Jimmy Cefalo, hometown hero, Penn State star and National Football League Miami Dolphin player, came home to Pittston last Saturday for the dedication of the Inspiration Mural that spans the Newrose Building on South Main Street.
“This is my home. When people ask me where I am from, I tell them Pittston. Not Scranton, not Wilkes-Barre, but Pittston. This is my home,” Cefalo said during the event.
Michael Pilato, mural artist, also took the microphone and said he has grown attached to the people of Pittston.
“There was not a day when I was not approached for conversation regarding the mural and handed something to eat,” he said. “I was fed food for my body and words for inspiration.” He also noted his gratitude for the freedom of immortalizing his deceased daughter in the painting.
It has been exciting and interesting to watch the progress of the painting as it came to life. My first sight was the portico with the stately windows and steps that are so realistic I wanted to climb them and walk through the courtyard in the direction of the steeples of St. John the Evangelist, The First Presbyterian and the United Methodist churches. How fitting they should appear on the wall, for the churches are historical and represent the religious beliefs of early settlers and present residents of our city.
The first face to appear is that of Joe “I” Infantino with trombone in hand, ready to serenade onlookers with his music and wit. In another window is the face of Kevin McGroarty, advertising agency owner, with cigar in hand, perhaps pondering if we enjoyed his self-written obituary. The third window occupant was puzzlement. It seemed to be a woman with blond hair gazing at the city. To my surprise, it’s William Pitt, for whom the city is named.
My next view of the mural showed Michael and Sandy Insalaco walking through the portico, maybe on their way to a business meeting. They have come a long way from the little market on South Main Street, where fresh fruits and vegetables lined the sidewalk. Today, they are known and admired as benefactors of many local charities. Also in the portico is Miss Esther Tinsley, administrator of Pittston Hospital, a pioneer forging the way for women, holding a baby — symbolic of the people nursed and cared for at the hospital.
Other notables on that portion of the mural are Lou Butera, known as “Machine Gun Lou” a billiards Hall of Fame awardee who honed his skill in Pittston; Shawn Klush, an internationally know Elvis Presley tribute artist; Hughie Jennings and Bucky Harris, baseball Hall of Fame recipients.
Added to an upstairs window is Angelo Marcino, famous in the Pittston Area School District as a teacher and a school spirit leader who coined the phrase “Pittston Proud;” Pidge Watson, former editor and publisher of the Sunday Dispatch; Professor Frank Swingle, an educator at King’s College credited with helping many young men attend college; Lennie Pribula, who is synonymous with the Knights of Columbus building for always lending a helping hand.
Seated on the steps are Stephanie Jallen, skier and bronze medal winner in the Paralympics, and Justin Burns who fought childhood cancer with bravery and left a legacy of love. A picture of Lois Reed from “Hatchy Malatchy” is shown and muralist Pilato is seated between his young daughter Skye and his painting partner.
The middle section of the mural under the inspiration awning depicts Jimmy Cefalo’s spaghetti story where his mom and dad, Gertrude and Charlie, fed Penn State football coach Joe Paterno a dish of spaghetti as they awaited Jimmy’s arrival home from the University of Georgia. It was Gertie’s spaghetti that determined where Jimmy would attend college.
Painted on that section are Dr. Joseph Lombardo, well-known physician and team doctor at Pittston Area High School seated with Coach Bob Barbieri, respected by countless young men on and off the football field; Alex “Ace” Brogna, known throughout the valley as a football official; Charley Trippi, the legendary Pittston High School football player who made fame at the University of Georgia; Gene Guarilia, a Boston Celtics basketball player for four championship seasons; and Skye Pilato, playing a guitar.
Sitting in a youthful position is the charming and caring Gloria Blandina, coordinator of the Care and Concern Clinic, an organization providing medical care free of charge sponsored by St. John the Evangelist Parish. Standing in a doorway is Joseph Joyce Sr., founder of Joyce Insurance credited with promoting Pittston City. Poised sitting on the steps is the quiet but dynamic Lori Nocito, chairperson of the Annual Pittston Tomato Festival. A portrait of Joseph Borini, master artist, credited with painting patriotic murals throughout the area, streetscapes of Main Street and portraits is prominently seen with Dick Cosgrove, a newspaper man in the Pittston Area, who is remembered for his gentle nature.
Dr. John Callahan, native son dedicated to the Care and Concern Clinic, is in the upper level of the painting as is Jim “Socks” Ruane, one-time chief of the Pittston Fire Department and volunteer of the Pittston Ambulance Association. Patrolman Francis Linnen, positioned on the corner of North Main and Broad streets, was known to all who shopped in downtown Pittston for his assistance in crossing Main Street. James Clark, shop teacher at Pittston High School, is credited with constructing book shelves for the Pittston Memorial Library in the early 1950s is also depicted as is Mayor Jason Klush, the youngest elected mayor of the city now serving his sixth year in office doing a commendable job.
Amidst the realistic baskets of fruits and vegetables are Robert Conroy, a co-founder of the Pittston Tomato Festival seated on a motorized scooter from which he supervised the maintenance of the grounds, and Val D’Elia, founder of the Tomato Festival holding a tomato of which he was most knowledgeable. Donned in his master chef hat, Biagio Dente holds a tomato cake that he baked for the 30th anniversary of the Tomato Festival, with John Watson, former editor of the Sunday Dispatch. Edgar Patience, famous local sculptor with anthracite coal, is seen putting the finishing touches of a bust of Min Matheson, ILGWU union leader and women’s advocate.
We look at the mural and think there are many others throughout the area who deserve to also be depicted in the painting. Two such people are Michael Lombardo, former mayor of Pittston whose passion and vision for Pittston are unquenchable, and Rose Randazzo, volunteer downtown manager who is equipped with the same passion and love of the city.
In closing, I speak for myself and all who have the honor of being selected to be depicted on the mural. It is with appreciation and humility to be recognized. Know that all that has been done and will be done comes from the heart for the love of the people in Greater Pittston.
Reach the Sunday Dispatch newsroom at 570-655-1418 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.