Last updated: February 16. 2013 5:34PM - 397 Views

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The Pittston community mourns the death of former Mayor Thomas A. Walsh.

Walsh, 88, died Aug. 13 at Regional Hospital of Scranton.

Former Pittston Mayor Michael Lombardo, who brought down Walsh's nearly 20-year legacy in the mayor's office, was the first to speak of what a gentleman Walsh was.

"The night that I won, he came in the door at my victory party, stayed most of the night," Lombardo said. "In a time when local politics are so combative, we should all aspire to be a little more like Tom Walsh."

Lombardo said much of the downtown renovations that have become apparent over the past year started under the administration of Mayor Walsh.

"And as downtown redevelopment continues, it's unfair not to mention Mayor Walsh. He really started the ball moving on progress in the downtown," Lombardo said. "To put things in perspective, when Tom started as mayor, I was a sophomore in high school and he served until I took over. He really loved the city."

Jimmy Bannon, 94, and John Begley visited with Walsh, a World War II veteran, monthly at the Gino J. Merli Veterans Center in Scranton where Walsh resided for the past four years.

"When he was the mayor, he'd help anybody," Bannon said of his long-time friend. "He'd do anything for the people. He was a good, friendly guy."

Both Bannon and Walsh worked on many jobs together as Bannon was a bricklayer foreman and Walsh worked as a plumber.

"The last job we worked on was the state building on Lackawanna Avenue in Scranton," he said.

After their retirement, the men regularly met for breakfast at Agolino's in West Pittston.

"He'd have eggs and bacon; I'd have coffee and toast," Bannon said.

Wil Toole, retired former Pittston city clerk, told The Times Leader that Walsh used his plumbing experience to maintain the Pittston pool to keep it open.

"People never knew how much he saved the city," he said. "He did many of the jobs himself."

Toole remembered Walsh pulling together a crew to repair a sewer line near Cooper's on Kennedy Boulevard, saving the city thousands of dollars.

Pittston Mayor Jason Klush led a moment of silence for Walsh before the Pittston City Council meeting Wednesday night and ordered city flags to be flown at half staff.

"The projects we're completing now, a lot of them were started under Mayor Walsh," Klush said. "All the mayors before me have had a part of the success the downtown is seeing right now."

Walsh served as councilman for 10 years and as mayor for 18 years. He was defeated by Lombardo in a heated Democratic primary in 1998.

For Lombardo, his only differences with Walsh were political.

"Tom Walsh was a class act," Lombardo said. "He cared about the city before he was mayor. He cared about the city while he was mayor. He cared about the city after he was mayor. As the Tomato Festival approaches, it's worth noting it was started under his administration."

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