Dunmore grad overcomes injury to hit homer for daughter

rinaldi and family

By Steve Svetovich

Dunmore graduate Chris Rinaldi knows how to rise to the occasion.

Rinaldi, a catcher, led the league in homers and RBIs as a senior in high school and hit 20 homers in two seasons at Penn State Worthington, but nothing was more special than the home run he hit for his daughter a week before last Father’s Day at Sherwood Park.

Son of Mike and Michelle Rinaldi, Dunmore, Chris is married to the former Cassie Suriano, a North Pocono graduate. The couple has a one-year-old daughter, Skylar.

Chris played four years of baseball and basketball and one year of football at Dunmore.

He was an all-star catcher in his junior season.

However, he really put it together his senior year when he hit .489 and led the league in hits (30), homers (6) and RBIs (27). He was named an all-star and all-regional catcher.

Then came the two seasons at Penn State in Dunmore where he hit 20 homers.

He continued his baseball career for several seasons in the Collegiate Summer Baseball League (CSBL), now called the Dunmore Freedom League.

In the meantime, Chris continued his academic career at Lackawanna College, where he graduated from the police training academy in 2011.

He was working for the Lackawanna County Sheriff’s office SWAT team in Old Forge a couple years ago when he suffered a head injury while serving a warrant. He hit his head on the concrete after he fell during the incident. The fall resulted in a concussion, seizure and brain bleed.

rinaldi and daughterThe injury took Chris away from police work, and he took some time off from playing baseball.

During that time, his daughter was born.

Chris decided to come back to baseball this summer—rejoining the Dunmore Freedom League. He is also looking to go on in college, possibly to pursue an advanced degree in counseling or psychology. His head injury may prevent him from returning to police work.

Returning to the baseball field for his first game in three years, he was a little jittery.

With his wife, daughter and mom on hand to watch, he walked in his first at bat.

Then came the second at bat which resulted in a blast to deep left field and out into the concrete area close to the basketball courts. A home run. His daughter gazed with excitement.

“That was a whole different thing for me,” Chris said. “Hitting my first homer coming back was great, but doing it as a father made it much more special.

“It was the greatest moment of my life.

“To see my daughter smile was the best. She was smiling ear to ear. Our team made sure she got the ball to keep forever. And it happened a week before Father’s Day.”

Chris went on to hit two singles to finish 3-for-3 in Dunmore’s 6-4 loss to Best.

He went 3-for-4 in Dunmore’s 14-4 win over Prep in the second game. The bulky bearded receiver hit two doubles and a single. He went 1-for-4 in the next game, a 1-0 loss to McGintty’s.

Chris, who was a basketball captain in his senior year at Dunmore, hit two doubles and went 2-for-4 in the fourth game, an 8-7 extra innings win over Old Forge.

rinaldiChris batted .475 in his two seasons at Penn State playing under coach Paul Boccado.

“This is the first time I felt healthy in over two years,” he said. “My wife convinced me to come back and play at Sherwood Park. She thought it would be nice to play in front of my daughter. I got the itch to play, missed the sport and decided to come back to the Dunmore team here at Sherwood Park.”

Chris, a genuine family man, said he enjoyed his years at Dunmore High School playing under veteran baseball coach Gino Tempesta. “I was lucky to get a lot of individual awards, but no championships. I especially loved being with all the guys and playing for Gino Tempesta. I made life lasting friendships. It was a pleasure and blessing to play for coach Tempesta. I loved being on his squad. He is a student of the game.”

Besides his daughter seeing him hit a homer for the first time, Chris enjoyed another first last month. He had the opportunity to catch for his younger brother Corey, 20, the starting pitcher in the team’s win over Old Forge. “It was real cool to have him pitching to me. It was a real great. It was the first time we were on a baseball field together in a real game. It was a lot of fun.”

It’s all about family and baseball now for Chris.

“Right now I am looking to get into a new career. And I will pursue another college degree. I will play baseball as long as I can. I’ll play until my knees go. And I”ll surely enjoy seeing my wife and little daughter at all the games.”

Dempsey’s Fashionable Laundry bounces back after fire

Dempsey photo

Bobby Dempsey, a fourth generation member of the laundry and dry cleaning family business, has described the horrific fire at the building last year, and the efforts to begin anew within the Dunmore community.

This community is defined by the families who live and work in it. For decades, the Dempsey family has been a large part of the community fabric of Dunmore. Some are doctors, some are lawyers, many are teachers, but perhaps the most recognizable aspect of the Dempsey family is know for something else: Laundry and dry cleaning.

In 1960, Thomas A. Dempsey left Mother’s Laundry on Blakely Street in Dunmore, and moved a few blocks north to build Fashionable Laundry. For many years, Dempsey’s Fashionable Laundry has provided laundry and dry cleaning services to thousands of people and hundreds of businesses in and around Northeast Pennsylvania. Now, in its fourth generation of ownership, the business continues to serve its community in a unique way.

Tom and Jack Dempsey took over the operation from their grandfather, and now work alongside Bobby Dempsey, Jack’s son, who represents the family’s fourth generation.

“It’s important to us. We take pride in our business, and try to convey that to our customers,” Bobby says. “We try to create an atmosphere in our storefront of family. We love to see customers interacting with each other while picking up their dry cleaning.

“Doing laundry and dry cleaning isn’t glamorous work,” young Dempsey notes. “It’s hard, it’s hot, and it takes a certain type of work ethic that we have followed our whole lives.  We feel that iIf you get up early every day, and go to work, you’re ahead of the game”, and good things often find you.”

On a cold night in November of 2015, Bobby Dempsey was awoken to some of the worst news he could have ever imagined. A terrible fire struck the family business, and the damage was catastrophic. “I remember the knock on the door at 3 a.m., I remember putting my shoes on and saying to my wife, Jennifer,’ I am about to have the worst night of my life.’

“My first concern was for my customers. I wondered how would we be able to continue to serve them while we rebuilt the plant,”

The answer to that question came in the form of family. PJ and Kristen Dempsey, the owners of Dempsey Uniform and Linen Supply and Bobby’s cousins, called to find out how they could help. “We asked if they would be willing to do some work for us while we rebuilt. We operated our business out of their plant in Jessup for almost 5 months.

“If it werent for PJ and Kristen opening up their doors to us during this difficult time, who knows what we would have done?  I’m gratetful I don’t have to think about that.”

Full of gratitude, Bobby also says, “We also owe a great deal to the Dunmore police and fire departments. Without their diligent work, this building might not be standing here today. I can recall pulling in on Thanksgiving morning and the police department had parked a cruiser in our parking lot. I recall the countless texts, emails, and phone calls from hundreds of people in the community. I remember thinking ‘Wow, this is a special place we live in.’”

While working at Dempsey Uniform, it was not uncommon for a dozen Dempsey cousins and friends to be there working side by side with the Fashionable staff.

“Our extended family really rose to the challenge,” explains Bobby. “We have an extremely tight- knit family, and they were there every night folding towels and feeding sheets and pillow cases. When one of us was down, we rallied behind them.”

Billy Nicholas from Spotless Cleaners also lent a helpful hand. “Billy was one of the first people here that next morning to see what he could do to help,” Bobby points out. “They processed our shirts for several months until we got over the hump, and kept our dry cleaning customers rolling. It’s unusual for a competitor to help out, but he didn’t hesitate, and we won’t forget his generosity. ”

The Mazza family in Carbondale also stepped in to ease some of the burden placed on the business. “The Mazza family are proud, loyal people, and we are grateful for all of their help,” Dempsey adds.

Since the fire, Fashionable Laundry has virtually overhauled their entire plant, which processes roughly 4 million pounds of laundry annually. “We had to replace everything. From washing and drying equipment to paper clips and everything in between. Tom, Dad, and I worked seven days a week, 10 hour days, to make sure we were able to put this place back together,” says Dempsey.

“There were times when I didn’t see my children for days at a time. It was certainly a grueling several months, but that hard work and dedication that I talked about showed up again. I kept saying to myself, just keep grinding. It will all work out. Today, the plant is back up in full operation.”

The Dempseys managed to retain all of their industrial laundry customers and most all of their nearly 4,000 dry cleaning customers. “Our customers’ loyalty means the world to us. They could have easily found another plant to do their work or clean their clothing, but they decided to stick with us, and that loyalty is deeply appreciated,” Bobby says.

Through a combination of hard work, community support, and of course a little luck, the Dempsey family was able to overcome a tragedy that may have shattered another business. Looking back on the last several months they have realized a few things: “There is nothing more important in life than family. When the chips are down, you realize who cares, and who is willing to go to bat for you.

“We live in an phenomenal community filled with people who are eager to give of themselves. Finally, it’s important every once in a while to take a step back from your daily routine, and smell the roses. Time flies, and you have to keep an eye on what’s really important.”

 

Dunmorean of the Month: In Memory of Billy Ruddy

ruddy (1)

The Ruddy twins—Billy, left, and Bob, right—pose together during their days as football stars for the Dunmore Bucks back in 1985.

By Emily Fedor

On the morning of January 29, Billy Ruddy, a senior a Dunmore High School, came downstairs to see his father, Bob. Billy asked his dad to watch a video that he had made and posted to YouTube. He didn’t say what the video was about or give away any details before heading off to school.

The video Billy created commemorates the days that his dad and uncle had shared as teammates and brothers in addition to old news footage covering the accident that took his uncle’s life.

He had shared the video on Facebook for all of his friends and family to see.

Everyone that grew up in Dunmore, knew the Ruddy twins,” said Billy. “They were known obviously for their football talents, but the people they were on and off the field made everyone love them.”

January 29, 2016 marked the 30th anniversary of the tragic car accident that involved Bob and his twin brother Billy. The two were football stars for the Dunmore Bucks and helped the team capture the program’s first Eastern Conference Class A crown in 1985.

The sons of Rose and the late James Ruddy, Bob and Billy were the youngest of the 13 children who made up this native Dunmore family. This number includes their brother Mark who passed away after birth.

On January 29, 1986, the twins were on their way to a recruitment visit at Mansfield University. Upon approaching their destination, their car, driven by a family friend and Mansfield assistant football coach Frank Butsko, collided with a tractor trailer.

Billy Ruddy and Frank Butsko were pronounced dead at the scene. Bob Ruddy suffered serious injuries, which caused him to be under hospital care until after his brother’s funeral services, but he managed to make it out of the crash alive.

pin

(Photo Credit: Paul Nardozzi/Facebook)

As they were not only brothers, but identical twins, the youngest Ruddys had a special bond both on and off the football field. They were competitive but also very protective of each other. Bob remembers his brother taking blocks for him under the Friday night lights during football season.

On the morning of their Mansfield visit, he recalled racing his brother to the car and fighting over the front seat.

After a minute, they realized that their actions may make Butsko question their maturity. Billy ended up taking the passenger seat next to while Bob hopped in the back.

“Looking back on it now, it was really like he took one last block for me.”

During the course of their football careers at Dunmore, the Ruddy family had recorded televised news stories about the twins and their success with the Bucks. Recording these memories became especially important during their senior season, which they played in memory of their father, James, who passed away earlier in 1985.

They also served a purpose during Bob’s stay in the hospital, when he wasn’t conscious for a time after the accident to know what exactly was unfolding.

Billy was able to edit together some of those old videos along with photos of his father and uncle to create his video.

“I usually make a post on Facebook every year,” said Billy, “but with this year being the 30th anniversary, I wanted to do something different.”

Although he never had the pleasure of meeting the uncle after whom he was named, he has heard a lot of stories about him over the years from not only his dad, but from other relatives, family friends and even faculty members at Dunmore High School, too.

“He was the kind of person who would stand up for someone being bullied in school,” said Billy. “He was just a positive person.”

Billy’s father agreed, saying his brother was a person many people, including himself, wanted to emulate. And although his son followed his own path and decided not to become a football star for the Bucks, Bob said he sees many of his late brother’s qualities in Billy, as well as his daughter, Casey, every day.

To say the least, Bob was touched by his son’s surprise on that chilly Friday morning.

“I couldn’t help but get a little emotional,” Bob said. “Doing that just shows the kind of man he is, and I couldn’t be more proud.”

But what Bob was most glad about was the fact that Dunmoreans, his son included, aren’t afraid to talk about his brother and the wonderful life he lived.

It’s never easy to look back on difficult times without having emotions take over, but as Billy so perfectly reminded everyone with his video tribute: “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”