Dunmorean of the Month: Gianna Muracco

By Steve Svetovich

Fitness is the name of the game for Dunmore School District health and physical education teacher Gianna Muracco.

Daughter of Joe and Jean Muracco, Dunmore, Gianna, 34, competes in multiple half marathons and numerous triathlons which she wins or places in her age group almost every time.

Last year Gianna was voted best Zumba instructor in Northeast PA through a public vote in the Scranton Times-Tribune.

She is currently a local Zumba instructor and cycling instructor.,

Gianna is head girls’ varsity track coach for the Dunmore Lady Bucks. She teaches health and physical education at Dunmore Elementary School for grades kindergarten through sixth and health education to the seventh grade in the school district.

As a student at Dunmore, she was a member of the track and field team, both as a runner and javelin thrower. She was also a member of the swimming team. She made districts in both sports all four years.

She has been a Zumba instructor for 13 years and cycling instructor for nine years.

The Dunmore graduate received a bachelor of science degree in health and physical education from Marywood University in 2011. She received a master’s degree in secondary education K-12 from Marywood in 2013.

Gianna also teaches hot yoga and strength training. She started teaching cycling nine years ago at Studio LA and now at E Mobile Gym, Dunmore.

“I love being a school teacher,” she said. “It’s inspiring. I’m very passionate about it. I tell kids they can do anything. You can do a lot of things well. You don’t have to be great at everything. You just start with little steps and little goals. I can teach Zumba in school and the students connect with it.

“It’s a roller coaster ride. I believe in building both mental and physical strength. You need determination in life.”

Gianna made nationals twice in her age group in triathlons which she started competing in beginning in 2017. She also competes in sprint triathlons,

Gianna said she lives her life with fitness as her mantra. “I believe in determination and building strength and endurance. I try to get better and faster. I am super competitive. Running relieves stress and keeps you in shape mentally and physically. It has come naturally to me. I try to push myself beyond my limits and build up endurance.”

Confident and highly energetic, Gianna said she has been a member of Scranton Ballet Theatre since age four.

“I’ve been dancing my whole life,” she said.

Gianna’s strong beliefs in fitness help her see the world. As a Zumba instructor, she has traveled the world teaching. She has taught Zumba for audiences of as many 500 people.

“I travel the world doing events,” she said. “I have the time in the summer months when not teaching in school. I love teaching Zumba. I love Latin music. I just love the beats and different cultures and backgrounds.

“Zumba has made me a more multi-cultural person. Now I have multiple diversities.”

Gianna most recently placed first in a triathlon in Hazleton. She placed sixth in her age group recently in Lancaster. She places in the top five percent of all the half marathons she competes in. She ran in several 5K marathons and placed in all of them.

Gianna has been the Dunmore girls’ track and field coach for the past five years after serving four years as an assistant.

If you meet Gianna when she is not teaching, it will most likely be during or after a workout. “I love working out,” she said.

“I work out all the time.”

Dunmorean of the Month: The late “King Joe” Amendolaro

By Steve Svetovich

If you grew up in Dunmore, you knew King Joe.

He is a Dunmore legend.

“King Joe” Amendolaro died this past July 29 at 94.

For decades, he ran a mom and pop store at three different Drinker Street locations in Dunmore.

King Joe earned numerous weightlifting titles on the world stage.

He helped countless Dunmore football players with strengthening and weight lifting programs for about three decades in his basic Drinker Street gym.

His family helped him run the store. And that was 365 days a year. That meant Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter and the Fourth of July.

He was open every single day for his customers. Just in case they needed anything.

The third and final location of the business was at 622-624 E. Drinker St., Dunmore. King Joe occupied that location from 1971 through 1995, but was in business since 1954.

“The large gamut of inventory in the 2,400 square feet came to be because if a customer asked for something my dad didn’t have, he told them he would do his best to get it,” said his son Joe.

The cross section of inventory you could purchase at King Joe’s included aspergum,.22 bullets, Gravy Train dog food, Progresso soup, Sports Illustrated, spools of yarn, a dozen eggs, gallon of milk, Parodi cigars, packs of Marlboros, Hershey’s ice cream bars, bags of coal, cases of water, blocks of ice, Matchbox cars, boxes of Life cereal, shoelaces, a watch battery, Oscar Mayer hot dogs, a road flare, Tastykakes, get-well cards, bottles of Pepsi, a key made, baby formula, Silence is Golden cough syrup, pieces of Profera’s pizza, a plastic model of a 1970 Chevy Camaro, or even developing for your Kodak Instamatic pictures.

If you needed it, King Joe had it.

“My brother Tony is fond of telling the story about when a customer came in looking for a pair of drum sticks for a drum kit,” recalls his son Joe. “My dad bought a drum kit for one of us at Christmas. My dad wasn’t sure, but he came back behind the counter, rummaged through all the stuff and, sure enough, came up with a pair of drum sticks. When asked how much he was going to charge for them, my dad told the customer, “‘How can I charge for something I didn’t know I had?'”

His son Joe shared another story.

“Dad had a doll of a newborn baby wrapped in a blanket hidden behind the counter. If a toddler was acting up in the store, he would go behind the counter and start making sounds of a crying newborn. As he came out from behind the counter, he would lift his head from the doll, look at the child and say, ‘Shhh, you will wake the baby.’ The toddler would then become silent. It worked every time.”

King Joe was often misunderstood for promoting healthy living and exercise, but he did not want people to miss the opportunity or privilege of being well.

He had his rituals.

“On a Friday or Saturday night during the summer,” his son said, “after we closed the store at midnight, Dad would grab a creamsickle out of the ice cream freezer and tell my brother and me to throw the the ice tongs in the cab and we would drive to Moosic in a truck to a place that made block ice.

“The keys and access were at the rear of the building for after-hours business. Stored inside and upright were nearly 300 pound cakes of ice at five-feet tall. We would take at least a dozen with the help of a hydraulic platform and load them on the truck.

“Through the honor system, dad would slide the cash or check in a slot in a wooden box. To stop melting, we would cover the ice with a tarp and hope the wooden planks and cinder blocks on top would keep it from blowing away.

“When we got to the top of Drinker Street, we would hear the water dripping off the back of the truck. It was a reminder we were working against the clock. Once we got there at 1 a.m, someone would be in the truck cutting the blocks into manageable pieces. Another would take the blocks to the door of the ice house. And someone else would be hunched over inside in charge of storage.

“The three of us loved it and whoever came along made it that much more special.

“We would sell the ice in denominations of 25 pounds and had a crusher on the dock if the customer wanted it so.

“My dad always put on a clinic in customer satisfaction.”

King Joe was raised in Dunmore and left school in the 10th grade because he had to help his immigrant dad with his business, the Gold Medal Bakery in Scranton. He had to help out on the baker truck. King Joe’s dad had one leg and raised six kids on his own during the Depression after his wife died. King Joe was only 11 when his mom died. His parents were from Italy.

King Joe enlisted in the Army and was stationed in Alaska for two years before coming back to Dunmore and beginning his lifelong business ventures.

King Joe’s originated in 1956 as a general store/newsstand.

At the final location, King Joe had a gym in the back of the store where Dunmore football players were welcome to lift weights and train. He would bring thermoses of juice for the Dunmore football team to drink at halftime during home games. He filled up Dixie cups of juice for each player as he promoted healthy hydration. He showed Dunmore football players the benefits of Olympic weigh-lifting as opposed to power-lifting.

“He had great pride in football and Dunmore High School,” his son said.

King Joe is survived by his wife of 61 years, the former Annette “Tootsie” Scartelli, and his sons Joe, 61, and Tony, 59, both graduates of Scranton Prep.

Dunmorean of the Month: Robert Tuffy

By Steve Svetovich

Dunmore’s Robert Tuffy, 87, is a proud U.S. Marine veteran.

Tuffy is equally proud of his fellow veterans who served this country over the years.

And he’s more than doing his part to keep alive the memories of deceased veterans.

The retired U.S. Marine served this country for many years. In the past dozen or so years he has tried to keep the memories alive of his fellow veterans by restoring the headstones and placing flowers and flags at the graves of deceased military men at the Mount Carmel Cemetery in Dunmore.

He is active as a volunteer, helping out on Memorial Day at the Mount Carmel Cemetery.

Despite his advanced age, Tuffy is very active and remains dedicated to restoring graves of deceased veterans in Dunmore.

Tuffy, humble in nature, is a 1953 graduate of Dunmore High School. He and his wife, the former Angela Maruzzeti, have been married for 64 years.

The couple has two daughters, Diane and Donna, and a son, Robert. Another son, Donald, died at 18-months old.

The couple has three grandchildren, Corey, Michael, and Katie.

Tuffy retired from Tobyhanna Army Depot where he was an equipment operator.

He served in Korea for the United States Marine Corps from 1954 through 1957.

Tufty served as Lackawanna County Veterans Affairs Director from 1962 through 1972.

During this time, Tuffy performed outreach work in local Veterans homes.

“I hired some people during this time who had the right heart. And they are keeping it going and doing their best to this day,” Tuffy says.

During his time as Lackawanna County Veterans Affairs Director, the amount of money raised for Veterans programs went from $28,000 to over $2-million annually, he said.

“I am proud of that and of the work done by those we hired.”

And Tuffy Is so proud of his time spent as a U.S. Marine.

“It was a great experience for me,” he said. “I was proud to serve my country.”

Tuffy said he started restoring graves after noticing all of the old and shattered headstones while visiting Mount Carmel Cemetery in Dunmore on one particular Memorial Day several years back.

“I had to get involved right away,” he said. “I wanted to make sure all of the headstones of the veterans of war were restored. They deserved that. I started repairing the headstones one by one. It took me about three years.”

Tuffy restored about 100 graves and stones and even paid for the costs. And, at an advanced age, he did the work.

“A lot of third generation family members were very thankful,” he said. “I did this for the veterans. It is something that needed to be done. They served our country. I just had to get involved.

“These are the unknown soldiers. Most of their families are already deceased. Someone had to do this for them.”

And after replacing or restoring almost 100 headstones, Tuffy remains very active at 87.

“I work out in the yard and in my house,” he said. “I have a lot to do. I keep active and keep moving. And I continue to visit Mount Carmel Cemetery and do what I can do to help with the veterans graves. We need to show great respect to our deceased veterans. Replacing or restoring their stones and maintaining a nice grave site for them is one way of doing it.”