A lot of change came to Greater Pittston this past year and the Sunday Dispatch was there to see it all — the good and the bad.
As the sun gets ready to set on 2017 and dawn on the year 2018, there is much to remember about what this year brought.
From anniversaries, to retirements, to controversial graduation speeches, let’s take a look back at some of the biggest stories throughout 2017.
LCCC coming to Pittston
Former mayor Michael Lombardo and Main Street Manager Rose Randazzo have dreamed of bringing a college campus to the city.
After 19 years, their dream is becoming a reality as Pittston will soon be the home to a Luzerne County Community College (LCCC) campus.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held in October, and the campus is expected to be ready for the 2018 fall semester.
Sunday Dispatch celebrates 70 years
Founded in 1947, the Sunday Dispatch celebrated it’s 70th anniversary.
A small headline appeared in the Times Leader Evening News on Feb. 10, 1947 reading “New Weekly Paper Makes its Appearance.”
The article went on to state, “The first issue of the Sunday Dispatch, a Pittston weekly newspaper, was printed and distributed yesterday. The edition contained 20 pages of news, advertising, and features with eight pages of color comics. The advertising consisted almost wholly of congratulatory messages.”
West Pittston Ptlm. saves would-be bridge jumper
Larry VanMeter will never forget his encounter with borough Ptlm. Eric Eramo because it was the day Eramo saved his life.
Eramo stopped VanMeter, 53, from jumping off the Water Street Bridge and was honored at a borough council meeting for his heroics.
“Our Town” chronicles Pittston
“We’ve come home to our town, Pittston, on WVIA.”
Lisa Mazzarella’s introduction to WVIA-TV’s “Our Town: Pittston” documentary wasn’t just a clever play on the one-hour production’s title — it was an acknowledgement the station has finally cast its lens on the city it’s based in after profiling over two dozen other towns in its coverage area. Mazzarella said when she called the Greater Pittston Historical Society to invite its members to participate in the first pre-production meeting, their response was, in so many words, yes.
The documentary premiered on WVIA Feb. 23, with live look-ins at the studio’s pledge drive interjected between segments. Among the Pittston residents and “Our Town” participants manning the phones was Greater Pittston Historical Society President Ron Faraday, who said he knew the documentary would eventually happen because he “wouldn’t stop asking.”
Moonlite Drive-In sold
The Moonlite Drive-In has been closed for more than 30 years, but an Exeter man saw his plans to reopen the once popular hot spot take a giant step forward.
The borough council unanimously accepted Eric Symeon’s formal offer to buy the property at 1190 Shoemaker Ave., according to council Chairman Gary Stavish during a council meeting in March.
West Pittston Pool demolished
The West Pittston pool finally saw the end of its days when it was demolished back in April to make way for a public park.
West Pittston Borough Engineer Thomas Reilly said the decision to remove the pool was made a few years ago for financial reasons.
“The minimum cost just to get the pool functional without any real upgrades was about half a million dollars,” he said. “The borough pursued funding but it was not nearly adequate for that large of a renovation project.”
Msgr. Bendik celebrates 50 years in priesthood; retires
Msgr. John Bendik, former pastor for St. John’s the Evangelist in Pittston, celebrated 50 years in priesthood this past spring.
He retired earlier this year.
A controversial graduation speech
Peter Butera hoped to spread a message with his speech at Wyoming Area’s graduation ceremony on June 16. In a matter of days, his message spread farther than just Greater Pittston.
The 18-year-old West Pittston resident has received national attention from his speech, in which he began to call out administration and faculty members, before having his microphone cut off.
News outlets such as CNN, the New York Times,, USA Today and the Washington Post have all picked up Butera’s story. He also made an appearance via Skype on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Tuesday night.
Crossley called a hero
Carson Crossley spent the Fourth of July afternoon with his best friend Joey Kolesar, Joey’s father Joseph, and two other children at Ricketts Glen State Park.
As Joseph drove the group to Carson’s Wyoming home for a holiday barbecue, the 11-year-old began to dose off. Around 5:30 p.m., something startled Carson awake.
He was sitting in the front seat of Joseph’s vehicle when it drove onto the sidewalk, sheared a pole at the corner of Ninth Street and Wyoming Avenue and continued to accelerate. Carson used his positioning to take control of the wheel and avoid oncoming traffic on a busy four-lane road. He guided the vehicle into a residence at 394 Wyoming Ave. — approximately two blocks from his home.
Carson, Joey and two friends received minor injuries, but Joseph suffered a heart attack and passed away.
Villa Foglia closes its doors
The lights went out for the last time July 29 at Villa Foglia Restaurant, marking the end of a 50-year run for the family-owned business.
Bernie Foglia semi-retired after 50 years in business — starting with Pete’s Pizza in 1967 and opening Villa Foglia in 1981. He said he will continue, for now, his catering business, taking bookings for weddings, graduations, rehearsals, reunions and funeral brunches.
Wyoming Free Library celebrates 90 years
It was on Aug. 8, 1927 that the Wyoming Free Library was founded. So, on Aug. 8, 2017, the library’s 90th birthday was celebrated.
Members of the community, the library’s board of trustees, its staff and other volunteers gathered to celebrate the milestone by honoring those who shaped the library into what it is today.
Dupont celebrates 100 years
Dupont Borough celebrated its 100 years in existence with a plethora of events and activities throughout 2017, and capped it all off with a parade in September.
The Dupont Centennial committee accomplished a lot, but never learned the true origins of the borough’s namesake.
“Some think that because our postmaster was named ‘Dupont,’ people just labeled mail forwarded here ‘Dupont’ and that’s how it got its name,” said Bob Price.
Another theory is that “Dupont,” translated “two bridges,” was named for the bridges nearby.
Fort Jenkins Bridge renamed
Approximately 100 family members, friends and city, state and federal officials gathered Sept. 24 to honor former Pittston resident Army Spc. Dale J. Kridlo, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2010, by renaming the Ft. Jenkins Bridge in his honor.”
state Rep. Mike Carroll sponsored the bill with state Rep. Aaron Kaufer to rename bridge. which was built in the 1920s, and is one of two that connects Pittston and West Pittston.
Care and Concern Committee celebrates 10 years
What started as a casual discussion about health care around the parish dining room table at St. John the Evangelist Church in Pittston eventually turned out to be one of the most successful non-profit agencies, not only in Pittston but possibly in all of Northeastern Pennsylvania.
The Care and Concern Free Health Clinic, a division of the Care and Concern Ministries of St. John the Evangelist Church, Williams Street, Pittston, is celebrated 10 years of operation this year.
Lombardo back as Pittston City Mayor
It was in 1997 that Michael Lombardo was first elected city mayor. Twenty years later, he is returning to that office.
Lombardo was recently elected new city mayor, winning 918 votes to his opponent Charles Bufalino’s 298 during the general election on Nov. 7.
He ran with Councilmen Ken Bangs and his cousin Michael Lombardo, Esq.
Randazzo steps down as Main Street Manager
Billy Joel’s song “Uptown Girl” can be about any girl, but if he were to write a song called “Downtown Girl,” it would have to be about Rose Randazzo.
Randazzo, 56, served as a driving force for much of the city’s growth during her time as Main Street Manager. She stepped down from that position in July.
“It was one of the best experiences of my professional life,” she said.
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher