Each one of the 2019 Lycoming County Brotherhood Alliance award recipients Wednesday night has a common trait: service to others before self.
“They have lived those words,” said Ken Sawyer, master of ceremonies to the packed grand ballroom at the 62nd annual Brotherhood Alliance banquet at the Genetti Hotel and Convention Center.
Sawyer was speaking about the Blue Star Mothers and Frank Lupacchino — recipients of the Brotherhood citation Awards, and Paul Missigman, Ray Keyes Sports Award winner.
A posthumous recognition was also given by Elliott Weiss to Percy D. (P.D.) Mitchell, who served as director of the Bethune Douglas Community Center, helping to bridge the gap between cultures, races, religions, ancestry and economic status.
To kick-off the evening, Frank Girardi, whose name is synonymous with winning and excellence as a head coach for his 36 years at the helm of Lycoming College Warriors Football, served as keynote speaker.
Girardi spoke about football players’ unity as they work together toward a single goal, and likened a huddle by the players to brotherhood and how it should be this way in the nation.
“The huddle is a metaphor of what it should be like in the U.S.,” Girardi said. It defines brotherhood, he added.
Girardi noted how he was keen on “sayings” over his 36-year coaching career. He repeated one of his favorites: “Value the needs of others as well as your own.”
“How many huddles are out there that we can get involved in?” Girardi asked, referring to many volunteer causes and work to be done in houses of worship, at Sunday School and in local communities.
He urged those in the audience to not neglect the young people — who are looked at academically and athletically, but need to be taught the right social aspects of life.
“Show them the value of brotherhood,” Girardi said, before he shared one of his favorite stories about a strapping 18-year-old who one day decided to take hold of the hand of an autistic child and walk with the special needs youngster down the hallway of the school.
Soon, others gathered around the table where he and the autistic youth were and they, too, saw what the athletic youngster was doing to promote brotherhood.
For Jane Schramm, becoming a Blue Star Mother was a journey that began with her being frustrated by her son, Greg, who didn’t have any clear career path and was lounging at home placing resumes online and waiting for companies to call back.
Finally, at wits end, she tossed a jar of peanut butter, she said, in a seminal moment of exasperation.
Eventually, her son joined the Air Force and after the six-week basic training she attended the graduation ceremony in San Antonio, Texas. That is when she said she saw people treating her son and others in the military with appreciation and gratitude.
“I wanted to bring that feeling back to Williamsport,” she said — the feeling of patriotism and appreciation for veterans in the military.
After brainstorming on how to start a support group for local military mothers going through the same experiences, Schramm and four other mothers joined by a chaplain formed what is now Blue Star Mothers of American North Central PA Chapter 12.
Today, the chapter is active in sending care packages to deployed troops, supporting local veterans and Gold Star Families who’ve lost their loved ones. They hold events throughout the year, including the Patriot 5K Color Walk/Run in September, and put wreaths on graves as part of Wreaths Across America in December.
Schramm reminded those listening that troops overseas appreciate even little things such as a clean toothbrush.
She shared such examples of appreciation by reading letters from various troops stationed in harm’s way, including one on a mission to eradicate ISIS in Iraq.
Today, the chapter sends 120 to 200 care packages a year, she said, before showing a video compiled of moments, capturing the brotherhood these Blue Star Mothers share around the nation and the world.
Schramm’s son is a staff sergeant stationed in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Lupacchino, whose impact was as a coach in Little League in Europe and athletic director at Bishop Neumann High School, took everyone back to his days growing up in Little Italy along Jefferson Street. He talked about how his parents moved him into the Keystone Hotel, and he reminisced about his late mother.
Pausing a moment as emotions overcame him, Lupacchino heard a voice. It was his wife, Deanne, saying out loud, ‘Come on, Luppy,’ encouraging him to get through the moment.
“Mom could not read or write English so I got her to sign papers for me to get into the Air Force,” Lupacchino said, holding back tears.
He said his brother got upset at both his sibling and mother, and had the military sign-up papers “nullified,” but he was determined to sign up and was deployed to England, where he coached baseball in a Little League program.
After four years, Lupacchino said he returned to Williamsport, and became part-owner of Keystone Hotel. He said he hated it, almost as much as his wife’s inability to cook.
“She learned how to make spaghetti,” he said to laughter.
He reenlisted and was stationed in Naples, Italy. He shared a funny moment as he helped to deliver his first baby in a car en route to the hospital. He saw the baby coming and saw a crop of black hair. “Oh my God, I thought it was dead,” he said, again to laughter. To cut the umbilical cord, Luppachino used a can opener. He said the doctors told him he did a good job.
In one way or another, Lupacchino has served the community for more than 65 years. From 1954 through 1976, he served in the Air Force as a personnel director, primarily overseas in England, Germany and Italy.
After that, Lupacchino was the Assistant Central Regional Director for Little League Baseball and was the volunteer assistant athletic director at Bishop Neumann High School. He also was Little League International Director, traveling across the globe to start new Little League programs in India, Sri Lanka, Poland, and other parts of Europe and Africa.
The center in Kutno, Poland, includes four ball fields as well as dormitories, and hosts the European Little League tournaments.
He fondly recalled the day Hall of Famer Stan Musial threw out a first pitch at the tournament he was at in Poland.
Today, Lupacchino serves on the Bowman Field Commission and remains involved in Little League Baseball and Softball.
For Missigman, serving others was his life’s work.
“The people I surrounded myself with establish my firm foundation,” he said.
As a former history teacher at Williamsport Area High School, Missigman coached basketball and had been the wrestling score keeper, but he and many others felt the school needed a baseball team.
Missigman acknowledged John Albarano as responsible for getting baseball at the high school started.
He also lauded his friend, the late Bill Byham for his years of support, to whom he reached out to be his pitching coach, and the Baseball Booster Club, which had to raise $8,000 initially through rummage and bake sales and dances.
He and Missigman coached the Millionaires for four seasons, setting the foundation for the future of the sport at Williamsport High School.
He also had a moment of emotional reflection recalling the 25th anniversary of the high school team and his grandson playing on it. On that team were three players whose fathers played on the first team, he said.
Missigman’s efforts helped to establish other varsity sports in many high schools in the area.
He helped to develop coaches such as Scott Grove, Dave Cipriani and others who developed players who competed as teams for state championships and individually played Division One college baseball, minor and major baseball.
Through the years, Missigman supported wrestling, golf and orchestra programs.
He served as a board member of the West Branch Valley Chapter Pennsylvania sports Hall of Fame, and board member of the Clinton County Country Club, and was a director of Little League Baseball Summer Camp at Hillsgrove in Sullivan County.