a native of Pittston, was ordained into the priesthood in Maryland.


Atty. Jan Lokuta conducted the Seventh Annual Tour of Historic Greater Pittston Churches on Sunday, June 24, with stops at First Presbyterian, Christian and Missionary Alliance, First Congregational United Church of Christ, Immaculate Conception, Trinity Episcopal and First United Methodist, all in West Pittston.


Cross Valley Federal Credit Union opened its ninth branch at Pittston Crossings, route 315, Pittston Township.


On June 20, a 14-year-old Pittston girl was credit with saving the lives of 11 people when she awakened them and got them out of a burning building at 194 S. Main St., Pittston. A 55-year-old paraplegic, Bernard Edwards, who lived in the same building in a separate apartment, died in the fire.


That same week, Sharon Walko, 61, died from carbon monoxide poisoning in a fire at 757 N. Main St., Pittston.



July


Rev. Charles Rokosz, beloved pastor of Holy Rosary, St. Joseph and Sacred Heart churches in Duryea, died on July 11. He had been battling brain cancer. He was 67.


A Duryea teen, Lisa Abaunza, 15, was one of three young people killed in a brutal shooting in Plymouth. At her funeral mass, Father Paul McDonnell said, This is a death – a violent death – that shouldn't have happened. Lisa was a gifted student and a creative writer who expressed her feeling from her heart.


West Wyoming Chief of Police Stanley Sipko and retired chief David Gashi were arrested on Friday, July 20, on charges they stole over $40,000 by being paid twice with borough funds on numerous occasions.


B3Q Smokehouse opened in July at the intersection of Wyoming Avenue and Exeter Avenue in West Pittston. Co-owners Barry and Marci Hosier said their specialty is slow smoked pulled pork, beef brisket and baby back ribs, smoked on premises and served with homemade sauces and sides.


Pittston City Council named Joe Chacke, 35, of Forty Fort, Executive Director of the Department of Community Development. He replaced longtime city employee Jerry Mullarke, 67, who retired. Mullarkey was honored later in the summer with the designation of Grand Marshal of the annual Pittston Tomato Festival Parade.


A family named Duryea, from Wappinger Falls, New York, made a special mid-summer trip to the borough of Duryea for a very good reason. They are descendants of Gen. Hiram Duryea, for whom the local borough is named.



August


Maria Maida, 15, of Jenkins Township, was crowned Pittston Tomato Festival Queen at the annual festival. Vanessa Maslowski was named Little Miss Pittston Tomato and Mikey Colarusso was named Little Mr. Pittston Tomato.


Sam Marranca's entry from Café Italia won the Sauce Wars competition sponsored by the Greater Pittston YMCA.


The crowd at the four-day festival was estimated as more than 50,000.


Former Pittston Mayor Thomas A. Walsh died Monday, August 13, at 88 years old. He had served as mayor for nearly 20 years.


The inaugural Taste of Greater Pittston was set for Sept. 23 to benefit the Pittston Memorial Library.


Brothers Albert and Ray Capozuccca Sr., along with Albert's son Allan, celebrated 50 years in business as Capozucca Plumbing and Heating. The brothers got their start in their career at the Milton Hershey School.



Sept.


Caitlin Best, 26, legally blind since she was born three months premature in 1986, was named the recipient of the Arline Phillips Award presented by the Luzerne County Association for the Blind. Daughter of Ken and Sue Best, she graduated from Pittston Area High School and College Misericordia and works at Tobyhanna Army Depot.


An independent film crew took over Blue Ribbon Farm Dairy ice cream parlor in West Pittston for an evening in September to shoot scenes for the upcoming independent film AWOL, about a girl who loses her summer job and can't find another so she joins the army.


The writer and director of the film is Deb Shoval of Kingston.


Liam's Lighthouse Foundation, established in memory of Liam Schulze, who died at 20 months old in the arms of his mother, the former Michelle Slezak, of Greater Pittston, made a $100,000 donation to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center for research on HLH (hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis) which claimed Liam's life.


Bill Renfer celebrated his first anniversary owning and operating Valley Meat & Deli, Main St., Avoca, with his wife, Ginger. They came out of retirement (and boredom) to buy and run the well-known deli.


More than 500 boarded passenger cars in Avoca on Sunday, Sept. 9, for the annual charity train ride to Jim Thorpe. The excursion raised $5,000 each for the Pittston Memorial Library, the Greater Pittston YMCA, and the Care and Concern Free Health Clinic.


Walgreen's Pharmacy officially opened at Pittston Commons.


Pittston City Council, at its September meeting, named the roadway adjacent to the former Seton Catholic High School, which now houses the Care and Concern Ministries of St. John the Evangelist Church, Monsignor Bendik Way, in honor of St. John's pastor Msgr. John Bendik. The street connects Church Street and Foundry Street.


A meth lab bust just hours before a scheduled housing summit in Pittston City underscored the need to look into the City's housing situation, said Mike Lombardo, former mayor and current vice-chair of the Pittston Redevelopment authority.


Among the statistics revealed at the meeting: 10.9 percent of city homes are abandoned; 62 percent were built before 1939; 32.9 percent of city residents moved here since 2005; 80 percent of the homes in the City do not have driveways leading to street parking problems; only half of the city's homes are owner-occupied resulting in fewer stake holders, as Lombardo put it.


Lombardo told the gathering that with the downtown making great strides, it was time for the city to focus on its neighborhoods.


More than 80 Greater Pittston businesses and individuals were recognized at the second Best of Greater Pittston Sunday Dispatch Readers' survey celebration held at Brews Brothers bar and restaurant.



October


Convention Hall, a gathering place in Greater Pittston for more than 40 years for all sorts of events from weddings to political functions, was razed. Notables who spoke at Convention Hall over the years were author of Angela's Ashes Frank McCourt, Notre Dame legend Daniel Rudy Ruettiger and journalist Tim Russert.


Pittston Memorial Library's inaugural Taste of Greater Pittston was termed a success as local chefs gathered at the library for a fundraiser. Amateur winemakers brought their wares and those attending were asked to vote for best wine. Charlie Adonizio won for best red wine and Dave Fusco for best white. More than 150 attended.


The 90th Mother of the Rosary Procession, presented by the Montedoro Society, was held on Sunday, Oct. 7.


Pittston City announced plans to seek donations to purchase a police dog. The goal was set at $20,000 to acquire the police dog and accessories and train the dog and its handler


Francis Curry, a Pittston Area graduate, retired after a 38-year career at Luzerne County Community College. He most recently held the position of Director of Enrollment.


Charlie Adonizio was honored for a lifetime of achievement and Atty. Gerard Mecadon was presented the Man of the Year award at the annual Columbus Day Banquet sponsored by the Italian-American Association of Luzerne County. Atty. Joseph Giovannini delivered the principal address at the banquet.


The Greater Pittston Food Pantry, sponsored by the Care and Concern Ministries of St. John the Evangelist Parish, marked its fourth anniversary in October. Brainchild of director Peggy Burke, the pantry distributed 35,000 bags of food since its inception. Today, the pantry feeds about 80 families a week on a rotating basis.



November


Beloved and celebrated Pittston artist Joe Borini, whose painting and murals depict the early days of Pittston, died on Oct. 30. He was 82.


The former Hitchner Biscuit Company building in West Pittston was officially re-opened with 18 moderate-income apartments available for renters. Refurbishing the building, which was built in 1905 and where 300 were once employed, cost $6 million.


The Care and Concern Free Health Clinic, located in the former Seton Catholic High School building in Pittston, noted its fifth anniversary. The number of patient visits during that time: 5,663. The clinic is staffed completely by volunteers.


Ground was broken on Nov. 15 for the John P. Cosgrove annex at Pittston Memorial Library.


Fred Berretta, a survivor of the 2009 airplane crash on the Hudson River in New York which has come to be known as The Miracle on the Hudson, spoke at the first banquet supporting Catholic radio in Northeast Pennsylvania. The station is broadcast out of the Oblates of St. Joseph Seminary in Laflin and can be heard at 750 AM.


As part of Veterans Day activities, an 85-year-old Wyoming man who flew in an SNJ Navy aircraft 67 years ago got to go up in the air again in the same plane that was part of his everyday activities during World War II. Elmo Begliomini was flown around the area by former Vietnam fighter pilot Louis DeFazio. The experience for Elmo was arranged by Ron Gitkos of West Pittston.


An open house on Dec. 8 marked the 100th anniversary of the Moose Lodge in West Pittston. In conjunction with the anniversary, Doug Warabak, 60, a lodge member, set out on a bicycle ride from West Pittston to Florida to raise funds for the club's charities.


As the year drew to a close talk heated up about possible regionalization of services among the towns that comprise Greater Pittston. At a public meeting, Ron Stern, a member of the State Department of Community and Economic Development's Center for Local Government Services, pointed out that east-side municipalities of Greater Pittston comprise 26.3 miles, has collectively 26,000 people and spent $2.2 million on public safety in 2011. He said the combined police departments of the nine municipalities have 18 full-time and 66 part-time officers.



December


Exeter Borough ended the year trying to plug a $400,000 gap in its budget. By the time Borough Council met on Dec. 4, the gap had been whittled down to $140,000 and closing it could result in a 25 percent tax increase.


John Bolin was elected president of the Wyoming Area School Board while Charles Sciandra was elected to head the Pittston Area board.


Two Pittston firefighters had to be treated for exposure to methamphetamine after helping to battle a blaze at 100 Tompkins Street on Sept. 26. It was determined a meth lab was being operated in the basement of the home. Frankie Cawley and Joe McLean were still on the mend as the year wound down.


Father Paul McDonnell, a home-grown Catholic priest and beloved rector of the Oblates of St. Joseph Seminary in Laflin, announced he will be leaving on January 10 for a new assignment as temporary administrator of St. Joseph Marello Parish, Granite Bay, California. McDonnell is not sure what his future holds but pointed out that the East Coast Province and West Coast Province are being merged into one and a new head will be named. McDonnell served as East Coast Provincial Superior from 2003 to 2010.


In the aftermath of the killing of 26 school students in Newtown, Connecticut, local school districts grappled with the issue of protecting students. Carl Yorino Jr., a Wyoming Area school director, moved at the December WA board meeting to purchase a semi-automatic rifle for the district's police officer. The motion received no support.




A mural covering the entire side of the Pittston Dental building on S. Main Street, Pittston, and depicting in sepia-tone paint Pittston's heritage of coal mining, the garment industry, and railroading, was unveiled on Dec. 12.




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