2018 Newport News - Archives
Labor of love: Glen Lyon women look to return WWII letters to kin
Nearly 80 years ago, residents of Glen Lyon and surrounding areas joined millions of Americans in mobilizing to fight for our country and save democracy.
Today, two dedicated women are fighting to keep a special part of their legacy alive, and looking to get treasured family mementoes into the hands of loved ones.
Friends Lorrie Materewicz and Sally Billings have become the custodians of hundreds of letters and postcards mailed home from around the globe during World War II.
The largest Catholic church in Newport Township, St. Adalbert’s Parish formed a “Service Club” to send the weekly church bulletins, monthly township newsletters telling of current events such as births, deaths, marriages, local sports teams’ scores, and local news, and care packages consisting of candy, shoeshine kits, hygiene items, socks, and other gifts to the servicemen and women of the parish.
In response, those on the front lines sent letters and postcards back to the church. They were lovingly placed in scrapbooks, where they lay undisturbed for decades.
St. Adalbert’s is now part of Holy Spirit Parish.
“In 2005 or 2006 I was in the balcony with our pastor looking for Christmas decorations, and I came across these,” Materewicz said.
“I started leafing through them, realized what they were, and I asked him if we could have them, and he said yes,” she said.”Raising a young child at the time, I put them in my study and didn’t look at them for years. In purging the study a few years ago I came across them again and really started delving into them.”
Among the letters were dispatches home from her father, Sylvester Materewicz, and her uncle, Felix Materewicz.
“I just was overwhelmed, I just couldn’t control my emotions,” she said. “And I thought that if anybody else could feel like this, getting letters from a relative, we need to get them back.”
So she and Billings made up a list of everybody’s name — it took work, as the letters had been saved chronologically, not alphabetically. They put the list in the back of the parish and also had it published in the township newsletter.
“Requests started pouring in,” Materewicz said.
The women, who are both members of American Legion Auxiliary Unit 539, keep photocopies of each item to save them for the local legion’s history. They are preserved as part of Post 539’s Veterans’ Memorial Gallery located in the Post home’s banquet hall.
Materewicz has served as commander and president, while Billings is auxiliary secretary/treasurer.
The pair very much want to see as many letters reach family members as possible.
“We’ve given away over 300 pieces of correspondence to over 120 families so far,” Materewicz said. There were probably 700 total, Billings added, which means many more remain to be claimed.
“And they only go to family members,” said Billings, who keeps a list of who the originals were sent to. “Everything is documented.”
Correspondence can be repatriated to family members only by contacting Materewicz at 570-736-7177.
The veterans’ names are as follows: Babskie, Robert; Bellini, August; Benkoski, Walter; Bolek, Michael; Bozimski, Edward; Bozinski, Sylvester; Brocki, Henry; Brozoski, John; Brutski, Walter; Bukoski, Walter; Bush, Albert; Butka, Albert; Butkiewicz, Edward; Cheski, Max; Chmielak, Albert; Chmielewski, Henry; Dekutoski, Casmir; Dombroski, Gerard; Dombroski, Sygfried; Drozdienski, Joseph; Dudzinski, Frank; Dudzinski, Walter; Fundalewicz, Leonard; Gembusia, Stanley; Gionta, Quinto; Gorney, Walter; Guffrowicz, Emory; Himilefski, Frank; Humphrey, Albert; Kaczmarek, Frank; Kaftanowicz, Stanley; Kalinowski, Leon; Kamieniecki, Frank; Kane, Norbert; Karcheski, Joseph; Kasnikowski, Joseph; Keyeck, Anthony; Keyek, Stanley; Keyeck, Walter; Kleyps, Edward; Koas, Adolph; Kolakoski, Celia; Kornoski, Leonard; Koval, Joseph; Kovaleski, Albert; Kovaleski, Steven; Kowalski, John; Kowaleski, Clarence; Krauser, Leonard; Kriefski, Albert; Kriefski, Eugene; Kriefski, Sylvester; Krzywicki, John; Kwiatkowski, Ted; Lashinski, Joseph; Laskowski, Joseph; Leshniak, Julius; Levulis, Josephine; Lucas, J.A.; Maxey, Albert; Meshinski, Joseph; Meyeski, Margaret; Miara, Chester; Mundgetski, Clem; Myefski, Edward; Namowicz, Edward; Namowicz, John; Nork, Edward; Noss, Alfred; Novak, Alvin; Novak, Barney; Novak, John; Novak, Ernest; Obidzinski, Chester; Olenginski, Henry; Omichinski, Chester; Omichinski, Ted; Ozechowski, Edward; Pawloski, Edmund; Pawloski, Joseph; Petchik, Edmund; Petchik, Leo; Piavis, George; Piavis, Walter; Pish, Chester; Pish, John; Rachunas, John; Rachunas, Frank; Rasmus, Walter; Reno, Wadic; Ringawa, Walter; Robachinski, Fred; Robachinski, Stanley; Rokicki, Edmund; Rule, Chester; Ruminski, Thomas; Russin, Stanley; Sawetski, Jean; Schraeder, Raymond; Scott, Clemence; Shekletski, Zigmund; Shemanski, Clemence; Shemanski, Walter; Skouronski, Clem; Slupecki, Joseph; Smocarski, Edmund; Sobolewski, John; Stankiewicz, Stanley; Stopchinski, Stanley; Stopchinski, Ted; Strzalka, Chester; Strzalka, Frank; Strzalka, Joseph; Stuczynski, John; Stuczynski, Joseph; Sugalski, Paul; Supko, Joseph; Sweeney, Stanley; Talanowski, John; Tarnowicz, Edward; Terkoski, Ray; Terkoski, Sylvester; Tokarchik, Joseph; Trynoski, Joseph; Venslove, Adam; Vinicki, John; Voytkowski, John; Waclawski, Clem; Waclawski, Zigmund; Wintergrass, Frank; Wrona, Eugene; Wuchek, John; Wyda, Edward; Yacuboski, John; Yacuboski, Stanley; Zakrzewski, Clem; Zaucha, Mitchell; Zawacki, Louis; Zawala, Chester; Zawala, Edward; Zawatski, Edward; Zawatski, Eugene.
Woman pleads not guilty to killing pedestrian
James Halpin - Citizens Voice
A Newport Twp. woman accused of fleeing the scene after hitting and killing a pedestrian on the Sans Souci Parkway entered a not guilty plea during a court appearance Thursday morning.
Lisa Marie Yurkin, 52, is facing a felony count of fleeing the scene of the deadly collision that claimed the life of Hanover Twp. resident Jason Filip, 36.
At the arraignment Thursday morning, Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Vough accepted Yurkin's not guilty plea and set a trial date of Feb. 11.
Yurkin was allowed to remain free on $25,000 unsecured bail.
According to prosecutors, Yurkin hit Filip in the area of the UFCW Federal Credit Union as he walked home from the 6 String Saloon at 1474 Sans Souci Parkway. Filip's body was found along the highway shortly after midnight Feb. 25.
Later that day, Yurkin went to the police station saying she might have hit Filip on her way home from a friend's house in West Pittston, prosecutors said.
Yurkin admitted drinking four beers in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, earlier in the day, but she denied being drunk on her way home, according to prosecutors.
She told police she didn't stop because she thought she had hit a deer on the dark and rainy night, prosecutors said.
Police said Yurkin's 2002 Ford Explorer had a shattered windshield as well as Filip's DNA on the fender and windshield.
Newport United dedicates new digital sign
Newport United, a coalition of several community organizations in Newport Twp., recently dedicated a new digital sign at the entrance to their community. The project was the culmination of a coordinated effort to promote awareness of local happenings that may be of interest to township residents and visitors.
Glen Lyon man extradited from Texas to face child rape charges
A Glen Lyon man charged with raping a girl was returned to Pennsylvania over the weekend after being caught last month near the Mexican border.
Bolivar Patricio Riera, 34, is accused of sexually assaulting a teen girl for several years inside a residence on Arch Street and at a location in Wilkes-Barre, according to court records.
Riera was apprehended in Webb County, Texas, on an arrest warrant issued Oct. 3 by District Judge Donald Whittaker in Nanticoke. Riera waived his right to an extradition hearing in Webb County Court on Oct. 23, permitting his return to Pennsylvania.
Webb County borders the Mexican border.
According to the criminal complaint filed by Newport Township police and Luzerne County detectives:
A teen girl told a forensic interviewer at the Luzerne County Advocacy Center in August that Riera sexually and physically assaulted her for several years. She told the interviewer she resisted Riera’s assaults by slapping him in the face.
Riera allegedly grabbed her wrists, pinched her body and slapped her head whenever she resisted.
Investigators alleged Riera threatened the girl not to tell anyone.
Riera was arraigned Saturday by District Judge James Haggerty in Kingston on charges of rape of a child, sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault and corruption of minors. He was jailed at the county correctional facility for lack of $150,000 bail.
Riera is also charged by Wilkes-Barre police with three counts of indecent assault and a single count of aggravated indecent assault. He has not been arraigned on the charges filed by Wilkes-Barre police.
AMAZING KIDS: Guitarist Gabriel Josefowicz makes music his life
Steve Mocarsky - Citizens Voice
Gabriel Josefowicz was excited to start taking guitar lessons at age 8, but it took his parents sitting with him and making him practice at home until an egg timer ran out to get him prepared every week.
Now, the 14-year-old freshman at Greater Nanticoke Area said during a recent interview at Rockology Music Academy at East End Centre in Wilkes-Barre Twp. that he puts in a solid hour of practice every day with no coaxing.
“Then on Saturdays, I’ll come here and I’ll play for three or four hours. Sometimes I’ll go over one of my friends’ houses and we’ll play. When I’m not doing that, I’ll usually listen to music or think about music,” Gabe added.
Area music promoter Joe Nardone Jr. founded the academy in 2016 to provide expert instrumental and vocal instruction as well as band classes in which student musicians learn to play with other student musicians.
Vince Insalaco, Gabe’s band class instructor at the academy, said he nominated Gabe for this year’s Amazing Kids publication because of his dedication, talent and accomplishments.
In addition to playing and singing with two bands at Rockology — The Rockology All Stars and ECG (Explosive Cyclone Genesis) — Josefowicz has been writing music with the bass player and drummer from ECG for a new band they started called Zero. He also participates in various workshops at the academy.
“Any opportunity to improve himself as a musician, he takes advantage of it,” Insalaco said, adding Josefowicz “plays at a professional level at 14.”
Josefowicz has played with the bands at festivals on Public Square and at Kirby Park and opened for professional acts at the Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre.
He’s played for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins opening night at Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre Twp., and he’s played the national anthem before RailRiders games at PNC Field in Moosic.
A huge fan of Jimi Hendrix, Josefowicz said he was inspired by the late guitar virtuoso’s version of the “Star Spangled Banner” and was excited to learn the song when Gregory Bealla, his private instructor at Rockology, suggested it.
At the time, Bealla was teaching Josefowicz at a music store in Nanticoke, and both he and the store owner played in bands. They wanted to get Gabe out playing in front of people so Bealla asked Gabe if he wanted to learn to play the anthem.
“I thought doing something patriotic will always be well-received,” Bealla said. “As I gave him the pieces (to practice), he came back the next week owning them.”
It took Gabe about a month to master the song, Bealla said, and Gabe’s performances “went over great.”
Bealla said Gabe’s parents, David and Gina Josefowicz, of Glen Lyon, didn’t know he had tried unsuccessfully to get a job teaching at the academy when Gabe began attending the live band classes there.
“When (Rockology staff) found out I was the longtime instructor of Gabe Josefowicz, they said, ‘we have to hire this guy.’ So actually, I didn’t take him to Rockology, his playing opened the door for me to get into Rockology,” Bealla said.
Gabe said he became interested in playing guitar when he was 4 and he his dad played used to play the “Guitar Hero” video game.
“Being able to see bands like AC/DC playing in front of big crowds and knowing maybe that’s something I might be able to do some day, or just playing for somebody in general and giving the power of music to them,” is what he said motivates him.
When he’s not playing guitar, Gabe enjoys writing poetry, which he said helps him with song writing, and playing drums. His favorite subject in school is Spanish. And he hopes to attend college to study music engineering and production.
Gabe’s advice to other kids: “Never give up.”
He said he once felt like giving up, “then I really thought about it and I’m like, well, what else would I do? This has been with me my whole life, so there’s no reason to stop. Something will happen eventually.”
Gabriel Josefowicz’s parents, David and Gina, had this to say about their son and parenting:
What successful parenting strategy can you share with other parents?
David: “Be supportive, especially with music. I always tell him I played all kind of sports in high school and I haven’t played since. (Music) is something he can play for the rest of his life, never go hungry, can always play somewhere for the money or whatever he wants to do. He can play till the day he dies, and I just always try and reinforce that. This is something a lot of people cannot do. But things just come easy to him and I find it absolutely amazing what he can do at 14.”
Gina: “Just support their interests.”
David: “And if your child wants to play music or do something different than the norm. … Your kid wants to play an instrument, I think they should all do that. I know he doesn’t see it, but it helps in school. It helps his coming out of his shell. At first he didn’t want to sing, and now he’s leading his own original band. It’s just amazing how far he’s come. We used to have to sit with an egg timer … when he first started and just make him practice for his first couple songs that he learned.”
At what moment did you realize your child was special?
Gina: “A couple years after Gabe began taking guitar lessons, he started to just pick things up and he could play by ear. It didn’t take much for him to learn a song just playing with the radio.”
David: “Other band parents say he’s a wealth of knowledge. You could shout out a song to him and he’ll play it. I can remember when he was 10 and I bribed him to learn a Slayer song, which is extremely difficult for a 10-year-old, and he learned it and nailed it easily. I said, ‘There’s something here.’ Then to see him at 13 go out in front of thousands of people, stand at home plate and nail the national anthem — twice — with no sweat, and here’s his dad sweating and thinking, what if a string breaks, what if his amp falls over? Nothing phased him, and I thought, if he could do this, he could do anything.”
What is the greatest challenge you’ve encountered in raising your child?
Gina: “The whole process, I think, is a challenge. But as far as with the music, just being supportive of what he likes because it wasn’t the norm, and he’s not a conformist — he likes what he likes and doesn’t care what the other kids think, and sometimes he took a lot of flack for that.”
Newport Twp. hit-run suspect enters plea deal
James Halpin - Citizens Voice
A Newport Twp. woman accused of fleeing the scene after hitting and killing a pedestrian on the Sans Souci Parkway waived her right to a preliminary hearing Tuesday after entering into a plea agreement with prosecutors.
Lisa Marie Yurkin, 52, is facing a felony count of accidents involving death in the death of Hanover Twp. resident Jason Filip, 36, whose body was found along the highway shortly after midnight Feb. 25.
Prosecutors on Tuesday declined to disclose terms of the plea agreement.
According to police, Yurkin hit Filip in the area of the UFCW Federal Credit Union as he walked home from the 6 String Saloon at 1474 Sans Souci Parkway.
Yurkin arrived at the police station later the same day saying she may have hit Filip on her way home from a friend’s house in West Pittston, police said.
Yurkin had been in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, earlier in the day and admitted drinking four beers, but she denied being drunk as she drove home, according to police.
She told police it had been dark and raining, and figured she had hit a deer, police said.
Officers went to Yurkin’s home and found her vehicle, a 2002 Ford Explorer, in the driveway. The vehicle had a hair stuck in the shattered passenger side portion of the front windshield, as well as what appeared to be a drop of blood, police said.
Testing matched Filip’s DNA to tissue samples recovered from the fender and windshield of Yurkin’s car, according to police.
Yurkin has been free on $25,000 unsecured bail since her arrest in June.
Fire riders roll into Nanticoke
A motorcycle club of current and former New York City firefighters rumbled into town last week and surprised a retired member with a trip to a memorial to his brother who was killed on Sept. 11.
The group visited a tribute at Luzerne County Community College to fallen New York City firefighter Michael Carlo, 34, who was killed at the World Trade Center. Carlo was born and raised in the Wanamie section of Newport Twp.
His brother, Rob Carlo, was shocked when members of his club - the New York City Fire Riders - brought him to his brother's memorial at LCCC's Walk of Honor. The Nanticoke Fire Department was there to greet them.
"I was just told we were coming up for a ride. I had no idea you guys were meeting us here," Rob Carlo said in an impromptu speech at the memorial. "My family is going to be thrilled we did this here today."
The memorial, which includes tributes to others killed on duty, was partially funded by the Carlo family from money paid out to Sept. 11 victims.
"It's great. It will be here for years to come. Hopefully it doesn't get filled with line of duty deaths. It's a nice place to come and reflect," Rob Carlo said.
Rob Carlo, who now lives in California, was visiting friends in New York when the group decided to take the ride to Nanticoke. They told him they planned to visit the Nanticoke Fire Department, which has a memorial to Sept. 11 outside made from World Trade Center steel.
They also visited that memorial during their trip.
Carlo said so many of his colleagues are filled with anger, hate and depression 17 years after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. He said this year instead of dreading the month of September he tried to spend his days thinking of things he was thankful for.
"I refuse to let them win," Rob Carlo said of the terrorists. "Every day we could be grateful."
Nanticoke Fire Chief Kevin Hazleton said the department was happy to host the Fire Riders.
"What an honor to have them come," Hazleton said.
Badge of Honor: Jeremy Blank
August 14, 2018 timesleader Local, News 1
Police officers live by the creed to ‘Protect and to Serve.’
Newport Township Police Chief Jeremy Blank takes it to heart.
For the past five years, the Glen Lyon native has served as the chief of police in Newport Township. However, he wasn’t always a member of law enforcement.
“I actually started as an EMS rescuer before becoming a police officer,” Blank said. “Being near a scanner, helping people and interacting with police made me want to make the career shift.”
Blank was appointed chief of police by the township’s Board of Commissioners on Jan. 1, 2013, after serving the municipality as a part-time officer.
Being the chief of police, Blank has to make sure he keeps everyone happy.
“The hardest part of my job is keeping everyone happy,” Blank said. “But I have great officers, residents and commissioners that make my job worth doing.”
According to statistics shown on www.niche.com, under the leadership of Blank violent crimes and property crimes are below national averages.
The nine-year law enforcement veteran personifies what it’s like to be in the ‘people business.’ When Blank is not working, he spends his free time volunteering with local organizations and youth sports.
“Everything I do is for the community,” Blank mentioned.
Two of the organizations Blank is involved with include the Sons of the American Legion and the Newport Township Lions Club.
“I’m actually the secretary of the Lions Club,” Blank said. “It’s a nonprofit organization that helps raise funds for children and elderly residents of Newport Township. We host bingo parties and help with medical bills.”
The chief was caught off guard when he found out that he was nominated to be honored in the Times Leader’s Badge of Honor special section.
“I don’t look for the glory,” Blank said. “I do it because it’s my job. But I was humbled when I got the news.”
A video of a young girl performing oral sex on a man was found on a desktop computer in the bedroom of a Glen Lyon resident Wednesday, according to court records.
The video along with 12 more videos of children engaged in sex acts were found on the computer after state police served a search warrant at Kyle Christian Kazmierski’s home on Engle Street, authorities report.
Kazmierski, 28, reportedly told troopers he has been viewing child pornography for approximately four to five years. He claimed he obtained images and videos of child pornography from certain websites and would often delete the files, empty the recycle bin and occassionally run a hard drive cleaner, court records say.
Kazmierski was arraigned by District Judge Donald Whittaker in Nanticoke on 13 counts each of child pornography and dissemination of children engaged in sex acts and a single count of criminal use of a communication facility. He was jailed at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility for lack of $100,000 bail.
Police: Man robs Turkey Hill after he, girlfriend gambled rent money
Steve Mocarsky - Citizens Voice
City police arrested a man they say committed an armed robbery after he and his girlfriend gambled away their rent money at a casino.
Joshua Love, 30, of East Kirmar Avenue, Newport Twp., faces charges of robbery, theft by unlawful taking, terroristic threats and simple assault.
Police say Love entered the Turkey Hill Minit Market at 460 W. Main St., Nanticoke, at 3:55 a.m. June 23, jumped over the counter and demanded money from the cash register while holding a large kitchen knife. He then allegedly fled on foot on Alden Road.
In a criminal complaint, police say Love also took money from a “purported patron” before leaving the store. And although a clerk asked the female patron to wait for police, she left the store soon after Love.
The following day, police received information on the female patron, whom they located and interviewed. The woman allegedly told them she was serving as a lookout in the store for Love, who was her boyfriend.
Police then located Love, who allegedly told them he and his girlfriend were at a casino, drank alcohol, became intoxicated, gambled and lost their rent money.
Love then allegedly admitted to going to the store and committing the robbery, with his girlfriend serving as a lookout.
Love was arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Joseph Spagnuolo and, unable to post $100,000 bail, was jailed at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility to await a preliminary hearing scheduled for 10:30 a.m. July 18 before District Judge Donald Whitaker.
First Greater Nanticoke Area class to celebrate 50th reunion
Bob Kalinowski- Citizens Voice
Former bitter rivals, the Nanticoke and Newport Twp. school districts merged for the 1968 campaign, but students still went to high school in different towns.
Though they didn’t interact during the school day, they played sports and cheered under the same banner — as Nanticoke Trojans — and immediately became an athletic powerhouse.
Nearly 300 students from Nanticoke City and Newport Twp. graduated together in June 1968 as the first-ever class of Greater Nanticoke Area, but they remained divided.
They even published separate yearbooks and ordered different class rings.
For decades, they continued the segregation by holding separate reunions. But that changed 10 years ago when, faced with dwindling participation, the two factions of Greater Nanticoke Area’s Class of 1968 held a joint 40th reunion.
Class members are now busy planning their 50th reunion — the first group from the school district to reach that mark. To be inclusive, they are calling it the “Nanticoke/Newport High School” reunion.
“It was like the North and South, some people still fighting the Civil War. It was the same thing with the rivalry between Nanticoke and Newport. Fifty years later, you got to give it up,” said Kline Searfoss, who was class president of the Nanticoke faction of the Class of 1968.
Becoming the Trojans
Nanticoke students attended the high school formerly located at Main and Kosciuszko streets in Nanticoke City, where a CVS pharmacy now stands.
Students from Newport Twp. attended half-day morning sessions at the Pulaski school on Market Street in Glen Lyon, sharing the building with junior high students who took classes there during afternoons. They had their own class officers, as well.
“It was pretty dysfunctional. The people at Nanticoke didn’t know the people in Newport and the people at Newport didn’t know the people in Nanticoke. The only thing that united us was the fact we played sports together. Other than that, we were completely separated,” recalled Searfoss, who shared quarterback duties on the football team and went on to become a nuclear engineer.
For generations, students in both towns celebrated the heated football rivalry between the Nanticoke Rams and the Newport Nutcrackers and their annual Thanksgiving game. Suddenly, the Class of 1968 became the Trojans for their senior year.
In the inaugural year of the Greater Nanticoke Area Trojans, the boys sports teams won the elusive “triple crown,” winning league championships in football, basketball and baseball.
The 1968 Nannual — the yearbook published for Nanticoke students — documents the domination on the sports fields, but makes no mention of it being the first combined year with Newport.
That year’s Newportrait — published for the Newport students — mentions the consolidation under a photograph of the basketball team, which completed its regular season without a loss.
“MERGER PAYS OFF!,” screamed a headline about the league championship.
Both yearbooks lament it would be their last. A new combined yearbook — The Trojanaire — was to be published in the future. However, separate yearbooks continued to be published the next two years until students started attending the same building for the 1970-71 school year.
Junior class officers at Newport Twp. summarized the year of change in the 1968 Newportrait.
“We have been effected by a great number of changes in our school system this year. We have witnessed the combining of our football, baseball, and basketball teams and also the band. Our colors have been changed to blue and white with a new title of Trojans ... Although the jointure has created some problems, we have overcome most of these and continue on our road to success.”
The United States was embroiled in turmoil in 1968 as well.
Protests raged against the Vietnam War and civil rights demonstrations gripped the country. Civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in April 1968 right before the senior class trip to Washington, D.C. Students were in the nation’s capital as riots erupted around them in response to King’s murder.
Right after they graduated, presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated, too.
The Nanticoke/Newport consolidation was finally solidified in September 1970 when Greater Nanticoke Area opened its current facility on Kosciuszko Street, originally called John S. Fine High School in honor of the former Pennsylvania governor who hailed from Nanticoke.
For the Newport students of 1968, schooling had already been chaotic for years prior to the merger with Nanticoke.
In December 1963, the Newport Twp. High School in Wanamie burned down.
Newport students were then forced to do half-day split sessions at Pulaski Junior High in Glen Lyon — grades 10 through 12 during the day and grades seven through nine in the afternoon.
To get ready for the 1967-68 merger, the Nanticoke and Newport school districts planned to hold a combined graduation in June 1967, which sparked controversy. A letter to the editor published in a local newspaper at the time urged against such a plan.
“This is to the disgusted seniors who spoke out about the combined graduations of Newport and Nanticoke High Schools. I, too, would feel the same way if I were graduating. All these years, there was nothing about Newport and Nanticoke doing things together. Now all of a sudden they want to combine graduation,” wrote a former Newport graduate. “When the two schools become one, Nanticoke will have its say. You can bet on it!”
In the years prior, Nanticoke and Newport students had often clashed, usually before their rivalry football game. Perhaps the most notable incident came in October 1965 when vandals splashed red paint — one of Newport’s colors — all around Nanticoke, targeting City Hall, Nanticoke High School and Nanticoke’s football stadium. At the time, Nanticoke’s lone police car was out of service due to a crash.
“Vandals Paint Nanticoke Red While Cops Await Cruiser to Pursue Them,” read a headline in a local newspaper.
The story goes on to note Nanticoke police, using private vehicles, caught the vandals in the act at the football stadium and fired a gunshot toward them to get them to flee.
Following the merger, next-door Hanover became the new arch rival and target of pranks, class members say.
GNA at 50
While sports was a source of the heated rivalry, they also helped the two towns come together.
Caroline Pawlush Brozena, a reunion committee member from Newport Twp. who was voted most likely to succeed, said extracurricular activities — like sports, cheerleading and the band — helped during the merger year. She was a cheerleader and was proud to root for the Trojans her senior year.
“It didn’t matter if I was a Newport Nutcracker or a Nanticoke Trojan, I had a great time in high school,” Brozena said. “I had no problems because I was involved as a cheerleader. We practiced with the Nanticoke kids. We went to games with them. We all had to get along.”
Since most of the two factions didn’t know each other, Newport and Nanticoke held separate reunions for decades. Due to shrinking turnout, they sought to host a joint venture to mark their 40th reunion. They hosted a clambake at the grove of the former Centre Inn on Old Newport Street in Newport Twp.
“It was great. We had a blast,” Brozena said.
The class of 1968 had 214 graduates from Nanticoke and 81 graduates from Newport. Most of them are 68-years-old.
Reunion organizers said they hope as many as possible turn out for this historic 50th reunion, to be held Sept. 8 at the Wyoming Valley Country Club in Hanover Twp.
“Fifty years is a milestone, a big milestone,” Brozena said. “I’m hoping for a good turnout. But we’ll see. There was some animosity and I’m sure there still is.”
50th reunion of the Nanticoke/Newport Class of 1968
WHEN: 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sept. 8
WHERE: Wyoming Valley Country Club, Hanover Twp.
COST: $55 per person
CONTACT: Kline Searfoss at 570-436-1969 or Beverly Howell 570-735-8487.
Icebreaker to be held 7 p.m. Sept. 7 at R Bar and Grill in Newport Twp.
SEEKING CLASS MEMBERS:
The committee planning the 50th reunion of the Nanticoke/Newport Class of 1968 are trying to contact the following classmates.
From Nanticoke: Ronald Butka, Stephen Buchinski, William Crigas, Frank Demski, Arthur Houck, Robert Hoover, Thomas Jenkins, John Neidzwski, Donald Stofko, Joseph Stoker, Kenneth Thompson, Robert Wodarczyk, John Wozniak, Linda Bethel Baker, Sally Reese Swan, Linda Rinehamer Lehet, Donna Shedlock Werkheiser, Linda Siko Hewitt, Theresa Yatsko Burgess.
From Newport: Arnold Fiorani, Gary Kichner, Anthony Sklaney, Barry Varchimak, Patsy Faux Waltman, Catherine Graves, Grace Kreitzer, Sarah Shank.
Anyone with questions about the reunion can call Kline Searfoss at 570-436-1969.
IN THEIR WORDS:
“The crazy thing was you didn’t know these people unless you played athletics. You have been rivals so long and all of a sudden you’re classmates and teammates. I enjoyed high school, had a great time and absolutely loved it. To me, I’m a history buff, it was historic year. Martin Luther King was shot earlier that year. When we went to D.C. for our senior trip, you saw all the burned out buildings from the riots. After we graduated, you go home and watch the news, Robert F. Kennedy got shot. It was a tumultuous year.”
— JOSEPH IRACKI, Nanticoke
“The 1967-68 school year was a beginning and an end. The initial shock of the jointure began in our sophomore year with the vote on the GNA mascot. 1968 Newport Township grads would become the first GNA Trojans and 50 years later they would celebrate that prestigious experience. We would retain a portion of our Nutcracker identity by retaining our Newport ring and yearbook. It would be a bittersweet year full of anticipation and uncertainty shaped by world events. Little did we know then the notoriety that would be associated with this beginning. It is one of the many reasons to celebrate.”
— DAVE GUZOFSKY, Newport
“I think I remember most actually how well the jointure went considering Newport was our arch rival. All sports teams joined, cheerleading squads, all of it and it worked. Our senior class trip I will never forget. We raised money to go to Washington D.C. for 3 days My dad did not want to let me go because at that time the riots in D.C. and burning of buildings was going on. But I begged and I was able to go. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be working there some day. I think the most exciting part was winning triple crown championships — in football, basketball and baseball. It was a great time to be in high school at Nanticoke Area.”
— MARGE DAVISON MATISKO, Nanticoke
“It was my senior year and after attending Newport Township schools my whole life, it was, as a teenager, an absolutely devastating time. We were ready to embark on our greatest accomplishment — our senior year — by joining our rival high school, our nemesis. We remained completely separated from Nanticoke High School with the exception of sports. We had no contact whatsoever personally, socially or academically together. In a way, we were thankful for this situation because we were not fully combined. In our hearts, we remained Newport High School as signified by our senior yearbook, our class rings, and our diplomas. We felt we were the last class to graduate from Newport Township High School. Now, as time has gone by, we can appreciate our time together planning our 50th class reunion. I feel I have formed new friendships and I have a great feeling of camaraderie. We have all come together as one to enjoy one of their greatest milestones of our lives, ‘Our 50th Class Reunion!’”
— BEVERLY HOWELL, Newport
September 1967 to June 1968
Here are some things that happened during the Class of 1968’s school year:
Sept. 11: The Carol Burnett Show premieres on CBS
Oct. 2: Thurgood Marshall is sworn in as the first black justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Oct. 27: Several thousand people advance to the Pentagon to protest against the Vietnam War.
Nov. 9: First issue of the magazine Rolling Stone is published in San Francisco.
Dec. 8: Magical Mystery Tour is released by The Beatles as an eleven-song album in the U.S.
Jan. 30: The Viet Cong and North Vietnam launch the Tet Offensive against South Vietnam, the United States, and allies.
February: Civil rights protests and disturbances occur in Orangeburg, South Carolina and Memphis, Tennessee, and on the campuses of the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
March 31: U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson announces he will not seek re-election.
April 4: Martin Luther King Jr. is shot dead at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Riots erupt in major American cities, lasting for several days afterwards.
April 11: President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968.
June 5: U.S. presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy is shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California. Kennedy dies from his injuries the next day.
Newport Twp. woman charged in fatal hit-run
James Halpin - Citizens Voice
A Newport Twp. woman was charged Thursday with fleeing the scene after hitting and killing a pedestrian on the Sans Souci Parkway earlier this year.
Lisa Marie Yurkin, 52, is charged with a felony count of accidents involving death or personal injury in the death of Hanover Twp. resident Jason Filip, 36, whose body was found along the highway shortly after midnight Feb. 25.
Yurkin told police she had been drinking beer earlier in the day and that she thought she had hit a deer at the time of the impact, police said.
She declined to comment at her arraignment Thursday morning.
According to the complaint, officers responded to the area of the UFCW Federal Credit Union around 12:15 a.m. Feb. 25 after a couple pulling out from the business spotted the body in the shoulder across the highway.
Police say they determined the body was that of Filip, who had recently left the 6 String Saloon at 1474 Sans Souci Parkway and had been planning to walk to his home in the township’s Breslau section. Bartenders told police Filip had consumed three beers before departing, according to police.
A state police forensic unit found debris in the area, including parts to a 2002-2005 Ford Explorer with gray trim, according to the complaint. Investigators documented and mapped the scene, but the big break came later the same evening when Yurkin showed up at police headquarters, the charges say.
Yurkin told police she may have been the driver involved in the fatal hit-and-run, saying she had been heading southbound on the Sans Souci at the time while on her way home from a friend’s house in West Pittston.
Yurkin had been at Seaside Heights, New Jersey, earlier in the day and had consumed four beers, but she denied being drunk as she drove home, the complaint says.
She told police that as she was driving near the 6 String Saloon she heard a thump and hit something, but that it had been dark and rainy so she didn’t see anything in her rearview mirror, the charges say. Yurkin claimed she figured she had hit a deer and so continued on her way home, the complaint says.
When she got there, Yurkin saw that her vehicle had been damaged but still did not call to report the crash, police said. Later on during that day, Yurkin’s boyfriend began yelling at her, saying that police were looking for a vehicle like hers that was involved in a deadly hit-and-run crash, police said.
Yurkin then decided to go talk to the police, and told investigators she was “deeply sorry” for the family’s loss, according to police.
Officers went to Yurkin’s home and found her vehicle, a 2002 Ford Explorer, in the driveway. The vehicle had a hair stuck in the shattered passenger side portion of the front windshield, as well as what appeared to be a drop of blood, police said.
The complaint says that testing matched Filip’s DNA to tissue samples recovered from the fender and windshield of Yurkin’s car.
Yurkin is facing a single felony count of fleeing the scene of a fatal crash, a charge that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of three years in prison under “Kevin’s Law.” The law is named for 5-year-old Kevin Miller, of Dallas, who was killed by a hit-and-run driver while crossing a street with his family in Wilkes-Barre in December 2012.
Magisterial District Judge Joseph A. Halesey arraigned Yurkin on the charge Thursday morning and released her on $25,000 unsecured bail. A preliminary hearing was set for July 11.
Woman faces felony animal cruelty charges
James Halpin - Citizens Voice
A former borough resident is facing felony animal cruelty charges after the emaciated corpse of a pit bull was found in an abandoned cage at a trailer park, according to court documents.
Brittany Perri, 22, of 13 S. Chestnut St., Glen Lyon, was arraigned Thursday on charges alleging she let the dog starve to death in a cage at the Ashley Park earlier this year.
According to a complaint filed by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Luzerne County, officers responded to 117 Donato Drive on Feb. 25 after a report of the dead dog found in a cage.
An SPCA supervisor arrived on the scene and observed an emaciated black and brown pit bull dead in a wire cage, with some dirt partially covering the dog, according to the complaint. The cage was surrounded by garbage and had been covered by a tarp, prosecutors said.
Perri had recently moved out of the trailer where the cage was discovered, according to the complaint. Investigators said Perri had received animal cruelty complaints in the past and was known to have three dogs, including one that matched the description of the dead animal.
An autopsy on the dog — which weighed 19.2 pounds — revealed it had “no muscle mass” and had no food in its stomach or intestines, the complaint said. On a scale from one to nine, investigators ranked the dog’s body condition a one, meaning it was severely emaciated.
The charges said there was no body fat on the animal and it appeared to have had a “prolonged negative energy balance” — either from lack of food or because of an increase in calorie consumption, which would indicate illness. Investigators determined the dog died of starvation and/or a lack of veterinary care.
Police charged Perri with two felony counts of aggravated cruelty to animals, one misdemeanor count of neglect of animals and a summary count of neglect.
Magisterial District Judge Joseph A. Halesey arraigned Perri on Thursday morning and ordered her jailed at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility with bail set at $5,000. A preliminary hearing was set for June 27.
Patriotism on full display for Wanamie’s fallen WWII hero
Retired history teacher Jane Straub often told her classes the story of Navy Seaman 1st Class Edward F. Slapikas, and how his remains were never found at Pearl Harbor.
“My mother was in the eighth grade (during) the attack on Pearl Harbor,” Straub said. “I grew up hearing the story of Edward Slapikas.”
On Saturday, Straub joined hundreds of well-wishers in paying respect to the American hero as Slapikas was laid to rest in the small Pennsylvania town that he left nearly eight decades ago.
“It’s truly unimaginable,” Straub said. “After 76 years, the fact they were able to bring him home in a casket speaks volumes.”
Slapikas, of Wanamie, was aboard the USS Oklahoma when Japanese kamikaze pilots torpedoed his ship in Pearl Harbor. The U.S. Navy and Defense Department recently identified his remains through DNA testing.
U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Mark Fung, a veteran of several overseas deployments, said he was honored to attend Saturday’s ceremonies.
“It’s a tie to the past,” Fung said. “It reaffirms the Navy’s commitment to return the remains of a loved one to the family members, especially after all these years.”
Wanamie residents lined the 2-mile route from Holy Spirit/St. Adalbert’s Parish to St. Mary’s Cemetery on Saturday morning to see Slapikas’ funeral procession, waving American flags from the sidewalks, lawns and porches in a show of respect.
Jamie Miller, leader of Girl Scouts Heart of Pennsylvania Brownie Troop 32114, was accompanied by three flag-waving young Brownies.
“I think it was very important to explain to the girls what happened,” Miller said. “The significance of Pearl Harbor and the importance to give a proper burial was imperative.”
Slapikas’ funeral and burial hit close to home for Miller, as she has a son currently deployed in the Navy.
“Slapikas will forever be young,” Miller said. “It doesn’t matter if a week goes by or 76 years, his return home is important.”
Glen Lyon resident Verne Treat, a self-proclaimed naval historian, felt it was his duty to attend the services for Slapikas.
“It’s the men like Edward that helped build America,” Treat said.
“Patriotism was represented in full force,” he continued. “I commend everyone that came out and showed support for this American hero.”
Locals preparing for funeral of sailor killed at Pearl Harbor; procession route announced
Bob Kalinowski - Citizens Voice
A local funeral home and area emergency responders are getting ready to give a hero’s welcome to a sailor killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor nearly 77 years ago.
The remains of Seaman 1st Class Edward Slapikas are slated to arrive Friday around 5:50 p.m. at the Harrisburg International Airport, according to local funeral director Debbie Strish Katra.
After a brief, private service by the U.S. Navy, a hearse from the Strish Funeral Home will transport Slapikas’ casket to its Ashley funeral parlor, where local veterans and emergency responders are expected to gather to greet the arrival.
“It’s an honor and privilege. We are happy to help bring this guy home finally," Strish Katra said.
The sailor’s remains, buried twice before in Hawaii, were recently identified after all these years.
A Mass of Christian Burial is slated for 10 a.m. Saturday in Holy Spirit Parish on Market Street in Glen Lyon, the former St. Adalbert’s Church.
The funeral procession, led by area emergency responders, will leave the funeral home around 9 a.m.
Officials say the procession with travel down state Route 29 toward Nanticoke onto Main Street in Nanticoke. The procession will turn left onto Robert Street in Sheatown and continue onto the Kirmar Parkway into Main Street, Glen Lyon.
Ladder trucks from the Newport Twp. and Nantcoke fire departments will have a giant U.S. flag hoisted over the entrance to Glen Lyon.
The procession will continue down Main Street in Glen Lyon, making a left onto Apple Street and another left on Newport Street to Market Street.
Slapikas, who was 24 when he was killed, will be laid to rest in St. Mary’s Cemetery in the township’s Wanamie section, just feet from where he lived at 2 College Hill.
His lone known survivors, niece Leona Hotko, 89, of Kingston and nephew Frank Slapikas, 80, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, are expected to be on hand.
Newport Twp. officials are asking residents to take the opportunity “to show respect and gratitude for a fallen hero with local roots.”
“All residents of Newport Township, especially along the procession route, are encouraged to fly the American flag as a final tribute to a hero who gave his life for our country,” township officials wrote in an advisory about the funeral.
Slapikas was one of the 429 men killed when the U.S.S. Oklahoma was bombarded by Japanese torpedoes during the ambush on Dec. 7, 1941, that pushed the country into World War II.
While they never had official confirmation, Slapikas’ family felt safe to presume he was one of the 429 unidentified bodies from the USS Oklahoma buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, commonly called the “punchbowl cemetery.”
The bodies were exhumed in 1947, but only 35 sets of remains were identified. The unidentified remains were then reinterred.
Several years ago, the organization exhumed the bodies again and took them to laboratories. So far, more than 100 sets of remains have been identified through examinations of DNA, dental records, X-rays, bones, historical data and other methods.
Glen Lyon man accused of seeking sex from minor online
A Glen Lyon faces charges after he allegedly solicited sex on a social media app from someone he thought was a minor, according to court documents.
James Lee Grodzicki Jr., 31, of Rock Street, was arrested by undercover agents with the state Office of Attorney General when he showed up at a location in Wilkes-Barre Township expecting to meet a 14-year-old girl on Friday.
Grodzicki is the fifth person to be arrested by state agents in recent weeks on charges they solicited sex from minors on social media.
According to the criminal complaint:
Grodzicki met who he believed as a 14-year-old girl on social media and solicited sex. He was told through multiple communications he was conversing with a 14-year-old girl, which he acknowledged. Grodzicki told the girl he was 23.
Grodzicki suggested to perform certain lewd acts. He sent the girl a message Friday afternoon, “So you want to lose that v card today?” and asked to meet up later that night, the complaint says.
State agents arrested Grodzicki when he arrived at a pre-determined location in Wilkes-Barre Township at about 7:30 p.m.
During an interview with state agents, Grodzicki admitted he was meeting a 14-year-old girl he solicited for sex because he was lonely at home and wanted some excitement. He claimed if he got along with the girl, he would have went forward to having sexual contact, the complaint says.
Grodzicki was arraigned Saturday by District Judge Joseph Carmody in West Pittston on charges of unlawful contact with a minor, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, unlawful contact with a minor, statutory sexual assault and criminal use of communication facility. He was released after posting $50,000 bail, court records say.
After nearly 77 years, seaman lost at Pearl Harbor to be buried in Wanamie
Leona Hotko still has the bicycle her Uncle Eddie paid for nearly eight decades ago.
Hotko also has several letters, postcards and photos of her favorite uncle who went off to war in 1940.
After nearly 77 years, Navy Seaman 1st Class Edward F. Slapikas, 26, of Wanamie, was accounted for on Sept. 5, 2017, and his remains will be buried June 9 in his hometown, which is a part of Newport Township.
“I was very close to him,” Hotko said Tuesday of Uncle Eddie. “We always wondered where he was. Now he is coming home and will be buried near his family.”
On Dec. 7, 1941, Slapikas was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft. The attack marked the U.S entry into World War II.
The USS Oklahoma sustained multiple torpedo hits, which caused it to quickly capsize. The attack on the ship resulted in the deaths of 429 crewmen, including Slapikas.
Hotko, who will turn 89 in June, said Slapikas was her favorite uncle. She said he sent her many letters while he was in the service and she always responded, but sometimes not as promptly as “Uncle Eddie” would have liked.
“He was always concerned about the family and how things were back home,” Hotko recalled. “He always told me to study hard and to be a good girl.”
Hotko’s mother and Seaman Slapikas were sister and brother.
“I feel good that they identified him through the DNA match,” Hotko said. “He will be buried at home, just a few feet from where he grew up in Wanamie.”
Hotko’s memories of her uncle are crystal clear, even though nearly 77 years have passed since they last corresponded. The Navy lists Slapikas as 26 when he was killed at Pearl Harbor — but his date of birth is recorded as Aug. 6, 1916, which would make him 25 at the time of his death. Hotko said she thought her uncle was 24 when he died.
As she sat at a table at the Tiffany Court at Kingston senior living center, Hotko displayed several letters from Slapikas.
“He wrote to me all the time,” she said. “And he sent me so many souvenirs and gifts.”
Slapikas also sent $30 to Hotko so she could get the bicycle she always wanted.
“He wrote to me that he would teach me to ride it when he got back home,” Hotko said.
The bicycle is in the basement in the building where Hotko lived, the same building that once housed her family’s business, Drozdowski Brothers Bakery. It closed in 1966.
“I remember when he gave me rides in his car,” she said with a smile. “I would sit in the rumble seat. Uncle Eddie liked animals, dog and cats, and he liked to go hunting and fishing.”
Hotko said the Navy was always on Slapikas’ mind. She said he built a model battleship that sat on a table in her grandmother’s home.
Hotko said two months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Slapikas sent her a letter saying he couldn’t wait to come home. She said he was hearing reports of a Japanese attack coming soon.
‘Never forgotten him’
Hotko said she will be at the June 9 funeral. She said a cousin is coming in from Alabama, but she never met the man.
Hotko said she received a Christmas card from Slapikas in 1941, just two weeks after the family was notified he was killed.
“I thought he must be still alive — that it was all a mistake,” she said. “But I was only 12; I really didn’t understand.”
It’s not known exactly when the remains of Seaman Slapikas will arrive in Wanamie. He will be given a full military escort, and it’s expected several military organizations will attend the service.
“I don’t think Leona realizes how big this is,” funeral director Deborah Strish-Katra said.
Hotko said it’s been a long wait, but she is happy her uncle is coming home, bringing closure to decades of wondering and waiting. Slapikas’ parents, Frank and Ursula Slapikas, are buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery old section, Strish-Katra said. His father died in 1943; his mother in 1950. Strish-Katra said Slapikas had five brothers — Frank, Joseph, Anthony, Thomas, and John — and two sisters, Anne and Helen. All are deceased.
“I have always missed my uncle,” Hotko said. “I’ve never forgotten him.”
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced earlier this month the remains of Slapikas are being returned to his family for burial.
The agency said from December 1941 to June 1944, Navy personnel recovered the remains of the crew, which were subsequently interred in the Halawa and Nu’uanu cemeteries.
Slapikas is the only person from Pennsylvania who has been identified from the USS Oklahoma project.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. There are 72,917 (approximately 26,000 assessed as possibly recoverable) still unaccounted for. Slapikas’ name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the Punchbowl Cemetery in Hawaii. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
USS Oklahoma Project
• On Dec. 7, 1941, the battleship USS Oklahoma was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft.
• The USS Oklahoma sustained multiple torpedo hits, which caused it to quickly capsize. The attack on the ship resulted in the deaths of 429 crewmen.
• From December 1941 to June 1944, Navy personnel recovered the remains of the crew, which were subsequently interred in the Halawa and Nu’uanu cemeteries.
• In September 1947, tasked with recovering and identifying fallen U.S. personnel in the Pacific Theater, members of the American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) disinterred the remains of U.S. casualties from the two cemeteries and transferred them to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks. The laboratory staff was able to confirm the identifications of only 35 men from the USS Oklahoma at that time.
• The AGRS subsequently buried the unidentified remains in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP), known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu. In October 1949, a military board classified those who could not be identified as non-recoverable.
• In April 2015, the Deputy Secretary of Defense issued a policy memorandum directing the disinterment of unknowns associated with the USS Oklahoma. On June 15, 2015, DPAA personnel began exhuming the remains from the NMCP for analysis.
• All of those remains were sent to the DPAA lab at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska.
• Initial analysis has indicated the disinterred remains represent 388 individuals.
• As of April 2018, DPAA has identified 127 individuals from the USS Oklahoma dis-interments.
For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for Americans who went missing while serving our country, go to www.dpaa.mil; www.facebook.com/dodpaa; or call 703-699-1420/1169.
Coming home: Remains of Newport Twp. sailor killed at Pearl Harbor identified
Bob Kalinowski - Citizens Voice
The remains of a township sailor killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor have finally been identified and are coming home.
U.S. Navy Seaman 1st Class Edward F. Slapikas was one of the 429 men killed when the USS Oklahoma was bombarded by Japanese torpedoes during the ambush on Dec. 7, 1941, that pushed the country into World War II. The Wanamie man was 24.
Scientists and researchers for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency positively identified Slapikas’ remains in the fall and the Navy is planning an official burial ceremony later this year in his hometown.
“It’s unbelievable, but I’m very happy to hear it,” Slapikas’ niece, Leona Hotko, 88, said. “He was my favorite uncle.”
Hotko, who the military identified as Slapikas’ next of kin, was 12 years old when Slapikas died. Slapikas was her mother’s brother.
Hotko, who lived Newport Twp. and Nanticoke before moving to a senior living center in Kingston in 2015, remembers Slapikas sent her early Christmas money in 1941 to buy a bicycle. A card he penned her arrived days after the attack. He wrote that he couldn’t wait to go bike riding with her.
“I was arguing with everybody. He couldn’t be dead; he sent me this letter,” she recalled.
While they never had official confirmation, the family felt safe to presume Slapikas was one of the 429 unidentified bodies from the USS Oklahoma buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, commonly called the “punchbowl cemetery.”
The bodies were exhumed in 1947, but only 35 sets of remains were identified, said Charles Prichard, director of public relations for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
The unidentified remains were then reinterred.
Several years ago, the organization exhumed the bodies again and took them to laboratories.
So far, more than 100 sets of remains have been identified through examinations of DNA, dental records, X-rays, bones, historical data and other methods.
“That’s our job. There are 82,000 plus people who have not come back from past conflicts. We are trying to find them all,” Prichard said.
After Hotko heard that Slapikas’ remains were identified, she wasw relieved to learn that, in cases like this, the military takes care of the funeral costs, even burial at Arlington National Cemetery if a family wanted.
Hotko said she’d like to see her uncle laid to rest near his parents in Wanamie.
“He’d be happy and his parents would be happy if his remains were buried with them,” Hotko said. “I’d like to go to the funeral if I could get there.”
The Navy has been in touch with the George Strish Funeral Home in Glen Lyon, but no services have been scheduled.
While he was killed in action, Slapikas’ name lived on.
Newport Twp. High School’s 1942 yearbook — The Newportrait — was dedicated to Slapikas and another sailor from the township was who killed at Pearl Harbor, Petty Officer 3rd Class Keith Jeffries.
Jeffries, of Alden, died on the USS Arizona. He and most of the ship’s 1,177 crewmen remain entombed in the sunken vessel, which is a national monument. In all, more than 2,300 U.S. service members were killed on the date which lives in infamy.
An American Legion Post 971 in Wanamie was named after Slapikas and Jeffries. The organization still exists, but meets at the Glen Lyon American Legion, Post 539.
Both groups plan to honor Slapikas when his remains arrive home.
It will be a fitting tribute nearly 77 years in the making.
“Thanks for your help for anything that can be done to make this event a memorable one for the Slapikas family, Wanamie, Newport Township, our American Legion posts 971 and 539 of Glen Lyon and those who respect our veterans — past and present,” town historian Tom Kashatus said in an email announcing the news of Slapikas’ posthumous homecoming.
Glen Lyon man charged following high-speed chase
James Halpin - Citizens Voice
A Glen Lyon man opened fire on a vehicle and rammed a police car before leading officers on a drunken high-speed chase early Friday that ended after police disabled his vehicle with a spike strip, according to police.
Christopher Banks, 36, is accused of speeding along Interstate 81 at speeds in excess of 120 mph as he tried to evade capture with police in pursuit.
According to a police affidavit, officers driving in the area of Mayock and East Main streets were flagged down by people who reported that someone in the vehicle behind theirs was shooting at them.
Officers pulled behind the suspect’s vehicle and ordered the driver to show his hands, and then saw Banks holding a gun, according to the charges. Banks put the vehicle in reverse and tried to hit an officer and struck his police car before fleeing the scene, police said.
Police chased Banks on East Main Street over to Jumper Road and then onto East Mountain Boulevard, police said. Banks then led officers onto state Route 115 and north on I-81, where he reached speeds in excess of 120 mph, police said.
Banks got onto Interstate 380 and headed southbound until the Pocono Mountain Regional Police Department used a spike strip and popped his left tire near Mile 4, police said. Banks continued on for a few more miles until coming to a stop at Mile .4, police said.
Officers took Banks and two women into custody. Banks had bloodshot eyes and slurred speech, and smelled strongly of alcohol, police said. Banks refused a blood-alcohol test and was taken to Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center to be treated for back pain, according to police.
The women provided statements and were released, police said.
Police charged Banks with aggravated assault, illegal possession of a firearm, fleeing police, escape, carrying a firearm without a license, reckless endangerment, driving under the influence, careless driving, driving with a suspended license, reckless driving and carrying a loaded weapon.
Magisterial District Judge Joseph D. Spagnuolo Jr. arraigned Banks on Friday morning and ordered him held at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility without bail.
A preliminary hearing was set for May 8.
Prosecutors reduce arson charge against manslaughter parolee
James Halpin - Citizens Voice
Prosecutors on Friday downgraded an arson charge against a Newport Township man who was accused of setting a brush fire while free on parole on an involuntary manslaughter conviction.
Corey Eckrote, 53, of 1048 Rear E. Main St., had been facing felony counts of arson and risking catastrophe, as well as a misdemeanor count of possessing drug paraphernalia, after police alleged he set a fire that broke out in the area of 100 Brown Row on March 26.
In court Friday, Assistant District Attorney Thomas Hogans said prosecutors had agreed to reduce the arson charge to a misdemeanor count of criminal mischief and would drop the remaining counts in exchange for Eckrote waiving a preliminary hearing.
At the request of the defense, Magisterial District Judge Joseph D. Spagnuolo Jr. reduced Eckrote’s bail from $100,000 to $10,000 unsecured and set a dispositional hearing for June 7.
Prosecutors say Eckrote was found in the area of the fire that broke out March 26 and that he repeatedly apologized for setting the fire, saying he “did something stupid.” He was also found in possession of a green cut straw with a powdery substance in his back pocket, which he claimed was residue from his prescription Percocet, according to the charges.
At the time, Eckrote was on parole from his two- to six-year prison sentence imposed after a jury convicted him of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment over the death of his 2.5-month-old Jaxon, who suffocated on Feb. 14, 2014.
The boy’s mother, 44-year-old Tracey Ann Gonda, fell asleep with him in her arms and he got wedged in the cushion of a recliner, according to prosecutors.
During Eckrote’s trial, prosecutors placed the blame for the child’s death on him because he knew Gonda was an addict yet nevertheless bought Gonda two 24-ounce containers of malt liquor and left her with Jaxon while he went out for drinks at the Four Hundred Club of Nanticoke.
Gonda pleaded guilty in September 2015 to endangering the welfare of a child and corruption of minors, and was sentenced to 15 to 60 months in prison.
Man on parole for involuntary manslaughter charged with arson
A township man on parole after being convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of his infant son was charged this week with arson for allegedly setting a brush fire.
Corey Eckrote, 53, of 1048 Rear E. Main St., is accused of setting a fire that broke out in the area of 100 Brown Row on Monday afternoon.
Police say they responded to the area and found firefighters working to contain the fire to a hillside, as well as a man later identified as Eckrote walking around the blaze. When police confronted Eckrote, he admitted starting the fire to “clean it up,” according to a police affidavit.
Eckrote repeatedly apologized for setting the fire, saying he “did something stupid” and he was sorry, according to police. Police say Eckrote also asked to be released, explaining that his father recently died and that his mother suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and needs him around.
Police handcuffed and searched Eckrote, finding a green cut straw with a powdery substance in his back pocket, according to the complaint. Eckrote claimed the powder was his prescription Percocet, according to the charges.
Police charged Eckrote with felony counts of arson and risking catastrophe, as well as a misdemeanor count of possessing drug paraphernalia.
Magisterial District Judge Donald L. Whittaker arraigned him and ordered Eckrote jailed at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility with bail set at $100,000. A preliminary hearing was set for April 4.
In 2015, Eckrote was sentenced to serve two to six years in state prison after a jury convicted him of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment over the death of his 2½-month-old Jaxon, who suffocated Feb. 14, 2014.
The boy’s mother, 44-year-old Tracey Ann Gonda, fell asleep with him in her arms and he got wedged in the cushion of a recliner, according to prosecutors.
During Eckrote’s trial, prosecutors placed the blame for the child’s death with him because he knew Gonda was an addict yet nevertheless bought Gonda two 24-ounce containers of malt liquor and left her with Jaxon while he went out for drinks at the Four Hundred Club of Nanticoke.
When he returned, Gonda — who was under court order not to be alone with the child — sought his help, but Eckrote gave the baby back, saying he had to be up for work in the morning, according to prosecutors.
After finding the infant the next day, Gonda initially claimed she had placed the child safely into his bassinet, but admitted she lied when her other son told police his brother had been lying with his head in the cushions.
Gonda pleaded guilty in September 2015 to endangering the welfare of a child and corruption of minors, and was sentenced to 15 to 60 months in prison. Records show she has also been released but has absconded on her parole.
Department of Corrections Susan McNaughton said Eckrote was paroled from his sentence on Nov. 4, 2017, after serving his minimum sentence. His maximum term expires on Nov. 4, 2021, she said.
Woman charged with robbing Plymouth store
Police traced a phone call to a woman they believe is responsible for robbing the Convenient Mart on West Main Street, according to arrest papers.
Janice Mackey, 33, of Newport Street, Glen Lyon, was arraigned Friday on charges she held up the store for money to buy drugs.
Police responded to the store just before 8 a.m. Thursday after a woman wearing a red hooded sweatshirt demanded money from the register. The woman held her hand under a shirt telling a clerk, Varsha Barot, it was a gun.
Gene Mulroy, a witness, told police he walked out of the store and got into his truck when a woman jumped into his vehicle asking for a ride. While driving on Academy Street, the woman told Mulroy, “I just robbed the Convenient, I’m sorry, are you mad?”
Mulroy told the woman she needed to get out of his truck. Believing she had a gun, Mulroy claimed the woman pulled out a large amount of cash and told him to keep driving.
Mulroy said the woman got out of his truck in the area of First and Orchard streets.
Police said surveillance video recorded a woman wearing a red hooded sweatshirt walking around aisles inside the store that appeared to wait until customers left. The woman was recorded approaching the counter and placing her hand under her shirt giving the appearance she had a gun.
About one hour after the robbery, a woman called police saying the suspect was a white female wearing a green hooded sweatshirt and was picked up by a man in a truck on Academy Street.
Police traced the phone number to Mackey, who used the same phone number to call 911 on Feb. 4.
Mackey was identified by Mulroy and Barot in a photo array, the complaint says.
Police learned Paul Iorio gave Mackey a ride to a methadone clinic in Ashley and she asked to be dropped off in Plymouth. Iorio allegedly told police Mackey was on a “bender.”
Police contacted Mackey and advised her to surrender. She claimed she was on the run near Philadelphia but later said she was in Nanticoke. Mackey pledged to turn herself in at 3:30 p.m. Thursday but she failed to show, police alleged.
Mackey was apprehended by Newport Township police at her residence at about 8 p.m. Thursday. She claimed she used the cash stolen from the store to buy drugs, the complaint says.
Mackey was charged with robbery, theft, terroristic threats, simple assault and disorderly conduct. She was arraigned by District Judge Joseph Spagnuolo Jr. in Plains Township and jailed at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility for lack of $150,000 bail.
Police: Glen Lyon woman restrained father with jumper cables, stole money
A daughter used jumper cables to restrain her father and removed more than $700 cash from his wallet during an argument inside a vehicle, according to charges filed.
Township police arrested Lora Lukatchik, 46, of South Market Street, Glen Lyon, after investigating a domestic dispute involving her father, Alex Lukatchik, on Saturday.
Alex Lukatchik was treated at a local hospital for facial injuries.
He allegedly told police Lora Lukatchik was giving him a ride to see another daughter in a nursing home and during the trip, he claimed Lora Lukatchik struck him multiple times in the face and restrained him in the front seat of the car with jumper cables.
When they returned to their South Market Street residence, Alex Lukatchik alleged Lora Lukatchik slammed him against a vehicle and pushed him into a wheelchair, according to the criminal complaint.
When two people showed up at the residence, they alleged Lora Lukatchik demanded their cellphones so nobody could make any calls, the complaint says.
Lora Lukatchik told police she was arguing with her father about an ex-boyfriend and another man residing at their house. She claimed her father has been paying a guy to cause problems for her.
While Alex Lukatchik was being prepared to be taken to a hospital, he asked police to get money Lora Lukatchik had taken from him. Police alleged Lora Lukatchik took $717 from her father that she hid in her bra.
Police said there was blood inside Lora Lukatchik’s vehicle.
Lora Lukatchik was charged with simple assault, unlawful restraint, harassment, disorderly conduct and theft. She remained jailed at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility for lack of $5,000 bail.