Pittston is a little less colorful today with the passing of artist Joe Borini.
Borini, who died at 82 on Tuesday, was Pittston's unofficial resident artist and mural painter. Borini worked in different mediums, but was probably best known for his large-scale patriotic and Pittston-history themed murals.
Two of his historical themed murals fill the walls of Savo's Pizza. There's a 124-foot Borini mural in Gerrity's supermarket in West Pittston. Another is on a wall in Marine Corps League in Miners Mills.
One Borini Patriotic-themed mural is seen by thousands of people every day on the outside wall of the VFW on Main Street in Dupont. It depicts, among other scenes, a 9/11 motif with the Pentagon, Let's Roll, President Bush and Rudy Giuliani.
Hundreds of smaller prints of Borini drawings of historical Main Street in Pittston, the Lehigh Valley Passenger Station and other local history scenes can be found in homes and businesses throughout the local area and beyond. Drawings of Pittston City, the Laurel Line, a train and a breaker are displayed in the American Embassy in Japan.
The son of an Italian immigrant miner, Borini was born and raised in Pittston Township and graduated from Pittston Township High School in 1947. In an interview in 2010 when he was voted best artist in the Best of Greater Pittston Sunday Dispatch Reader's Poll, Borini said he started painting when he was 5 or 6 years old.
When I was a kid, I couldn't stand white paper lying around, he said. I remember my mother had wallpaper and I knew there would be some leftover and I couldn't wait to get my hands on it so I could paint on it.
As a teenager he got a set of oil paints. It got to the point where any free time I had and anything that was available whether it was a piece of wood or paper, I did something with it.
During the Korean War Borini was stationed on Okinawa with a bomb squad where he painted a bikini-clad girl on a bomber the airman nicknamed Hot to Go after World War II planes.
The plane was shot down, Borini recalled in that 2010 interview. When the war was over prisoners came back to Okinawa and said, Joey you'll never guess what the Chinese did. They brought in blown up pictures of ‘Hot to Go' and said you Americans are nutty for putting beautiful women on airplanes that kill people and do all this damage.
Borini was also a craftsman, a skill common among his ancestors in Northern Italy. General Norman Schwarzkopf owns a chess set crafted by Borini. He made many coal breakers for model railroad sets.
Though Borini worked at Tobyhanna Army Depot for 27 years, his real passion was painting and he developed a nice side business.
He started out as a portrait painter, but gave that up for mural work, which started when he was commissioned to paint murals, through word-of-mouth referrals, in private homes often of hunting and fishing scenes.
His last large mural, which he finished last summer, is a colorful winter scene of vintage Pittston on a 9 by 7 wall in the waiting room of Pittston Dental on Main Street
Borini liked to tell the story of the mural of a United States Marines battle he painted on a wall of the Marine Corps League in Miners Mills.
I was down to my last two strokes and a man walked in. He looked at the mural, turned around and walked out. When I was finished I went out a here's this man crying. I went over to him and said what's wrong and he said ‘I had a tough time looking at it'.