It started out as a plan to install a flagpole.
It turned into an outpouring of love and community pride.
And Charles A. Adonizio III was the man behind the vision.
Adonizio, the immediate past president of the Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce, was selected as Greater Pittston‚??s Person of the Year by the Sunday Dispatch for his work in bringing the Hometown Heroes Memorial from idea to reality on the lawn of the chamber.
The memorial honors the soldiers and police officers who lost their lives in the line of duty, and another who was severely wounded, from the Greater Pittston area in the past decade.
‚??Greater Pittston really has suffered a disproportionate amount of loss,‚?Ě he said. ‚??There are five men that lost their lives and one man critically wounded from our hometown. We needed to do something to honor these men.‚?Ě
Ed Ackerman, editor of the Sunday Dispatch, feared Adonizio would balk at being honored, but was glad he agreed.
‚??When nominations for Charlie start coming in, I couldn‚??t help but smile,‚?Ě Ackerman said. ‚??The scene downtown on the day of the dedication of the Hometown Heroes Memorial was unforgettable. An entire community turned out to honor its heroes and provide whatever comfort it could to their surviving families. And that Captain T.J. Hromisin was included as a local surviving hero indicates that the project was well conceived as well as well executed.
‚??The award is about impact and this project had enormous impact,‚?Ě Ackerman said.
Adonizio was reluctant to accept the award alone because his team at the chamber contributed so much to the project.
Rosemary Dessoye, executive vice president of the Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce, Office Manager Brandi Bartush and Administrative Assistant Shirley Bartos all deserve praise and kudos, Adonizio said.
‚??It really was a team effort,‚?Ě Adonizio said. ‚??They supported my idea and encouraged me to move on. They all worked tirelessly.
‚??Rosemary Dessoye shared my every thought on this and she added to it and enhanced it with her own ideas.‚?Ě
Adonizio said he‚??s traveled around the country and visited various chambers of commerce, including ones in Vermont, Florida, Arizona and Colorado.
‚??The one thing that all the chambers had was a flag,‚?Ě he said.
In November of 2010, Dale Kridlo was killed in Afghanistan. The Pittston mayor sent out a memo to all businesses to lower their flag to half mast.
‚??We couldn‚??t because we didn‚??t have one,‚?Ě Adonizio said. ‚??That really drove the whole thing home. That linked the flagpole and the memorial in my mind.‚?Ě
Kridlo‚??s death hit the community so hard and Adonizio saw the community outpouring at his funeral at St. John the Evangelist Church.
‚??It stirred so much emotion in everyone,‚?Ě Adonizio said. ‚??It was profound sadness for the loss of Dale. And a prideful thing, the way the community came out to support the family. It really galvanized the community. It was sadness mixed with pride.‚?Ě
He said the original plan was to place the memorial in the small yard on the side of the building, until the devastation of tropical storms Lee and Irene.
‚??We had three beautiful flowering pear trees in the front lawn,‚?Ě he said. ‚??Two of the trees were snapped off and the other tree was damaged.‚?Ě
None of the trees were worth keeping and all of them had to be removed.
‚??Not to be corny, but it was like God‚??s hand came down and cleared the pallet for us,‚?Ě Adonizio said. ‚??It cleaned the way for us to put it in the front yard, where it belongs.‚?Ě
‚??We have one of the best locations in Greater Pittston,‚?Ě he said. ‚??You can get a view from the West Side coming over the bridge. You can get a view coming down on William Street.‚?Ě
Adonizio said once they presented their plan to the families of the fallen officers and soliders, there was no turning back.
‚??We had a meeting and unrolled this to the families and they were so touched,‚?Ě he said. ‚??Once we unrolled the idea to the families, we had a commitment, we knew we had to keep pushing forward.‚?Ě
Jeff Deprimo‚??s father, Joseph, told Adonizio something like this memorial was all he ever wanted for his son.
‚??They want their children and spouses to be remembered,‚?Ě Adonizio said.
The memorial was officially dedicated on July 1, 2012, to U.S. Army Cpl. Dale Justin Kridlo, 33, who was killed in action. Nov. 7, 2010 in Afghanistan; U.S. Navy and PA Army National Guard Lt. Col Richard Joseph Berrettini, 52, who died Jan. 11, 2008, as a result of injuries sustained in Afghanistan; Pennsylvania State Trooper Joshua Daniel Miller, 34, who was killed June 7, 2009, in Monroe County; Virginia Beach Police Department Officer Rodney F. Pocceschi, 33, was killed on June 23, 2003, in Virginia Beach, Va.; and Pennsylvania Army National Guard First Lt. Jeffrey Frank DePrimo, 33, who was killed May 20, 2008, in Afghanistan. A living memorial on the side yard was also dedicated to Capt. T.J. Hromisin, who was critically injured in Iraq.
Albert Kridlo, father of Dale, honks his horn ever time he drives past the memorial.
‚??You can‚??t go down Kennedy Boulevard and stop at the light and not see my son looking at you,‚?Ě he said. ‚??That means a lot to me.‚?Ě
He pointed to the Firefighters‚?? Memorial just down the street and revitalization going on in the downtown.
‚??It‚??s a lively area,‚?Ě he said. ‚??It‚??s all tied in. And Charlie and the Chamber were spearheads.‚?Ě
Kridlo credited the forward thinking and determination of Adonizio and all of the Chamber team that helped make the memorial a reality.
‚??I‚??m happy and thankful,‚?Ě he said. ‚??Why wouldn‚??t people want to honor a bunch of young men who are heroes?‚?Ě
Dessoye praised Adonizio‚??s relentlessness. ‚??He stayed focused on his goal,‚?Ě she said. ‚??He was able to bring a lot of enthusiasm to the project.‚?Ě
She said the memorial is important to different people for different reasons. ‚??Each brick in that memorial tells a story,‚?Ě Dessoye said.
She said local funeral director Paul Leonard bought several for his family members who served in the armed forces many years ago. Jim Tigue, a Vietnam veteran, suggested they fly the black POW/MIA flag beneath the American flag. State police troopers from the Tunkhannock barracks, where Trooper Miller was stationed, bought bricks in memory of their fallen comrade. Dessoye bought a brick in honor of her parents.
They spoke of a group of elderly ladies that walked down from Our Lady of the Eucharist Church and bought bricks for DePrimo, a member of their congregation.
‚??When the little old ladies from the church came down to buy bricks, we knew we had something,‚?Ě Adonizio said. ‚??It was so heartwarming.‚?Ě
‚??Everybody came together,‚?Ě Dessoye said. ‚??Everybody was so receptive because there was such a personal touch.‚?Ě
Adonizio, whose one-year term as the Chamber‚??s president ended in July, said he averaged about 20 hours a week working on planning and organization.
He and his team met every Tuesday at 9 a.m., each time with a different person contributing to the final outcome, including the design artist, the landscaper, the mason, the contractor.
He said ‚??in kind‚?Ě donations significantly lowered the cost of the project. In all, about $40,000 was raised and $10,000 is kept in a fund to for upkeep, maintenance and Memorial Day services and wreaths, which, he said, is planned to be a yearly event.
He said the in-kind donations were what put the project over the top. They included All Service Rite Inc., Balloon Works Inc., The Banana Hammocks Band, Sharon Carfora, Cilberto Masonry LLC, the Coffee Table Caf√©, Coon Industries Inc., Cooper‚??s Seafood on the Waterfront, Dente‚??s Catering & Rental, Dupont Developers Inc., Dupont Monument Shop, First National Community Bank, The Flower Tent, Mark Kowalczyk of Mark‚??s Landscaping, Joseph Makarweicz of Everest Business Services LLC, The Music Scene, Northeast Sign Service, Rexel, R.K. Lawn Sprinkler Inc., Jennifer Robinson of SEVEN Design, Rolling Thunder National - PA Chapter 3, Eric Sperazza, Patricia Stella, Susquehanna Brewing Company, The Sunday Dispatch, the Times Leader and The Citizens Voice.
He said efforts will now focus on rededicating the Capt. T.J. Hromisin Walkway on the side of the building. A fundraiser is beginning and bricks and blocks will be available for $150 and $1,000 respectively.
Adonizio said he was met with some opposition early on. Some asked why a Chamber of Commerce, a traditionally pro-business organization, got involved in the construction a memorial.
‚??My answer to that is if we didn‚??t have brave men like these, that gave their lives for freedom, we don‚??t do any business,‚?Ě he said. ‚??We don‚??t have a free country to do business in. These fallen heroes are the reason we‚??re here.‚?Ě
‚??And I ask, why not the chamber?‚?Ě he said ‚??We have the perfect venue for this.‚?Ě
Other critics noted the memorial is not honoring any fallen veterans from past wars. Adonizio said the plan was always to take a ‚??snapshot in time.‚?Ě
‚??It‚??s for the men from Greater Pittston who lost their lives in the line of duty in the last decade,‚?Ě he said.
Adonizio‚??s roots in the Greater Pittston area run deep.
Adonizio was born in Pittston, the fourth child of Helen Adonizio of Butler Street in Pittston and the late Charles ‚??Cugsy‚?Ě Adonizio Jr. His siblings are Judy Yanchek, Gloria Blandina, the late Christine Thompson, Jane Lucas and Dr. Patrick Adonizio.
He attended St. Mary of the Assumption School and graduated from Pittston Area High School. He attended the University of Pittsburgh and graduated with a bachelor‚??s degree in business administration from the University of New Haven in Connecticut.
After traveling for several months, he returned home. He eventually took over the family insurance company, Atlas Insurance Group in 1982, from his father, who founded it in 1938.
He later added a separate company, Atlas Realty Inc., in 1988, and the two companies are headquartered on state Route 315, in the Keystone section of Plains Township.
He married the former Karen Delaney of Hughestown and they have two children. Kristie Adonizio, 22, is student at Champlain College in Burlington, Vt., and Chad Adonizio, 21, a student at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Both are studying business administration.
The family resides on Westminster Road on the Plains Township end, Adonizio noted.
In his spare time, Adonizio is an award-winning vintner. He recently won a gold medal for his cabernet sauvignon in Wine Maker Magazine‚??s International Amateur Wine Competition. In addition, he won a bronze medal for a merlot entry and a bronze medal for a Malbec entry. Adonizio and friends have been making wine for the last 14 years and to date have won numerous contests and awards for their efforts.
He has several professional designations and has received the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors ‚??PAR Excellence Club Award‚?Ě four times in the past six years. That award is given to less than 100 of PAR‚??s 25,000 members annually.
In 2004, both of Adonizio‚??s businesses received the Small Business of the Year award from the Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce. He is president of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Association of Realtors, past director and president of the Greater Pittston YMCA and a founding director of Landmark Community Bank.
Jaclyn Pocceschi Mosley, the sister of fallen Virginia Beach Police Department Officer Rodney F. Pocceschi, a Pittston Township native, said Adonizio made a huge impact on the whole Greater Pittston community.
‚??He‚??s genuinely full of care and concern,‚?Ě she said. ‚??His goal was to honor those fallen heroes and make the families proud. Well, mission accomplished.‚?Ě
She said tears of sadness were shed because of the loss of their loved one, but tears of joy were also shed to see a community rally around such a worthy project.
‚??He has made a difference in all the families and the Greater Pittston family as a whole,‚?Ě she said.
Adonizio said the award, like the memorial, is something that the entire community should be proud of.
‚??This is an institution,‚?Ě Adonizio said of the award. ‚??The Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce is one of the institutions, like the Sunday Dispatch, the Greater Pittston YMCA, the Pittston Memorial Library. These institutions are part of who we are. It represents our commitment to the community. The overwhelming support we‚??ve received from the community proves that we are vital and strong. We‚??re just so proud that we had the opportunity and the privilege to demonstrate the strength, love and commitment that this community shares.
‚??This evolved from a flagpole to a monument to Greater Pittston,‚?Ě Adonizio said. ‚??And everything that we‚??ve had to sacrifice.‚?Ě