Latest Issue

Looking Back On Some of My Most Interesting and Notable Stories From 2019

Besides being the end of the decade, 2019 was an interesting year. During this year, I was fortunate enough to have written many stories that I hope the readers of Webb Weekly found enjoyable. I want to look back now on some of my favorite and most notable stories from the year just passed.

Several stories I wish I did not have to write. They were my tributes to some notable figures who passed from the scene in 2019.

In February, I paid tribute to “Mr. Flag,” Tony DiSalvo. Tony carried his patriotism and his love of country around like the ever-present American flag that he loved and carried with so much pride during the annual Flag Day Parade that now bears his name. I was able to collect and print some tributes from some people who knew and loved Tony so much. Perhaps no one in this county has been more zealous and diligent in promoting patriotism and love for his country’s flag and celebrating the goodness of America than Tony did.

Another giant, who did so much to enrich our community, the “People’s Pastor,” Father John Manno, I wrote about him after his death in May. Father John was one of the most beloved people in this area who earned that love and respect naturally. Perhaps no one in the faith community in this area has contributed more to the spirit of ecumenism and sense of community in this area than Father John K. Manno. He was ordained as a priest more than 50 years ago and left a hard-to-measure-impact on others. He was a voice of decency, tolerance, and compassion to the parishes, and communities that he has served.

It is his very passion and understanding during a time in which these qualities in these polarizing times are in seeming short supply that helped make him such an exceptional figure.
In June, I noted the passing of a racial pioneer from Williamsport, Captain Chancellor “Pete” Tzomes, the first African-American to command a U.S. Navy nuclear submarine.

I had gotten to know Pete after writing an article about him for Webb Weekly back in June of 2014. I had maintained fairly close contact with him via phone and email since then. I found him to be a man of class, dignity, and he had boundless love for the country that he served with pride and distinction.

“Pete” Tzomes did not like to be told that he can’t or is incapable of doing something. It only makes him more determined and tenacious to do what he was told he couldn’t do.

It is the grit and highly developed sense of purpose that would help him overcome various hurdles that would make him the first African-American to command a nuclear submarine in the United States Navy.

It has been said that success can be the best revenge, but Pete Tzomes never sought revenge for some of the various indignities he had to endure, all he wanted was respect, and he certainly earned that through his great abilities, his determination and his leadership skills.

In August, I noted the death of “Jack” Person, former President and Publisher of the Williamsport Sun-Gazette. He was part of a vanishing breed of community leaders and philanthropists that has helped make the Greater Williamsport area such a wonderful place to live.

Jack built upon the doctrine he learned at the knee of his father John Sr. It was the view that “those to whom much is given, much is expected.” He understood that he had an obligation to give back, and to serve his community and others, and to do so while not seeking praise or adulation.

One of the enduring contributions he made to this area was his pivotal role in keeping Little League Baseball and its World Series here in the late 1950s when the organization was considering a move to New York City. Offices were offered to Little League in Brooklyn by Walter O’Malley, owner of the recently departed Brooklyn Dodgers.

Jack worked hard to find a new location and to help line up the help from local businessmen, including the Lamade family, owners of Grit, to finance the acquisition and development of the property where the Little League complex now stands.

I am very grateful for Webb Weekly for allowing me to write a tribute to my beloved wife, Mary, on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of her death. It was very healing and comforting for me.

2019 was the 50th anniversary of some notable happenings, and it is from this that I derived my greatest enjoyment from writing stories about the milestone year of 1969.

The most fun I had was writing about the 50th reunion of that magical 1969 Newberry team that represented the East in that year’s Little League World Series. I knew many of these great guys. We were the same age, and some had gone to school with me. It was great seeing them again.

Rusty Sechler’s kitchen table was littered with photographs, newspaper clippings, and various other artifacts from the 1969 Newberry Little League’ All-Stars World Series team and its run to that Series. But at that same time, there was the laughter, stories, and memories of the players from that team that gathered at Rusty’s house on the eve of this past year’s Little League World Series.

The joy these Newberry 69’ers felt was amply apparent to those who saw them atop their trailer in the Grand Slam Parade.

It was interesting and fun to recount various local resident’s memories of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing.

The moon landing was a moment of great awe and wonderment, and it was marvelous to contemplate that such a thing with all its daunting challenges could be accomplished. It was a time of magic, and it is time that I look back on with a great sense of nostalgia and pride in what America could do when it concentrated all of its efforts. I hope that we can again have that great can-do and sense that all things are possible philosophy.

One of the most interesting stories I did this year was on Susan Durrwachter, a producer at CNN. She has been a witness to history, filming one of the planes that flew into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, to rubbing elbows with generals, and celebrities such as Willie Nelson, Oprah Winfrey, Donald Trump, Aretha Franklin, the Jacksons, Rod Stewart, and Matt Damon.
She said that hard work and preparation was the secret to her success.

The most heartwarming story was that marking the 60th birthday of longtime and avid Loyalsock High School athletics fan, Pedie McDonald.

Pedie is a beloved figure, not only in Loyalsock Township but throughout the Greater Williamsport area. This amply demonstrated at his birthday celebration at the Loyalsock Volunteer Fire Company in which more than 150 well-wishers gathered.

His mother summed Pedie up, saying, “He is convinced that everyone is glad to see him, and he treats everyone with respect. That is how he approaches life.”

What a wonderful lesson for us all.

In these divisive and contentious times, the world could use more Pedie McDonalds.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *