Dunmorean of the Month: Gary Duncan

Dunmorean of month

Gary Duncan, left, is shown with Magistrate Paul Ware, who administered his oath of office and appointment by Governor Wolf and the Pennsylvania Assembly to the Pennsylvania Council on Aging.

By Steve Svetovich

Dunmore’s Gary Duncan has done a lot of good things in his life, but he is most proud of his most recent accomplishment as Vice-Chair for the Pennsylvania Council on Aging.

Duncan, 66, was administered the oath of office by local Magistrate Paul Ware and appointment by Governor Wolf and the Pennsylvania Assembly.

The Pennsylvania Council on Aging serves as an advocate for older individuals and advises the governor’s department on planning, coordination and delivery of services for older individuals in the commonwealth. 

Duncan and his wife Lynne, a speech pathologist at Allied Services, are proud parents of two daughters, Annie, a graduate student at Marywood University studying for an M.B.A., and Claire, a senior at Immaculata University with a dual major in English and Communications and minor in public relations. 

Duncan has been head of the Dunmore Neighborhood Crime Watch for the past six years. It is a position he takes very seriously. 

He is a member of the Dunmore Planning Commission. 

Articulate and well spoken, Duncan has a B.S. degree in both nursing and occupational therapy from two different universities. He is a former cross country runner at Pennsylvania State University. 

A registered and certified occupational therapist, he worked in rehab for 42 years. He has taught geriatric rehab in the Marywood University continuing education department for the past 19 years.

“This is a great honor for me,” said Duncan. “It was not expected. It was a big shock. Senator John Blake nominated me for the Pennsylvania Council on Aging. The process took a year.

“It was a rigorous process after I was nominated. It took a whole year. I had to provide a resume and they did a background check. It went through the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and the Senate. You have to be approved unanimously by the Pennsylvania Congress.”

Duncan, who is now in his second term with the Pennsylvania Council on Aging, said he will now go to meetings every two months in Harrisburg. Senator Torres, the secretary for the Pennsylvania Department on Aging, regularly attends the meetings. 

“I am going to be meeting with various medical bodies from across the commonwealth,” he said. “One of the goals is to introduce tele-medicine to senior citizens across the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

Well versed in many areas, Duncan did a radio talk show recently for Twigs cafe radio in Tunkhannock. 

Duncan coached baseball in the Green Ridge Little League for several years. He used to love playing pickup basketball in his younger days. He was always an avid runner. 

Duncan takes on his role as a family man even more seriously. He gleams when he speaks of his daughters. “We are very proud of them. We did good.” 

Always driven and highly intelligent, Duncan worked for most of the past decade as a home health occupational therapist for Traditional Home Health, Dunmore. The Dunmore resident previously worked as a rehab director for several agencies.

“I am so proud and honored by this appointment,” he said. “It’s going to be interesting and I will take it very seriously. The appointment is to be taken seriously in serving the elderly population throughout the commonwealth.

Dearly Departed Players Work To Recognize Merrill’s Marauders

Dearly Departed

Among other current and former Dunmoreans assisting Mrs. Julie Esty, right, and the Dearly Departed Players with their campaign to get Congress to recognize the bravery of Merrill’s Marauders is Retired Colonel James W. Patterson. One of the Marauders, Robert Nicholson, is buried in Dunmore Cemetery.

The Dearly Departed Players, known for their annual tour at Dunmore Cemetery, are busy with a different project, one with a national profile.

According to Julie Esty, the members are campaigning across Lackawanna County to gather signatures on a petition asking the U.S. Congress to pass a Congressional Gold Medal Act for Merrill’s Marauders. The bill was introduced in the House in January, 2019.

One of the Marauders, Robert Nicholson, a native of West Scranton, has significant ties to Dunmore — he and his wife, a native Dunmorean, lived here, and Robert is buried in Dunmore Cemetery.

Assisting Mrs. Esty on the road with the campaign is Retired Colonel James W. Patterson, also a former Dunmorean. Another Dunmorean, James Mack, a Korean War veteran, helped out by printing 3,000 letters and postcards for the Dearly Departed Players to use during their project. Carlucci Golden DeSantis Funeral Home joined the effort by providing the pens used to sign the petitions.

They explain that President Franklin Roosevelt issued a nationwide call in 1943 for volunteers for an extremely dangerous mission in Burma, then occupied by the Japanese. Nearly 3,000 soldiers answered that call for help, and after cutting off Japanese communication and supply lines, they captured the city of Myitkyina. Just over 100 soldiers survived the mission.

“Sometimes these soldiers went days without food or supplies,” Julie explains. “They had to transport their wounded and they lost a lot of men to disease. We want Congress to recognize their extraordinary bravery and service.”

Dearly Departed merrill's maraudersThe Dearly Departed Players first stop on their quest for signatures was at St. Stanislaus Polish National Catholic Church, Scranton, home parish of Michael Sevensky, a member of the Merrill’s Marauders who is buried at St. Stanislaus Cemetery.

The first signature on the petition was that of Prime Bishop Anthony Kikovsky of St. Stanislaus Parish.

He was quoted by WNEP-TV saying, “Even giving of their lives, even those who weren’t killed in wartime, offered that up as a possibility. They went and served, regardless of the danger, regardless of the sacrifice.”

The bishop admitted he was surprised to learn that his parishioner was a member of Merrill’s Marauders, though he realizes that’s the way many of the World War II veterans were. “They went about things quietly,” he points out.

The soldiers knew from the beginning the risks of the mission, and that we considered expendable. There was no game plan to get them out of Burma. 

Julie Esty, an avid history buff, notes, “All of these men, all of our veterans, are threads in the tapestry of this Valley. It’s important to remember what they accomplished.”

She says there are many local men who did extraordinary things, such as Walter Grantz, age 95,  of South Scranton, a World War II combat medic who helped rescue prisons from a Nazi concentration camp. 

Robert Nicholson was one of five soldiers from West Side and another from the Lackawanna Valley who were inducted into service for World War II and then Dearly Departed Marauders badgevolunteered for the dangerous mission in the China/Burma/India theater. In addition to Nicholson and Sevensky, they were Ivor Morgan, Robert Evans, Joseph Magnotta and Arthur Richards Jr. When their mission was complete, all members of the Merrill’s Marauders received a Bronze Star.

After the war, five of the group returned to the Lackawanna Valley, where they are laid to rest. On a national level, 12 surviving Marauders, now is advanced years, are seeking a Congressional Gold Medal for the group.

The Dearly Departed Players are seeking 3,000 signatures initially in support of H.R. 906 and S.743. 

Julie Esty marvels at this project, which she finds very much in the community spirit of the war years in the 1940s.

“Somehow, in the great vastness of the history archives, it landed in my lap,” she says. “With the Dearly Departed Players, we are on a really amazing mission, and if people help us, something really good will come of it.”


Woodstock 50th: A Second Chance

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By Brian McAndrew 

On Friday night, August 15th 1969, Dunmore natives Jim McCormick, Donny Loftus, Jack Early, Robert Kelleher and myself were 17 years old and hanging at the Carroll’s Drive-In Restaurant at the corner of Blakely and Green Ridge Streets in Dunmore. 

It was a hot/damp evening and much of the talk centered around taking a road trip to some kind of rock festival in upper state New York, a little over a one hour drive from Scranton. 

Seemed like a good idea at the time but with no car, the road trip was nothing more than pipe dream.  Then another friend, Tommy (Bocker) Hunt pulled into Carroll’s in his blue 1954 Dodge Meadowbrook. He was game for a road trip and the next thing we knew we were headed to some place called Bethel, New York. 

Well, we got as far as the bridge at Narrowsburg, N.Y. The state police were stopping all vehicles–they were not allowing cars to go any further due to overwhelming crowds. The only alternative was to ditch the car and walk the next 21 miles to Bethel. 

Considering the heavy rain and lingering heat, plus running low on beverages, we decided to head back to Dunmore. Besides, it was just another rock concert in the middle of nowhere. Little did we know at that time, it would become the most famous and historic rock concert ever held called “Woodstock.”

Fifty years later, Donny Loftus suggested we all get together once again and try a return trip to Bethel for the Woodstock 50th Anniversary. We did! Donny got the tickets and a travel pass to ensure this time we made it through the state police road checks. On August 16th, 2019, we all met at Donny’s house in Dunmore and departed for Woodstock in Jackie’s old Ford Explorer (not much better than the 54 Meadowbrook). 

While much as changed since that Friday evening in 1969–Carroll’s Drive-In is now a Rite Aid Pharmacy, Blocker’s 54 Meadowbrook is at its final resting place in DeNaples junk yard, we are 50 years older, and the country seems more divided than ever–we still wanted to experience the Woodstock spirit.

Upon arriving at Bethel, we saw mostly white-haired baby boomers in tie-dye shirts just like ourselves. After walking the original festival grounds and chatting with other boomers, the music started. Blood, Sweat & Tears and the Edgar Winter Band started the Friday night concert followed by the main act, Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band. 

The music was great and the crowd that night had a spirit of unity and togetherness as envisioned by the original Woodstock Festival in 1969. 

After the concert ended, I talked with a woman who was at Woodstock in 1969 and asked her how the Woodstock spirit differs today from 1969 with all the changes over the past half century. She agreed much has changed in the past 50 years but emphasized that Woodstock spirit of togetherness and unity comes from inside all of us.

 During the drive back to Dunmore late that night, we talked more about our times together over the years growing up in Dunmore than the concert itself. Bocker mentioned this road trip seemed less about the physical destination of Bethel and more about another chance to be together with life-long friends. 

This second chance at Woodstock not only gave us opportunity to complete the road trip we started in 1969, but more importantly to be together with friends in the true spirit of Woodstock.