Monthly Archives: December 2008

Christmas Wish

Merry Christmas everyone.  Below is my latest column that appeared in the Pittston Sunday Dispatch.


Christmas Wish

by: Joe Leonardi

Christmas is, as the song states; “The most wonderful time of the year.” It is so wonderful, that I was thrilled when one of the local radio stations started playing Christmas music early in November. The pop music stars turned carolers joyous melodious tunes help set the mood for the upcoming holiday season.

I simply can not comprehend why people continuously, curmudgeonly complain that we are starting the holiday season too early. Christmas is the one time of year when people go out of their way to be nicer to one another. It is the time of year when people wish each other well and sincerely mean it. It is the time of year when we give of ourselves for no other reason simply than to give.

Christmas, less importantly, is also a time for receiving. We receive presents, we receive good will and we receive blessings.

I only desire two Christmas presents. One I truly hope to get — actually it is not for me, it is for someone I deeply love and care for — I want her to receive something special for Christmas. Unfortunately, it is nothing I can purchase, provide nor deliver. It is something completely out of my hands, so I do the one thing that I can — I pray.

The other gift is one I know I will never receive. However, because Ed Ackerman graciously allows me to write for the Dispatch from time to time, I hope to turn my education through experience into a gift I convey to others…

My parents passed away almost one year to the day apart from one another. My dad suffered from a long illness and while his passing was expected, I was still caught off guard. I will never forget being summoned to my parents’ house in the early morning hours of January 30, 2006. It was the call I had been dreading. I arrived shortly after getting off the phone. My dad seemed to be struggling, but after about an hour he calmed and the bad episode seemed behind us. So confident I was that he would be okay, I gave him a quick kiss and departed. I went home with the intent of returning on my way to the office. Unfortunately, he was gone shortly after I left.

My mom’s passing on the other hand was completely unexpected. She had an apparently successful surgery. On the following day I was at the hospital visiting. She was doing fine. We were chatting and joking. All was well. I left her at about 8:30 that night. I kissed her gently on the forehead and went home. My sister called me about an hour later telling me to come back to the hospital. My mother had some type of coronary episode — the awful scenario, the same one that played out less than one year earlier, repeated itself on January 11, 2007 — my mom was gone before I made it back to the hospital.

In both cases:

I never said good bye.

I expected to see them again.

I was certain there was more time.

My ultimate Christmas gift would be to have five more minutes with each of them. I want nothing more than to say “good bye,” to kiss them one last time and most importantly to hug them; to transfer through the power of my embrace the love I have for my mom and dad.

It is a present I know I will never receive, but as the holiest of days approaches, I would like to turn my loss into a gift for others and pass on a lesson learned…

Take everyday with those you love and never forget to:

Kiss them.

Tell them you love them.

Most importantly, hug them. Hold them close. Hold them tight. When you feel you have held them long enough — hang on one moment more.


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Coal miner postage stamp

I still have petitions at my office, I will be turning in the last of them after the new year. If you are interested please email me.  Below is once again my commentary concerning our area’s coal heritage.


Coal miner mentality

By Joe Leonardi

“Coal Miner Mentality” is a phrase that is boorishly bandied about to describe many here in Greater Pittston and to a larger extent all of us who reside in Northeast Pennsylvania.

Along with hard scrabble and coal cracker, this terminology is not meant to compliment, congratulate or commend.

It is most often intended to demean, deride or dismiss the good people of, as Steve Corbett extols, “Hard Coal Country.” How little those outside of the anthracite arena know the offspring of the miners whose labor fueled the industrial revolution.

My grandfather was an owner/operator of a few mines here in the valley.

Unfortunately for my bank account he was not a coal baron. However, fortunately for my character he was a coal man.

We, all of us, are the heirs to the throne of king coal – we are the ones responsible to maintain the legacy of those who took from the ground the hard black carbon.

Yet, inexplicably, many look down upon us and our ancestors.

How is it anything less than an honor to be descended from those who sacrificed so much, but were recognized by so few?

How can we not revere those that left the sunlight behind and ventured below the earth’s surface to bring forth the precious anthracite?

How can those whose lives, by comparison are easy and risk free – not swell with pride when we recall the men who risked not solely simply injury, but often instant death or worse the slow, suffocating strangulation of black lung to provide a home and life for their families.

The coal miner was not formally schooled, he was educated by the cold realities of a harsh dark world.

The coal miner was not selfish, he did without, so his children would not need to inhale cancer causing coal dust.

The coal miner was not weak, through the strength of his spine he provided food for his family.

When I think of a coal miner, I see a strong hardworking individual. One who came to this area looking to improve not his life, but the lives of his children. I see individuals of deep faith, honesty and integrity.

When I teach a class and look upon the faces of my students, I see the realization of the dreams of those miners who so long ago shortened their own lives so my generation and the following ones, would not have to.

There is a movement afoot to prod the U.S. Postal Service to issue a commemorative stamp honoring the coal miner. This effort has gone on for many years with zero success.

This is an initiative that yearns for our support.

I say we wear with pride the badge of honor our coal miner roots inspire. We must look to the terms coal miner mentality, coal cracker and hard scrabble and take them back.

We must, with pride – own them.

I demand we proclaim; “We are the children of coal!”

Joe Leonardi

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