First Posted: 2/3/2013
Rosemary Dolly Yunkunis passed away unexpectedly on Monday, Jan. 28, 2013, at home.
Dolly was a celebration of life — living it to the fullest every moment until her final day. She still actively sang and performed comedy several times monthly at nursing homes and assisted living centers throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania. Her charismatic personality brought smiles to the faces of everyone around her.
Born on July 8, 1929, in Manhattan to the late Anthony and Rose Gentile Ruggere, she grew up in Luzerne and attended school there. She relocated to Port Jervis, N.Y., after meeting the love of her life, the late Stanley Thomas Yunkunis, and spent nearly a year living in Mexico City. She eventually returned to Pennsylvania, where she resided in Kingston for the past 47 years. She was a member of St. John the Evangelist Church, Pittston.
She began singing on the radio as a child and continued her love for music and theater throughout her life. She entertained all over the East Coast as well as in Las Vegas, the Bahamas and Bermuda.
Local employment included working at the Hi-Lite Lounge, Kingston, as a hostess and singing in Chapter V, Bath’s Pub, Carriage Stop Inn, Kozy K and Klocko’s, among other places. She sang with King Henry and the Showmen in Jim Thorpe for several years and was also a member of the Sweet Adelines and the ILGWU Chorus.
However, she was not known only for being an entertainer. She was an avid volunteer, and for nearly 30 years donated her time to many civic organizations including John Heinz, RSVP, the VFW, the American Legion, Ladies of Lions, the American Cancer Society, the Council of the Blind and the Association for the Blind, to name a few. She was honored by President George W. Bush in 2004 and was asked by the White House to greet him as he stepped off Air Force One in Avoca and accompany the presidential motorcade to Wilkes-Barre.
An integral part of her life was her daily involvement with the Kingston Senior Center for more than 25 years. She produced several Dollies Follies variety shows and cultivated many friendships there. She always thought herself lucky to have led such a full life and to have seen and done all that she did, although she considered her proudest accomplishments to be her three loving children.
In addition to her parents and husband, she was preceded in death by her stepmother, Veronica Fox Ruggere; brother Robert Ruggere; and sister Jean Marie Saya.
She is survived by her children, Stanley J. Yunkunis and wife, Carol, Ellicott City, Md.; Elizabeth Bendik, Shavertown, and David Yunkunis and wife Christine, Larksville. She was extremely proud of her eight grandchildren whose names she sang in her rendition of her signature song, Hello Dolly; Jennifer, Nathan, Stefanie, Kaitlyn and Timothy Bendik, and Christiana, Esq., Tara and David Yunkunis. She is also survived by her brothers Gene Ruggere, Courtdale; John and Samuel Ruggere, South Carolina; Anthony Ruggere and Howard Fox, Florida; sisters Clara Casterline, Exeter; Tony Weiss, Trucksville, and Christine Leary, Florida; an aunt, uncle, cousins and numerous nieces and nephews.
Dolly will definitely be missed by all who knew her. We never thought we would have to say goodbye so soon, but we will never forget her impact on our lives.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held from St. John the Evangelist Church, Pittston, on Monday, Feb. 4 at 11 a.m. with Monsignor John J. Bendik officiating. Interment will be held in St. Casimir’s Cemetery, Pittston. Friends may call at the Karl E. Blight Funeral Home, 392 Wyoming Ave., Kingston, on today, Jan. 3, 2013, from 2 to 6 p.m.
Memorial donations may be made to the Association for the Blind in Exeter.