Dunmorean of the Month: Maria MacDonald

Maria MacDonald 1By Steve Svetovich

Dunmore’s Maria Pane MacDonald, program director for interior architecture at Marywood University School of Architecture, was named executive director of the national nonprofit, Center for the Living City.

The Center for the Living City was founded 15 years ago by friends of urban journalist and community activist Jane Jacobs who grew up in Dunmore.

Daughter of Michaelene and the late Francis Pane, MacDonald is a lifelong Dunmore resident and very proud of her roots in the borough.

“I see a lot of great architecture in Dunmore,” she said. “We have some great buildings and homes. But it is the community of Dunmore and the people in it who stand apart. All of the great things that are said about Dunmore and its citizens are true. This a borough I grew up in and never left.” 

MacDonald, who grew up in the same block in Dunmore as Jacobs, will become only the second director for the Center for the Living City organization. 

She replaces the center’s founding executive director, Stephen Goldsmith, who is stepping aside to focus his time on advancing the Center’s global Observation and Action Network. Goldsmith will remain on the center’s board of directors.

MacDonald is the founder of the Marywood University School of Architecture.

She continues to work as a practicing architect and specializes in adaptive reuse, preservation and restoration projects.

The Center for the Living City is a United States based nonprofit launched in 2005 by a group of activists, practitioners and teachers. It holds the distinction of being the only urbanist organization founded in collaboration with Jacobs.

The center’s governing board selected MacDonald from a strong field of more than 70 applicants.

Well versed and thought provoking, MacDonald received bachelor of arts degrees in both architecture and interior architecture from the University of Rhode Island School of Design, where she received the Excellence in Design award for her work on the “Reclamation of Forgotten Spaces.”

She utilizes a holistic, integrative design approach that aims to strengthen the relationships between the allied design disciplines and people and and the environments in which they live.

“I am thrilled to have been selected to work with the center’s board and staff to advance the mission,” MacDonald said. “This is an exciting time for Dunmore and Scranton and all of the universites and nonprofits.” 

MacDonald throughout her career has been team leader for many significant community projects. As an educator, her intense focus is on service and community outreach, providing community-based, experiential learning opportunities for her students and the people in the communities where they work.

She served for the past 15 years as Interior Architecture Program Director at Marywood University. She steered the program successfully through two full NASAD accreditations. 

“I am very proud to be a Dunmorean,” she said. “Jane Jacobs grew up on Monroe Avenue in Dunmore and I grew up and still live on Clay Avenue in Dunmore. She is an internationally known Urbanist and I am grateful to follow in her legacy.”

MacDonald has two sons. Her older son Neil MacDonald, 26, is a chemical engineer. Her younger son Ethan, 21, is a senior aerospace engineering major at the University of Maryland. Both are Scranton Prep graduates.

Her mom is a lifelong and proud Dunmore native. Her late dad died when she was young.

“We have a lot of great buildings in Dunmore,” MacDonald said. “that we can renovate and live in.

“We are now recognized both locally and on the international level. I think that is pretty great. We should be proud to maintain our identity. I am very proud to be a part of the Dunmore community my entire life.

“It is not a myth that we all know each other and you look out for your neighbors in Dunmore. We in Dunmore give back. There is a reason I never left Dunmore.”

The Marywood University School of Architecture is accredited with over 350 current enrolled students, MacDonald said.

MacDonald is a 1985 graduate of Dunmore High School. 

Dunmorean of the Month: Jerry Ferrario

By Steve SvetovichFerrario

Dunmore’s Jerry Ferrario is a local real estate developer who uses his skills to better the community.

Ferrario, 57, a Dunmore High School and Villanova University graduate with a bachelor of science degree. in finance, has been a real estate developer for the past three decades.

Married to his grade school friend and high school sweetheart, the former Nadine Lucas, the couple has three children: Jerry, 22, a graduate in economics from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School; Thomas, 21, a senior business major at the University of Miami; and William, a computer science major at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. All are Scranton Prep graduates. 

Ferrario and his brother Joe, 56, also a Dunmore graduate, rented the space and are the real estate developers of Monroe Plaza, the site of the old Price Chopper in Dunmore. His brother graduated from the University of Scranton with a bachelor of science. in business management.

The Ferrario brothers are equal business partners. Michael Marion, Scranton, is a minority partner in the Monroe Plaza development. 

Jerry’s focus for the past 30 years has been on commercial development in Dunmore. The lifelong Dunmore resident takes great pride in the this community. He regularly focuses on projects for the betterment of the borough.

Michele Neary, vice president of marketing for United Gilsonite Laboratories, works close to the Monroe Plaza. “Jerry has his focus on the betterment of the community,” she said.

“A true testament to that are the beautiful townhouses on Sherwood Avenue which was previously an abandoned building. Jerry is the developer there.

“We are blessed to have residents who want to bring lucrative businesses to Dunmore and beautify the community.

“As a member of the local business community, it is refreshing to have a business leader like Jerry who gives back double what he receives.”

After graduating from Villanova, Ferrario came back home and joined Ferrario Insurance and Real Estate which his late grandfather, Angelo, started and ran until his dad took over. He and his brother Joe operated the business after his late dad Jerry, Sr.

But real estate development and improving the Dunmore community was in his veins.

He developed 10 townhouses on Sherwood Avenue in 2008-2009. Currently nine are occupied and one is available. There is approval to build another six, he said. 

The Monroe Plaza is 44,000 square feet, of which 32,000 square feet are occupied, he said.

“There is 12,000 square feet vacant, but we have some interested tenants,” Ferrario said.

The current tenants of Monroe Plaza include Traditional Home Health Care, Great Wall Chinese Restaurant, Saint Joseph’s Day Care Center, Podiatrist Elmo Baldassari, Brian Clark Architecture, a mortgage company and the Haggerty, Hinton and Cosgrove Law Firm.

“My goal is always to help make Dunmore a better community,” Ferrario said. 

“I take a lot of pride in living in this community. We have really good people here. My brother is an equal partner. And Michael Marion is a big help as a minority partner. We are always looking to improve the Dunmore community.” 

Dunmorean of the Month: Dunmore Fire Lieutenant Eric Shigo

Dunmorean of month

Lt. Eric Shigo is shown with his son Brayden.

By Steve Svetovich

Dunmore fire department lieutenant Eric Shigo didn’t think twice when he risked his life and entered a burning building on Third Street last month to save other lives. 

And because of his heroic effort as well as those of the Dunmore and Scranton fire departments, Serenity Session, 3, is alive today. 

Her dad, Darkell Session, 24, also survived. 

The fire that killed a mother and three of her young children in Dunmore March 9 was ruled accidental and may have been fueled by debris left in another apartment, Lackawnna County District Attorney Mark Powell reported.

Arson was ruled out as a cause of the fire, added Powell in a statement last month. Powell said the fire appeared to have started in the middle room of the vacant apartment on the second floor of 610 Third Street. Ebony Thompson, her fiancé Darkell Session and their four children had recently moved into the apartment one floor above. 

Thompson, 26, and the couple’s daughter London Session, 5, and Tiara Session, 2, died in the fire. Their son, Dallas Session, 1, died a day later. 

Darkell Session, who jumped out of a second floor window, and Serenity survived.

Investigators from the Dunmore police, Scranton police and U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives could not make a conclusive determination of the initial source of heat or what ignited.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Saluting all the members of the Dunmore Fire Department. This group photo was was taken by Joe Klapatch. He wrote the book “The Boys from Bucktown” the history of the Dunmore Fire Department.

Former Dunmore Councilman Paul Nardozzi, a former police officer, praised the Dunmore and Scranton fire departments for their heroic efforts. “Dunmore suffered an unimaginable tragedy with the loss of four innocent people, three who were children,” he said. “If not for the efforts of all the brave and highly trained firefighters from Dunmore, Scranton and surrounding communities, as well as our excellent Dunmore police department, the loss of life would have been worse. 

“Lieutenant Eric Shigo from the Dunmore fire department risked all he has in life to enter that third floor inferno and rescue two of those children, one who died a day later but one who survived the blaze. Eric, himself, was trapped and disoriented for a while. Thus, Fireman’s MAYDAY that went out.

“The entire community and myself personally have been acknowledging Eric for his efforts to save lives that would have been lost. We all need to thank these brave firefighters and police officers. God bless the first responders and especially the family with so many lives lost.”

Chris DeNaples is Dunmore borough fire chief. He was also at the scene of the fire.

Shigo, who has 16 years experience as a Dunmore fireman, was extremely humble when interviewed by The Dunmorean.

“Four of us were initially called to the scene of the fire,” he said. “But there were five people to save. Darkell jumped out of a window, but five were inside.

“A total of 12 more firefighters from Dunmore and 10 from Scranton were called to help. Plus we had volunteers. Larry Waters was my driver. Dunmore firemen Jordan Wisniewski and John Rebovich were also first responders.

“When we pulled into the scene the fire was going pretty hard on the second floor and moving up. The exterior steps were the only way up. I ran all the way up. Two of our men pulled the hand line to extinguish.

“I was able to get Serenity, who was semi conscious, and Dallas, who was unconscious, out. I handed Serenity off to Larry Waters to the front porch. He threw the ladder up. The PA and Commonwealth ambulances were there to provide CPR and transported Serenity to Geisinger CMC and Dallas to Moses Taylor. Serenity was treated for smoke inhalation and released the next day. Dallas was transported to the Lehigh Valley Burn Unit, but died a day later.”

fire fundraiser pic 2

Young fire survivor Serenity Session is shown looking at an Easter themed raffle basket held by Mary Kate Cadden of Dunmore.

The Dunmore community responded quickly and a fund raiser was held at the Fireside Martini Grill in Dunmore March 15. 

“Larry Waters and I met Serenity later at the hospital. We met the mom and dad of both Darkell and Ebony at the fund raiser,” said Shigo. “The parents were very appreciative. Serenity was there at the fund raiser too.

“This is the worst fire I was ever involved in as far as fatalities. This one will take a toll emotionally. I only wish I got everybody out.

“It is a feeling that is hard to put into words. It is why I do this job…to save lives.”

Jimmy Reese, a partner with Art and Sara Ware as owners of the Fireside Martini Grill, said the idea for the fund raiser started with the Facebook page, “Dunmore, Greatest Place on Earth.” Members of the Facebook page quickly met with Reese and his partners to arrange the fund raiser.

“We had the venue and wanted to help,” said Reese. “Most of the local businesses got quickly involved with donations. Most restaurants in Dunmore plus some from Mid Valley, Scranton and Moscow made donations. Over 120 trays of pizza were donated. Over $1200 was raised for the family. It was a nice turnout.

“There were 118 gift certificates and baskets donated. Serenity had her eye on a basket with the Easter Bunny. Well, we made sure she won it.

“There is a beautiful picture of Mary Kate Cadden, one of our employees, presenting Serenity with the basket. It was so touching.”