By Steve Svetovich
The late Alfonso “Al” Frioni Sr. was the eternal optimist.
He was a professional baseball player, Dunmore School Director, member of the Dunmore Sixth Ward Civic Association, youth baseball coach at Schautz Stadium, practiced as an accountant for 35 years, and loved discussing politics with his late pal, James McHale, Sr., at the old Sunshine Cafe in Dunmore.
He was also Dunmore’s Santa with the wing tip shoes.
Frioni died in April of 2011 after a courageous bout with colon cancer. He was 72.
Married 49 years to the late former Angela Morelli, the couple had two sons, two daughters and several grandchildren. Frioni was a proud family man and proud member of the Dunmore community.
A graduate of West Scranton High School, he signed professional baseball contracts with the Detroit Tigers and Milwaukee Brewers, toiling in the minor leagues as a pitcher for those clubs before settling with his beloved wife Angela in Dunmore. A graduate of Lackawanna Junior College, he worked 35 years at Emory Air Frieight in the accounting division. He was on the picnic and finance committee for Christ the King Church.
He was a man who loved to talk and tell stories and had plenty of them. He dressed as Santa Claus every Christmas season for the preschool children at Country Day School.
But his favorite story was about Dunmore’s Santa with the wing tip shoes.
Not too long ago in Dunmore, there was a Santa Claus with wing tip shoes. And his name was Al Frioni, Sr.
Frioni accomplished a lot in life, but he loved being Santa the best.
For many years Frioni donned a Santa outfit and visited children in his West Grove Street neighborhood and surrounding areas every Christmas Eve.
It was Christmas Eve in 1970 when Frioni, dressed as Santa, made a special visit he talked about often until he passed away.
“I dressed as Santa,” he said. “and went about the neighborhood wishing all the kids a Merry Christmas. I went to a friend’s home on Clay Avenue. His name was John Jason. He had a four-year-old boy, Jeffrey.
“I rang the door bell and Jeffrey answered. He stood there staring in amazement.
“I shouted to him, ‘Ho, Ho, Ho! Merry Christmas!’
“The little boy looked at me and stared innocently. I shouted again, ‘Ho, Ho, Ho! Merry Christmas!’ I asked him what he wanted from Santa.
“He continued to stare and looked startled.
“Then I asked him to sit on my lap. He did and I asked him what he wanted for Christmas. He said he wanted a truck and a few other toys.
“He continued to stare.
“I told him it was Christmas Eve and to please leave Santa some milk and cookies before he went to bed.
“He looked at me in wonder and astonishment. I wished him Merry Christmas and began to walk to the front door. I will never forget the innocent look on his face.
“Then I looked back and heard him say to his parents, ‘I think that is Mr. Frioni. He is wearing wing tip shoes.’
“Well, I didn’t have boots like Santa. I always wore wing tip shoes. He is the only one who caught me in all my years playing Santa Claus. It would take the innocence of a child to discover this.
“It’s funny how time goes by. That little boy, Jeffrey Jason, became the owner of the Old Brooke Inn in Moscow. I would dine there and visit with him time to time. When I would see him, it was as if time stood still. I would tell him Santa Claus is coming to town.
“But I will always remember him as the little four-year-old boy who caught Santa with the wing tip shoes.”
And to all of the little children out there today, I am sure the late Al Frioni, Sr., Dunmore’s Santa with the wing tip shoes, would love to be here today to wish you Merry Christmas.
Merry Christmas, everyone.