Ripe with Pittston pride


First Posted: 7/24/2013

He doesn’t consider himself an artist.

But he brings artists’ visions to life.

Pittston resident Ray Preby, owner of Apple Street Welding and Manufacturing in Larksville, was named as the grand marshal of the 2013 Tomato Festival Parade set for 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 17.

Often working behind the scenes, Preby is responsible for numerous projects and repairs throughout Pittston, including the bridge sculpture at the entrance of Riverfront Park and fixing the city’s damaged street sweeper.

Mike Lombardo, co-chairman of the Pittston Tomato Festival, said whenever the city needs something, Preby is there.

“One of the things we try to do is pick someone who has stepped up and gone above and beyond,” Lmobardo said. “Someone who consistently, over time, has helped the city. A true and true Pittstonian.”

Ray Preby, Lombardo said, is that man.

Lombardo said there are countless examples of “little, but critical” things Preby has done for the city.

On that list is a rebuilt back hopper for the city’s street sweeper, a large part that is no longer available. Preby also retrofitted some of the city’s new banner posts because several of them were getting hit by trucks. He added a spring-loaded arm so that if they are hit, they can bounce back without breaking.

“He’s crafty like that,” Lombardo said. “I can give you 50 more examples.”

Preby has also built the roller screens for displaying art at the Second Friday Art Walks. And he’s retrofitting a city truck to allow for plant watering, power washing and air pressure cleaning.

Preby will design and donate the materials for protective boxes to safeguard 12 control panels for the lighting system that illuminates the bridge connecting Pittston and West Pittston. The shields will prevent further damage.

His next steel project, On the Shoulders of Giants, is a tribute to great men, past, present and future and will be installed after the building at the corner of William and Main is constructed.

“My adrenaline is killing me on this one,” he said.

Preby’s reach is beyond Pittston. His shop is headquartered in Larksville and last year he unveiled the wonderful, wispy “The Ribbon,” a 27-foot-high, 2-ton stainless steel sculpture for the Millennium Circle Fund of the Luzerne Foundation. It is located along the Wilkes-Barre’s riverfront portal.

Born in the Heights section of Wilkes-Barre, he is the son of the late Raymond and Elizabeth Preby. He attended Wilkes-Barre schools and graduated from GAR Memorial High School in 1975. He attended Wilkes University for a short time before deciding auto body work and welding was his calling.

“I got hooked on welding after I had my first car,” Preby said. The car, a 1979 blue Chevy Vega 3 speed, became notorious for falling apart.

“Between the body rusting out and the engine falling apart, my first car forced me to learn everything I could about mechanics, welding and auto body repair,” Preby said.

“If you wanted to do mechanical work and body welding, this was the car for you,” he joked. “I learned everything working on that car.”

He married the former Nancy Ciali, of Pittston, and they have one daughter, Laura, 21, a student at Wilkes University.

In 1983, he opened Apple Street Welding and Manufacturing on Apple Street in Larksville and has been there ever since.

In 1987, he moved to River Street in the Oregon section of Pittston.

Preby praised Lombardo’s vision and leadership in helping bring Pittston back from the brink.

“Mike is the constant energy that is driving the changes downtown,” Preby said. “You need that one guy, that leader, a guy that people absolutely want to follow.”

The 30th Annual Pittston Tomato Festival will be held in downtown Pittston from Thursday, Aug. 15 through Sunday, Aug. 18. Preby will lead the Tomato Festival Parade, which is approximately two miles long and will begin on Main Street in South Pittston, proceed through the downtown to Kennedy Boulevard and end on East Street, adjacent to Cooper’s Co-op building. If you can’t make it downtown, the parade will be televised by Fox 56 with personality Jane Adonizio and Tomato Festival co-chairwoman Lori Nocito as commentators.

Preby, the philosophical artisan, believes humans have three distinct traits: hands, head and heart.

“In my work, there’s a lot of hand and a lot of head,” he said. “But now, I need some more heart. A heart gives everything meaning.

Preby is honored to be chosen.

“I know that the work being done to improve the City of Pittston is a group effort, and many people have contributed as much or more than myself,” Preby said. “In a world that seems to be standing still or falling behind, our city, because of all our good people, is moving ahead at such a pace that improvements are visible almost daily. If I represent those good people, then I gladly accept this honor.”

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