Three men who believed in Wilkes-Barre

i Mar 5th 2017

By The Editorial Board, Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice

Wilkes-Barre lost three of its most ardent champions in the past three weeks, men who each had a singular vision of the city and its potential.

Al Boscov, who died Feb. 10 at 87, came to town in 1980, buying Fowler, Dick and Walker, which had been a retail mainstay on South Main Street for a century, and adding it to his Reading-based department store chain. Boscov stuck with Wilkes-Barre through thick and thin as shoppers gravitated toward sprawling malls and big box stores and storefronts around him emptied.

Rather than abandon the downtown, Boscov helped resuscitate it and nurture its rebirth, playing a key role in the transformation of a former movie theater into the F.M. Kirby Center, the city’s premier performing arts space since 1986. Last June, when cutting the ribbon on a major makeover to his Wilkes-Barre store, Boscov called its continued success “a tribute to people downtown and the people who still come downtown.”

On Thursday came news that two more downtown Wilkes-Barre fixtures had died.

On Public Square, just a few doors down from Boscov’s, Phil Rudy had operated his Circles on the Square deli for 32 years, offering wittily named sandwiches, quirky gift items and downtown’s most eclectic playlist.

Rudy, who died unexpectedly at 68 after falling ill at Circles on Thursday morning, once told this newspaper that “a love for food and a love for Wilkes-Barre” were his motivations for going into business downtown and staying there.

“I never regretted making my decision.”

Whenever there was an event celebrating Wilkes-Barre, you could be sure to find Frank Pasquini there. The city had no bigger booster than Pasquini, a former president of the Downtown Wilkes-Barre Business Association who had held posts at King’s College and the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry.

A friend described Pasquini, who died at 67 after a battle with cancer, as “one of those guys who was always willing to jump in and get the job done” when it came to improving and promoting the city.

In 2015, more than 225 people attended an event called “The Friends of Frank Pasquini” to celebrate his long career.

Wilkes-Barre will be poorer for the deaths of Boscov, Rudy and Pasquini. But with their passion and belief in the city’s downtown each enriched the city in ways that will endure.