Teen recognized for sacrifice during pandemic

Antonio Pugliese accepts a pin signifying his receipt of one of the 2020 Brian Piccolo Scholarship Awards from the Scranton Chapter of UNICO National. Pictured outside the family’s shoe repair shop in Dunmore are, from left: David Passeri; Scranton Chapter President Gail Cicerini; Antonio Pugliese; his father John Pugliese; and his brother Nico Pugliese.

A local teen is being recognized for his efforts to help his grandparents in Dunmore during the coronavirus pandemic.

Antonio Pugliese, a freshman at Penn State Scranton, put himself in virtual quarantine to help care for his paternal grandparents Clare and Nick Pugliese, according to a press release from the Scranton Chapter of UNICO National. Doing so has especially helped his grandmother tend to the needs of her husband, who since 2006 has faced significant health issues.

Since the pandemic hit in March, Antonio Pugliese has spent countless hours in his grandparents’ home and has refrained from any gatherings, including activities associated with his senior year, to limit his chances of contracting the virus and passing it to his vulnerable grandparents.

“I had to stay disciplined to make sure I was not bringing the virus into their home,” he said. “What keeps me vigilant and what kept me OK with missing my final high school memories, while many people my age take their chances with the pandemic, is the thought that my time with my grandparents is much more limited and valuable than the time I could spend with people my age for the rest of my life.”

Antonio Pugliese, the son of John and Rosanna Pugliese of Scranton, was one of six high school students to receive the 2020 Brian Piccolo Scholarship Award from the Scranton Chapter of UNICO National. The award honors students who have displayed the same qualities and characteristics of Brian Piccolo, the professional football player who battled cancer before succumbing to the disease at age 26.

Coincidentally, Antonio Pugliese’s service to his family mirrors that of his grandfather Nick, who many years ago exhibited similar devotion and experienced challenges when his mother was facing the end of her life in Italy.

UNICO Scranton Chapter President Gail Mason Cicerini discovered the story when she met David Passeri, a fellow traveler on a tour of Italy. Gail noticed a beautiful gold medal that Passeri was wearing, and he explained that it was a gift from a Nick Pugliese – a gift of gratitude.

David and Nick worked at the Golo Shoe Factory in Dunmore owned by Arthur Samuels, whose son Lee and his wife Frances are members of the UNICO Scranton Chapter.

As Nick Pugliese’s mother’s health declined, he asked the foreman for time off so he could visit her in Calabria, Italy, from where he had migrated in 1961. The foreman refused, but David Passeri was the plant supervisor and he made the compassionate decision to allow Nick Pugliese to go.

Following his retirement from the Golo plant in 1970, Nick Pugliese established Nick’s Shoe Repair on East Drinker Street in Dunmore and worked there part-time for 15 years while also holding a full-time job at a trucking company loading dock to support his family. The shop continues to operate today.

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