Last updated: February 19. 2013 5:52PM - 209 Views

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John Cosgrove slowly walked through a display of photographs at the Pittston Memorial Library.

With each photo, he paused and remembered.

This is LBJ, he was vice president then.

This is President Kennedy, he was picking up his membership card to the Press Club.

Here's my wife with the Clintons at Christmas time.

This is Jimmy Carter.

Ford. Reagan. The two Bushes.

He's met them all.

There's me and Truman, he chuckled.

Softspoken, with a razor sharp memory, Cosgrove, 94, met every president since Herbert Hoover.

Cosgrove was a featured speaker at the Pittston Memorial Library's Groundbreaking Ceremony for the $1.5 million Cosgrove Annex on Thursday.

The 5,000-square-foot addition will contain a state-of-the-art conference room with Smartboards and WiFi capability, a larger children's section, an arts and crafts room, teen space, a senior citizen area, a kitchenette, a vestibule, a coat room and additional rest rooms.

A playground is planned for behind the building adjacent to the new children's wing.

The expansion is part of the library's Cosgrove Capital Campaign.

Cosgrove donated his personal library, including thousands of volumes, correspondence and memorabilia, three years ago. When the Pittston library suggested it expand in part to display the collection, Cosgrove donated $50,000 to get the project started. The collection, along with the donation, prompted the library trustees to name the proposed project the Cosgrove Annex and to undertake a major capital campaign to pay for it.

Barbara Quinn, president of the library board, said an expansion was necessary.

We had no idea how voluminous this collection was. When we saw (it), we realized we didn't have enough space in our existing library to house this or display it, so we thought then about building an addition.

Cosgrove said the land where the library stands was formerly the Erie Freight Yard, where coal was shipped out.

In breaking this ground today, we're connecting symbolically, the product that made this community so successful to education and this library, he said. The vacant veins now of the anthracite coal will now be filled with knowledge from the library.

Growing up in Pittston, Cosgrove said there was never a library.

The only library we had was the corner of an office in the senior high school had some books, he said. We called that the library.

A Democrat since 1952, he's said he's always worked well with people on both sides of the aisle.

He even sat in the gallery of the U.S. Capitol when Roosevelt gave his Day of Infamy speech, December 8, 1941

Cosgrove, who left Pittston in 1937 to find his way in Washington, D.C., said his family has always given back to Pittston.

His grandfather drove a horse and trolly car up and down Main Street. He kept the town moving. And his father and uncle owned a local car dealership on Main Street, selling the latest models of Durants, Fords and Chevrolets.

After he got out of the U.S. Navy after World War II, Cosgrove had a variety of jobs in Washington, working for lawmakers and power brokers, but primarily was a journalinst working for a radio and television trade publication. He serves on numerous boards and was the former president of the National Press Club.

But Cosgrove always kept Pittston in his heart.

I celebrated my 19th birthday in Washington, but I never really left home, he said. I just got a job that was too far to commute.

Cosgrove thanked his two friends, Michael Clark and Georgia Jones, for encouraging him to donate his collection and helping him catalog it. And Sunday Dispatch editor Ed Ackerman, and his brother Bill, for helping bring the archives to Pittston.

And he thanked Monsignor John Bendik for blessing the building.

It's good to see Monsignor Bendik here, Cosgrove quipped. You often only see priests when you're hatched, matched or dispatched, Cosgrove said, referring to baptisms, marriages and funerals.

Tom Williams, state director of the United States Department of Agriculture, said the Obama administration is committed to rural, small town America.

We came here about a year ago and we brought a $49,000 grant to the Pittston Library, he said. Now we're back to break ground for this addition.

He said his department rarely gets involved in only one project.

When we come into a community like Pittston, we come into the community not to just do one thing, but we like to do a lot of different things, Williams said. So, we have been working closely with your library board and administration in order to do projects like this. And I can guarantee you this will not be the last one over the next four years. We will be back.

He said the Pittston has a spectacular Main Street and a vibrant downtown.

That's what this is all about.

State Sen. John Yudichak said the expansion really is a great project in very difficult times.

Libraries are the heart of a community, Yudichak said. And for many years this library will be the heart of Pittston.

He commended the library board in their selection of co-chairmen of the project: former Democratic State Rep. Tom Tigue and noted Republican and advisor to several governors, Pat Solano.

They picked the two people in the area that nobody can say ‘no' to, Yudicak joked.

State Rep. Mike Carroll, D-Avoca, said he's happy to be a partner in the library's expansion.

This really is community-oriented project and the entire region will benefit, he said.

Anne Hogya said the expansion started out as a little drawing and now she's seeing the project begin to come to fruition.

It will be wonderful, she said. We'll have a true community library.

Michael Lombardo of the Pittston's Redevelopment Authority said it was only 14 years ago the library in City Hall had outgrown its surroundings.

We started the first project and the doors opened in 2000, Lombardo said. And the story has been a great story ever since.

He said that the library is proof that if you build a library in a community like Pittston, people will use it.

This library, day in and day out, serves our residents, across generations, he said.

There is nothing more important than our future, Lombardo said. And our future is really guided by our ability to be educated and learn and this is certainly a beacon for learning.

Cosgrove said he's glad to see his collection had made it home.

This is wonderful little community and I'm glad my legacy is secure in the halls of the Pittston library.

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