Student Provides Selfless Service During Pandemic

Antonio Pugliese accepts pin signifying his receipt of one of the 2020 Brian Piccolo Scholarship Awards. Pictured outside the family’s shoe repair shop in Dunmore are, from left: David Passeri; Scranton Chapter President Gail Cicerini; Antonio; his father John Pugliese; and his brother Nico Pugliese.

The tradition of younger family members caring for their elderly relatives, while not exclusive to Italians, is nevertheless particularly prevalent in the Italian culture. One example is the devotion of a local student to his grandparents during the challenging circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Antonio Pugliese, a 2020 graduate of West Scranton High School and now a freshman at Penn State Scranton, has put himself in virtual quarantine to help care for his paternal grandparents Clare and Nick Pugliese of Dunmore, especially aiding his grandmother tend to the needs of her husband, who since 2006 has faced significant health issues that require near constant attention.

Since the pandemic hit in March, Antonio has spent countless hours in his grandparents’ home and has refrained from any gatherings, including activities associated with his senior year, to limit interaction with other people and his chances of contracting the virus and passing it to his vulnerable grandparents.

“I had to stay disciplined to make sure I was not bringing the virus into their home,” Antonio explained. “What keeps me vigilant and what kept me okay with missing my final high school memories, while many people my age take their chances with the pandemic, is the thought that my time with my grandparents is much more limited and valuable than the time I could spend with people my age for the rest of my life. 

“My grandmother has worked more than enough throughout her life, and the work hasn’t stopped for her and becomes more difficult every day. So, even in the midst of starting my college career online, I try to do what I can to ease the burden my grandmother carries.”

Family is the most important part of his life, Antonio added, and he feels “lucky and grateful to have four loving grandparents who taught me through their life stories the importance of working hard and enjoying the simple things in life.”

Antonio, the son of John and Rosanna Pugliese of Scranton, was one of six high school students to receive the 2020 Brian Piccolo Scholarship Award from the Scranton Chapter of UNICO National, the nation’s largest Italian-American service organization. 

The award honors students who have displayed the same qualities and characteristics of Brian Piccolo, the professional football player who battled cancer before succumbing to the disease at age 26. Piccolo exhibited determination, hard work, integrity, leadership, courage, loyalty, friendship, teamwork, dedication, sense of humor, anti-bias, strength, faith, goodwill and courage in the face of adversity. 

Coincidentally, Antonio’s service to his family mirrors that of his grandfather Nick, who many years ago exhibited similar devotion and experienced challenges when his mother was facing the end of her life in Italy.

UNICO Scranton Chapter President Gail Mason Cicerini discovered the story when she met David Passeri, a fellow traveler on a tour of Italy. Gail noticed a beautiful gold medal that Dave was wearing, and he explained that it was a gift from a Nick Pugliese – a gift of gratitude.

David and Nick worked at the Golo Shoe Factory in Dunmore owned by Arthur Samuels, whose son Lee and his wife Frances are members of the UNICO Scranton Chapter. As Nick’s mother’s health declined, he asked the foreman for time off so he could visit her in Calabria, Italy, from where he had migrated in 1961. 

The foreman refused, but David Passeri was the plant supervisor and he made the compassionate decision to allow Nick to go. Nick was able to spend time with his mother, and having seen her son, she spent her final days in peace.

Following his retirement from the Golo plant in 1970, Nick established Nick’s Shoe Repair on East Drinker Street in Dunmore and worked there part-time for 15 years while also holding a full-time job at a trucking company loading dock to support his family. 

After Nick had to leave the shop for health reasons, his son John took over the shop on a part-time basis, with help from his sons Antonio and Nicola, a junior at Penn State Main Campus. Nick’s Shoe Repair remains open Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Across the years and across generations, the Pugliese story typifies how families can care for each other under all sorts of challenges and circumstances.

Artist of the Month: Maria Augelli Grudeski

Dr. Maria Augelli Grudeski, shown here with a painting entitled Holiday Door, which leaves a legacy timeline.

By Maria Augelli Grudeski

Most of us “featured artists” now are on our second profile here at The Hub. Kudos to Dolly Michalczyk for making this happen, as her organizational skills and goodwill are responsible for this monthly feature in The Dunmorean.

My array of paintings in the photo are centered around holidays, including a fall pumpkin, Christmas tree, Easter egg, a flag representing patriotic days, my featured painting of a Holiday door, and Valentine hearts which represent my favorite holiday.

In the fall of 2014 I realized a beautifully ornate Christmas card and went with it as my holiday painting. What a dream! Fast forward to spring of 2015–I will still painting “the door.”

Jill Swersie, our supportive art instructor, motivated me to complete the door. Her famous saying is “There are no mistakes in art–you can paint over oils.” Her words still resonate with me.

Summer 2015 saw the final completion of the painting, although sometimes I still wonder. How about painting snow in 95 degree weather? The painting would be ready for our Fall Art Show that year, one of many social gatherings we have as an art class. They are so much fun. We are “Astro Artists.”

Together, we celebrate Christmas/December holidays with superb entertainment, since we are talented musicians and vocalists as well. Jill is also kind enough to open her inviting Pocono home, letting us gather at her domain for our annual barbeque. We are also “Astro Chefs.”

Some of our paintings are available for purchase by contacting the Dunmore Activity Hub directed by Allison Boga. The price is right to buy one of our paintings! We also thank Allison for her dedication!

My classmate and friend Marie Barbuti has been a support in my artistry, giving so many helpful art tips.

Attending oil painting classes at the Hub has many dimensions. We have realized great friendships and social circles. The hub offers myriad activities year-round, including winter walking in the gym, yoga, knitting, sketching, ballroom dancing, and bus trips.

So I say, :Stop by, audit a class or two, and maybe you will join us. You will be so glad you did.

First Ever Drive-Thru Dunmore Cemetery Tour

Participants in October’s annual Cemetery Tour sponsored by the Dearly Departed Players included, from row, from left: Laura Doyle and Julie Esty, tour director, with Maura Mark of United Neighborhood Centers of NEPA. Back row, same order: Jake Mozeleski, Crista Gaskill, Nelson Wood, Christine McGeachie, Roger Mattes, Amy Black, Leslie Kirchner and Wendy Belaski. Not pictured: S. Robert Powell and Kathy Sponenberg.

The Dearly Departed Players rolled through the cemetery with the first ever drive-thru edition of the Dunmore Cemetery Tour on Oct. 4.  With the tour beginning at 2 p.m., cars were lined up down Warren Street, past Dunmore  High School and out to Quincy Avenue. Vehicles  also lined Church Street.  

A total of 170 cars went through before The Players got a very slight lull, then the procession started up again in force and continued until 4 p.m.  At least 350 cars went through, each car averaging between two and four people in each.  The drive through tour took almost 25 minutes to complete.

Participants were given a copy of the guidebook, “Who’s Who in the Dunmore Cemetery.”  With this guide book, participants were able to drive through the cemetery and learn about 12 cemetery “residents” and their historical significance.  Following the tour, they could use the guidebook, compiled by tour director, Julie Esty, to take a walking or drive-through tour at their leisure.  

The cemetery was decorated with corn stalks, harvest wreaths and scarecrows. In addition, Space Time Mead and Cider Works, Jerry’s for all Seasons, Dunmore Federation of Teachers, Lackawanna Historical Society, Carlucci – Golden- DeSantis Funeral Home, Miller Bean Funeral Home and Steven’s Wreaths donated decorations or sponsored and decorated a mausoleum or gravesite with harvest decor.  

Due to a sizable donation of fall flowers by the Dollar Store, 30 bouquets of flowers were assembled and laid at the gravesites of 30 Civil War soldiers buried in the Civil War section of the cemetery.  

The Dearly Departed Players were also assisted by Dunmore Mayor Timothy Burke and the Dunmore Police Department.  Gertrude Hawk Chocolates and PS Advertising  also contributed to the tour.  As always, Sam Quinn and the employees of the Dunmore Cemetery did a top notch job with the maintenance of the cemetery grounds.

Spaced throughout the cemetery, the Dearly Departed Players assisted the procession  through the cemetery.  Each Player reported numerous positive comments and thank you’s from the public for continuing  the annual event. The Players also reported that some tour attendees got back in line immediately following their first trip through the cemetery to take the tour again.

Suggested tour admission was the donation of non-perishable food items for Feed-a-Friend.  At the end of the tour Players reported that almost every collection barrel was overflowing with donations.  

Tour director Julie Esty stated, “We adapted, the public adapted.  It worked well and it was a joy to see everyone.  Good things happen in the cemetery! We will see everyone again in 2021!”