Dunmorean of the Month: John Barrett

By Steve Svetovich

Dunmore lost an educator in every sense of the word when John C. Barrett passed away Monday, Sept. 27, after a battle with prostate cancer.

Son of the late Louis “Bud” and Evelyn Margaret “Peggy” Barrett, he died at the home of his devoted partner, Peggy Burke.

A humble and always well-dressed man, Barrett graduated from Dunmore Central Catholic High School in 1969. 

He was a proud graduate of Kings College earning a bachelor of science. degree in secondary English education in 1973. He then earned a master of science degree in secondary school administration from the University of Scranton. 

Barrett began a lengthy and satisfying career as an educator when he started teaching English and speech composition in 1973 in the Dunmore School District. He later served as vice principal of Dunmore High School and principal of Dunmore Middle School. 

He was an inspiration not only to his numerous students, but also to his nieces and nephews, who looked at him as a second father or grandfather.

He looked at education as bringing a student’s potential into actuality.

If you looked at the definition of “gentleman” in the dictionary, you would find John C. Barrett of Dunmore. 

He had many other interests including traveling, architecture, reading historical biographies, working in real estate, and gardening.

He was well-known for walking in a polyester or corduroy suit to and from the high school throughout Dunmore neighborhoods. 

A man of humility, he was polite and kind to those who met him throughout his years as an educator.

And it was quite a journey. 

His career as an educator lasted until 2008. His final position was principal at the Dunmore Middle School. 

“He owned rental properties and loved houses and architecture,” his beloved partner Peggy said. “He loved traveling and reading.

“He was truly a gentleman, very humble. He was the epitome of kindness. He put family first ahead of himself. John never married or had children, but treated his nieces and nephews as if they were his own children.” 

A Notre Dame and Boston Red Sox fan, he always put his students first. 

“He believed in treating students fairly and was always there for them,” Peggy said. “He treated every student the same.

“He was a tough disciplinarian and believed in working to the best of your ability. He believed in a strong work ethic.

“He believed a student should come to school everyday and earn his or her paycheck. Your report card or grade was your paycheck.”

His sister, Barbara Jordan, said he was dedicated to giving the best of himself to the students of Dunmore. “The world has a few good men and he is one of them,” she said.

“He lived by the rules of kindness and selflessness. 

“He loved landscaping and walking. He bought his first car when he was in his 30s. Everyone in Dunmore saw him walking in his corduroy sport coat and tie. He loved walking to school and throughout the neighborhood.” 

Tom Jordan, retired Robert Morris Elementary School principal, was his brother-in-law. “John Barrett was a total gentleman his entire life,” he said.

“He was one of those men who looked the role, acted the role, was the role and dressed appropriately.

“He has a brother, Jimmy, who owns Roads Scholar Transport. I called them ‘Flash’ and ‘Cash,’ with John being ‘Cash.’ John had a good business mind too.” 

Besides his sister Barbara and twin brother Jimmy, Barrett is survived by his sister Betsy Laffey and numerous nieces, nephews and great nieces and nephews, including one on the way. He was the godfather of eight children. 

Dunmorean of the Month: Bob Ragnacci

By Steve Svetovich

Serving the public with high quality dining at affordable pricing has been Bobby Ragnacci’s forte for the past 40 years.

His business, Ragnacci’s Restaurant, 507 S. Blakely St., Dunmore, is one of the best known establishments in the area.

Son of Antoinette and the late Robert Ragnacci, the long-time restaurant owner, a 1973 Dunmore graduate, received a bachelor of science degree in elementary education from East Stroudsburg University in 1977. 

He quickly became a teacher at the Dunmore Elementary Center, but was furloughed in 1979-80 before going back to teaching there again in 1989 until he retired in 2015.

Still, he found out during his furlough from teaching that the restaurant business was in his blood.

His uncle, August DiBiasie, opened the restaurant in 1963 and ran it until 1981 when it was known as Sharkey’s.,

“I worked there in high school and then again in college, so I had a feel for it,” said Ragnacci, “I started teaching at Dunmore, but when I got furloughed, that is what pushed it for me to be in the restaurant business. I bought the business from my uncle in 1981. I eventually started teaching at Dunmore again in 1989, so I needed help from the family to keep running the business. 

“I had a lot of help from my wife and early on from my uncle. My mom helped out a lot in the restaurant. My mom is 88 now. My dad handled the paperwork and bills until he passed away in 2000.”

Married for 30 years to the former Antoinette Pasquariello, Ragnacci, 65, has no immediate plans of retiring.

“We have a lot of loyal customers. I can almost always predict what night they will be in and what they will order. A lot of times they go out of their way to compliment one of our waitresses for their service and the food served. That is the most exciting and best part of running a restaurant. It is nice seeing that. It is rewarding.” 

Ragnacci said his goal has always been to serve quality food at affordable prices.

His specialties at the restaurant include Italian homemade dishes, the various homemade pasta and sauce his wife makes, chicken Marsala, chicken Parmesan, various choices of veal, New York strip steak, filet mignon, stuffed clams, antipasto, steamed clams, U-Peel shrimp, chicken Alfredo, grilled pork chops, lobster and shrimp scampi, surf and turf, veal Marsala, veal piccata, spaghetti with sausage, meatballs or shrimp and penne pasta with meatballs or sausage. All Italian specialties are served with a cup of soup, salad, potato and vegetable. Various desserts are also available. 

Ragnacci certainly aims to please his customers.

It is an inviting atmosphere that includes a small bar area with dining tables. Various drinks, including wine and beer, are served.

Ragnacci’s is open for lunch Tuesday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The popular Dunmore establishment is open for dinner Tuesday to Saturday from 4:30 to 9 p.m. 

Takeouts were available during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic for three months followed by takeouts and outdoor dining until indoor dining was permitted again. “Due to our very loyal customers, we held our own during the worst times of COVID,” said Ragnacci. “We have great customers. We are so appreciative of our customers who were so supportive during a difficult time.”

Ragnacci is the proud father of three grown daughters: Kim Potoroski, 50, Marissa Jenesko, 38, and Gianna Ragnacci, 26.

He and his wife have two grandchildren: Eloise, 7, and Julianne, 5. “They are our pride and joy.”

Ragnacci, hard working with a sense of humor and positive outlook on life, has no plans to leave the business after recently celebrating 40 years of Ragnacci’s Restaurant. “I’m going to keep going. We love seeing the customers come in. We just had a regular customer come in from Binghamton, N.Y. We want to provide quality food to our good customers. And we keep the prices very affordable for them. We try to make it a nice, comfortable atmosphere. I like what I do.” 

Dunmorean of the Month: Brian Mills

By Steve Svetovich

Brian Mills is a proud lifelong Dunmore resident.

And he is even prouder to own and operate two of Dunmore’s oldest landmarks.

He is owner and operator of the Chestnut Street Tavern, 501 Chestnut St., Dunmore, and Brian’s Auto Body and General Repair Shop, LLC, 333 Chestnut St., Dunmore.

Both locations have housed Dunmore businesses for the past century. 

Mills, 52, has operated the Chestnut Street Tavern for the past 11 years. He met his wife, the former Lora Viola, a 1982 Dunmore graduate, there. She was a waitress at the time for Lombardo’s, the former name of the corner bar from 1978 to 2009. 

“The previous owner was selling and we decided to buy it and turn the business around,” he said. “We also got married.”

Prior to Lombardo’s, the corner bar at the landmark was Ianelli’s Bar, which opened in the early 1930’s after the owners came to Dunmore from Italy, Mills said. “There was a separate entrance for men and women back then. I know they used to have pasta dinners every Sunday.”

Mills calls the Chestnut Street Tavern one of the last corner bars around. He serves wine, bottled beer, eight different draft beers and IPAs. The bar is open from 11 a.m, to 2 a.m. six days a week and Sunday’s from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. Lunch is served 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily.

Steak and cheese, hamburgers, wings, pizza, meatball and all kinds of hoagies are among the specialties. The sauces are homemade. There is karaoke on Tuesday night and a D.J. on Friday and Saturday night. “It is a happening place,” Brian says.

Mills has been in the auto repair business for 34 years. He has operated at the Chestnut Street location for the past seven years.

The operation was previously Morell’s Auto and Body Shop, operated by the late Frank Morell for over 50 years. Morell was a former Dunmore Math and English teacher.

Prior to that, the landmark was used as both a butcher shop and funeral home. It was originally a horse and buggy shop going back over 100 years.

Mills has one daughter, Brittany Mills Boyd, 28, Scranton. He also has one granddaughter, Luna Boyd, 6. 

“I am very proud to own these two businesses which are both on Chestnut Street,” he said. “It is remarkable that these landmarks have housed businesses for over 100 years. Since I have lived in Dunmore my entire life, I enjoy serving this community.”