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Go east, not-so-young man

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William Shakespeare has Juliet wonder “What’s in a name?” as the adolescent pondered why she should shun and even detest Romeo because of his lineage. When considering East Passyunk Crossing, the neighborhood that stretches from Sixth to Broad Street and from Snyder Avenue to Tasker Street, one should see the name as a source of pride and commitment, as its residents and employees never fail to give their all in their vocations and pursuits. The neighborhood’s civic association is turning 10 this year and will hold a celebration Sunday. In honor of the group and the boundaries, I decided to document my favorite East Passyunk Crossing-related stories and experiences.

10) Chronicling the Difference Makers within the expanse: The South Philly Review has issued a Difference Makers issue since 2010, and East Passyunk Crossing has found itself VERY well-represented. There must be something in the water, as altruism comes so easily to this section’s denizens.

9) Coming to know Steven Smith: I became acquainted with Mr. Steven Smith in November 2010 when he pitched a story about a South Philly track star registered at John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls’ High School. Following the publication of that article, he and I would share thoughts about football, including his connection to the East Passyunk Crossing-situated Neumann-Goretti High School Saints, whom he coached for three years. Aside from being quite knowledgeable of the game, he was an immensely compassionate man whose Dec. 1 passing from colon cancer still gives me and many others pause. Rest in peace, my friend.

8) Meeting Tom DeFelice and Frank “Roscoe” Natale: These characters count as two of the most passionate people whom I have ever met, all professionals and callings considered. Their devotion to the football team at the now-shuttered Edward Bok Technical High School will live on far after they have gone to the great gridiron in the sky.

7) Enjoying great cuisine along East Passyunk Avenue: I have not made many non-South Philly Review trips to East Passyunk Avenue restaurants since I moved off the thoroughfare in 2006 (See item #1.), but the frequent occasions from long ago and the more recent ones have made me quite reverent toward chefs’ efforts. May the stretch continue to welcome amazing talent.

6) Walking through the neighborhood on the day of the Pope’s arrival: On Sept. 26, I had the delight of heading to the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul for Pope Francis’ first stop in Philadelphia as part of the Papal visit. I needed to report to the Pennsylvania Convention Center by 4:30 a.m., if memory serves me correctly, but since SEPTA was severely limited and cars could travel only so far before meeting a barrier, I walked from Broad and Oregon to the Chinatown facility, using much of East Passyunk Crossing as my route. Such calm set me up for a wonderfully enlightening day that I will forever cherish.

5) Attending the final graduation ceremony at Bok: When the School District of Philadelphia decided to make the 2012-’13 school year the last one for Bok, I felt it necessary to cover as many stories as I could for the 75-year-old site. Fittingly, my last duty was its last gathering, graduation day. Three years on, I still remember every smile and tear, including my own contributions, vividly.

4) Writing about many talented actors and actresses: When compiling this list, I searched our website for my name and East Passyunk Crossing and came up with a slew of results. Each Lifestyles profile on an EPC-based thespian led me to nod, as I recalled the circumstances of our interviews and the joy that I felt in putting pen to paper in telling their tales.

3) Becoming friends with Joseph F. Marino: I became aware of this East Passyunk Crossing native, who serves as the chair of the board of directors for his neighborhood’s civic and as the president of the advisory council at its recreation center, through his impassioned singing at the National Shrine of Saint Rita of Cascia. Once I came to know him in his civic capacity, I became quite impressed with his dedication to helping residents to thrive. Five years after our introduction, I count him as a great friend.

2) Covering the athletes from Neumann-Goretti High School: That same website search that led to item #4 reminded me of how many pieces I have done on the Saints. It always amazes me how along with producing great scholars, this school has consistently filled rosters with dedicated athletes. Keep representing South Philly well, you tireless teens.

1) Living on East Passyunk Avenue: South Philly’s Marconi area has been my haunt for 10 years, but the two years prior to that found me on the 1800 block of East Passyunk Avenue. As my first South Philly residence, it gave me an appreciation for the overall community’s tight-knit nature and pleased my stomach many nights. Thank you for giving me an introduction to life as a local, East Passyunk Avenue. SPR

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