First Posted: 2/23/2013
old that a friend had described him as a Renaissance man, Leo Sperrazza laughed and said, “I guess that depends on how you define Renaissance man.”
One way to define a Renaissance man is someone who is an accomplished wine-maker and photographer. A man who is a collector, a gun hobbyist, a serious bicyclist, a small businessman, a volunteer, a family man, a dog lover and, at age, 54, a college student.
Sperrazza has his own business, an insurance office on Broad Street, where a display of pieces of his multi-faceted life make up the background.
Joe Borini paintings of vintage Pittston share wall space with shelves of a die-cast cars collection and Sperrazza’s own framed photos of iconic scenes of Italy and local landmarks. Among them are the Coliseum, The Leaning Tower of Pisa, the canals of Venice, panoramas of the Fort Jenkins Bridge and the Susquehana River at Campbell’s Ledge with a fisherman hip-deep in the water in the foreground.
Sperrazza has been a photography hobbyist for 30 years, forced, somewhat reluctantly, to transistion from the film to digital age.
He and his wife, Luann, have been to Italy twice and are going back in the spring. On a previous trip, they went to Sicily where Leo, having done a little genealogy work, met some of his relatives, visited the graves of his ancestors and the town where his grandfather grew up.
Though he doesn’t hunt, Sperrazza has a collection of rifles and pistols and enjoys target shooting when he can find time amid his other activities like family-time, wine-making and, his latest passion, bicycling.
“I like to dabble in a little bit of everything,” he said.
He pedaled 3,000 miles last year. He sometimes bikes with his three adult children, Frank, 30; Leo, 21; and Angela, 25. Last year, Leo, Frank and the younger Leo biked from Bethlehem to Hershey on the Tour de Hershey, a charity ride to benefit juvenile cancer research at Lehigh Valley Hospital where Frank is a doctor.
He also likes to ride in the Coxton area and on the Lehigh Valley Gorge from Jim Thorpe to White Haven.
While Sperrazza finds the Coxton and Gorge rides relaxing, a bike ride in New York City last year was less so. He and his sons and his daughter-in-law rode the five boroughs of New York City, an event that drew 33,000 riders.
Though somewhat hectic, the New York City ride was fun and he is doing it again in May, this time hoping all three of his children will join him. His daughter is a lawyer and his youngest son, Leo, is a student at King’s College.
Sperrazza is also active with UNICO where he’s a pwast president and board member and still active in all the organization’s events. He is always open to ideas about how to improve attendance at the annual UNICO all-star football game, the organization’s primary fund raiser.
When Sperrazza raises a glass of wine at dinner or to toast friends and family, it’s usually with a vintage of his own making, a hobby his frend Charlie Adonizio introduced him to over a decade ago. Sperrazza soon developed a knack for working with grapes.
His wines have won medals at competitions and he’s been wildly successful at Corrado’s Family Affair Wine Making Competition in Clifton, New Jersey. “I couldn’t even tell you how many medals we’ve won,” he said. “Some gold, some silver, some bronze. I think this will be our 12th year entering.”
Sperrazza’s most prestigious wine-making medals were national awards from Winemaker Magazine where he won best in show one year for a white wine for a pinot grigio. He also won gold for a NAPA Valley Cabernet.
Amid it all, Sperrazza is not too busy to be a college student and is currently taking courses at Misericordia University toward a bachelor’s degree in finance, a journey he began after high school but never finished because life — work, marriage, children — interrupted. He is well established in the insurance business for 25 years and doesn’t need a degree. But, he said, “I felt like it was something I should finish.”
Sperrazza’s customers have grown used to seeing his bulldog, Roxie, around the office. Roxie is bit of a celebrity, having been pictured in newspaper ads in a tomato outfit and as a bunny and a reindeer. At 13, she is semi-retired.
The storefront window of Sperrazza’s office displays an antique floor model radio and an Underwood typewriter on a drop down desk, a touch of class added by his wife. The two were high school sweethearts, having met at Wyoming Area High School, he in the class of 1978 and she a year later. They have been together for 30 years.
Sperazza said the longevity of his marriage and the support of his wife and children is what makes it all possible for him to be that “Renaissance man.”