AVOCA — Dedicating a lifetime to help better one significant area takes heart and dedication. Mary Ann Tigue has given a lot of both to the borough.
A borough councilwoman for close to 30 years, Tigue’s desire to bring a positive image to Avoca and help its residents has earned her the 2017 Joseph F. Saporito Lifetime of Service Award.
“I just love helping people,” she said. “It’s something I enjoy doing.”
The Sunday Dispatch first presented the award in 2000 when Saporito’s widow Yolanda “Dolly” Saporito, since deceased, and sons, Carlo and Atty. Joseph Jr., accepted the award on his behalf. The award is named and presented annually in Saporito’s honor.
Nominees for the award must have dedicated a lifetime of service with the intention of making a difference in the Greater Pittston area. The editorial staff of the Sunday Dispatch accepts nominations from the community before making a final decision.
A Duryea girl
Although she’s known for her work in Avoca, Tigue, 79, was born and raised in Duryea where she attended Holy Rosary School.
She graduated from Wilkes University with a degree in Accounting and prepared income taxes for 22 years.
She also worked as secretary for the late former State Rep. Ray Musto.
Tighe moved to Avoca in 1967 when she married her late husband, Joseph, a former mailman who passed away in 2009.
Together, they had four boys — Joseph Jr., Michael and twins John and Kevin.
Tigue said she never had the intention of getting into politics, but was approached by former Avoca Borough Council members about running.
“They came after me here in town,” she said. “They tried to get me in Duryea, but I just didn’t (want to do it). Jack O’Malley, Marty McGlynn and Don Casey came to me and said ‘Please, come on council. We need you. You’re such a worker and we need you.’ And that’s when I got involved.”
Tigue served for about 30 years, and has seen many faces come and go on council, saying none of the current council members held seats when she started.
“The only one that’s here lately is Mr. (Frank) Marriggi,” she said. “Marriggi is the oldest, and John Boone came on after him. But, the rest are all new.”
Boone, who serves as Avoca Borough Council president, worked with Tigue for 24 years and said she was never one to sit back and wait for things to unfold but was rather one to make things happen.
“Mary Ann was always a go-getter,” he said. “She was constantly out looking for monies, projects and things to do. She was certainly not one to sit back and watch. She was very active with the council and the rest of the community.”
When it came to grants, Tigue was the one who applied for them and did research on what she needed to do to acquire them.
“Well, 90 percent of the time we got them,” she said. “And if we didn’t get it, I’d go after it again. You have to go after them. You have to go on the computer and look for them. If you don’t, you have to go see these senators and tell them you need help.”
Tigue was asked to run for county commissioner, but declined the offer, saying it was too much for her handle.
“I don’t mind doing a little bit in town with the kids,” she said. “My priority was Avoca’s kids. There was so much drugs, and I wanted to stay here and help the kids of the town because I love kids. And this town needed help badly.”
Tigue no longer serves on council. She chose not to seek re-election as she is dealing with health issues.
Helping the kids
Tigue often used her political experience to actively seek grants to benefit the children of the community.
Her first priority was to keep the community center open, and she approached Musto and the late former State Rep. Tom Tigue about acquiring monies to refurbish it.
“It was deplorable and it was ready to close,” Tigue said of the community center. “I had to go to Tommy Tigue and Ray Musto — they were my two people I went to about grants. I filled out the applications for the grants and I got them. I begged so hard for money because there was no money available, and I got it.”
Boone said Tigue often sought grants on her own, and never asked anyone else to do the job.
“She wasn’t afraid do pick up the phone and call a State Rep. or Senator’s office,” he said. “To have a councilwoman do that on her own, that’s the type of person she is.”
With the community center fixed, Tigue helped start a basketball league to ensure the children in the community had a safe place to go and something to do.
The league is now operated by current Councilman Stan Waleski.
On top of the community center, Tigue also sought grants that helped give the borough three Little League fields.
“I went up to Scranton and I begged for some help,” she said. “The guy said that he would give me his big bulldozer; all he needed from me was assistance of the cops to come through all of these towns to help bring it in. I got it.”
She credited Kevin Nelson, a coordinator of grants, for helping her, as well Danny Llewellyn and Rocky Skolatchy.
“We couldn’t afford to buy uniforms for the Little League,” she said. “I said ‘Danny, we’re short three teams’ uniforms and don’t have the money.’ He said ‘Mary, I know you’re begging and begging. Here’s a check; now go buy three teams’ uniforms.’”
Tigue also sought money to help send children to the former St. Mary’s school and purchase playground equipment.
Other work in town
Not only was Tigue big on helping children in the borough, she was also big on helping the elderly, running a food drive that fed 500 people for 22 years.
“The hungry needed help,” she said. “I don’t do it right now; it’s just too much. But, they need delivery. People don’t have cars, can’t afford cars and are too old to drive. There’s so much out there people need.”
Tigue is a member of the American Legion, vice president of the VFW and helps the men’s VFW by selling tickets to their events and cooking food for their dinners.
“I get involved with everybody,” she said. “If they ask me to sell tickets at the door, I sell tickets at the door.”
When she’s not selling tickets, making food or seeking grants, Tigue is traveling to people’s homes to help them with their taxes and rebates.
“I go from Wilkes-Barre, to Plains, to Dupont, to Avoca, to Duryea — I’ve been doing it for 20 years,” she said. “I love doing it, and it’s free. I do it at their houses, and I have about 200 at my house. Those older people who can’t do it, I go to their house and I do it.”
Not done helping
Although she’s not on council anymore, Tigue has no intention of slowing down and will continue to look for grants to better the community.
A lot of grants she acquired are currently being put into action.
“We got those grants and they’re all waiting to be done,” she said. “We’re waiting for the playgrounds to be done, the tennis courts, and the roof to be put on the (community center).”
The children of the borough have been her number one priority, and she said she wants to look for ways to keep giving to them.
“I love kids,” she said. “I love kids and kids need somebody who cares for them. I love them and I’ll always be there for them.”
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher