This marks my final issue as a full-time member of the South Philly Review family. Since May 10, 2010, I have lauded living in our neighborhoods as one of the best blessings a person could receive and have enjoyed many journeys in reminding you how vital you are to our communities. I will look to continue to tell your stories as a contributor to this publication, to which I owe the world for having helped me to become a professional writer. With the utmost gratitude, I offer these 10 unforgettable gifts from my nearly seven years on staff.
10) My first in-person news assignment: Because of deadlines, my first two news gigs needed to be phone interviews. My third offered me a chance to visit with residents of the 1200 block of Wolf Street, whom then-mayor Michael Nutter honored for living on RetroFIT Philly’s Coolest Block contest.
9) The growth of friendships: I have come to count many of my subjects as close friends and regularly share with them details of my life while eagerly taking in what keeps them passionate in their vocations. How blessed I regularly feel to have gone from chronicler to companion to so many wonderful people!
8) The sharing of compassion: While many tasks involved quickly covering, writing about, and issuing stories, I would say the majority of my duties found me truly looking to see beneath the surface to find someone’s emotional depth. The results always gave me insights into the power of compassion, especially, and perhaps unexpectedly, when I was the recipient of it.
7) The addition of peers in the field: Shy at times, I am still very much a people person, so along with being a buddy to locals, I have also cherished adding notable news figures to my circle of friends. I thank every writer and editor with whom I have interacted at this paper, especially Bill Gelman, Bill Chenevert, Kerith Gabriel, Anastasia Barbalios, Jackie Rupp, Tom Waring, and Don Russell, for their guidance and gusto.
6) The opportunity to represent/cover South Philly: On my first day, I was incredibly worried about being able to be a confident conveyer of life in South Philly, but I learned all would be well if I stayed true to my desire to be fair and aware of the importance of each event, matter, or incident. Here’s hoping I did you justice.
5) The announcement of my first honors: In June 2011, I learned the Philadelphia Press Association had chosen me for five awards, giving this often verbose scribe many reasons to voice my thanks. I also did a mini dance, leading a neighbor to say “It’s a good thing you have your writing to fall back on.”
4) Trips to The Palestra: I hope to make my way to Europe one day to take in its treasures, but I love visiting Philadelphia’s jewels, including The Palestra. Thanks to the Ss. Neumann-Goretti High School boys’ and girls’ basketball teams, I ventured to the venue to cover 10 championship games, celebrating with the victorious hoopsters seven times.
3) Interview with Frankie Avalon: On May 24, 2012, I met Frankie Avalon, one of the many legendary South Philly-bred singers, as he peddled his family’s Avallone Tomatoes. Media members had designated times to speak with him, and one late arrival tried to butt in on my allotment. Not missing a beat, Frankie said “You have to wait your turn. I’m talking with Joe now.” Take that!
2) Interview with David Brenner: The late comedian was one of my heroes when I was growing up. Learning shortly after joining the staff that he hailed from South Philly, I yearned for the chance to interview him, which I did in December 2013. Mr. Brenner would die three months later.
1) The accumulation of mutual respect: Rarely did I encounter anyone with a standoffish attitude (Word on the Street is a whole other story!!!) in researching, setting up and executing articles, and I will always value what inspired the receptivity. It wasn’t about selling books or tickets or drawing attention to pet projects or causes; it was about respect. I gave and received it equally, and I’m one fortunate fellow to have been in the position to have done so. Thanks for the memories.