I was on the phone with a friend from across the country this past Sunday when a call came through: Dan Distasio had been found dead in his yard that morning.
Mr. Distasio was a classmate of my mother. He was a High School teacher (retired for several years now, I think) and was my homeroom teacher for at least one year. I had him as a teacher twenty-two years ago for Problems Of Democracy, an advanced elective Social Studies class. (Every time I hear about the band P.O.D., that's what I automatically think of.)
He was a big man with a booming voice and a gentle demeanor. He was a coach - track and field, I think. As a teacher he encouraged critical thinking, not simply the mindless regurgitation of facts phrased in a manner that was pleasing to him. He was also a good friend to my mom.
I stopped at the viewing on my way home from work. It was scheduled to go from 5:00 to 8:00. I left work at 6:30 and got into town forty minutes later to see the line stretched out the front door of the funeral home and down the street for nearly a block. I decided that this would be a good time to stop at my house to check the mail, the phone messages, and take a pit stop.
I got back to the funeral home around 7:30 and the line was just as long. I parked in the nearest spot, a block away, and took my place at the back of the line. By 8:00 I was standing near the open door of the funeral home, bathing in the welcome warmth coming from within. It was then that I discovered that the line inside the funeral home was as long as the line outside; it snaked its way through an unused parlor where memorial displays had been set up. (The picture of Mr. Distasio as a bare-assed baby made me laugh.)
After another twenty minutes or so I finally wound my way to the casket. I said a prayer and took my leave. I've never been one for chit-chat, especially not at funerals where the only person in the family that I know is the one in the casket. Besides, there were plenty of people willing to make chit-chat, and I was occupying valuable real estate where other mourners and friends and old students wanted to pay their respects. So I left.
The funeral is tomorrow.
Daniel J. Distasio, 73, of Phillips Street, Nanticoke, passed away Sunday (October 22, 2006) at Geisinger South Wilkes-Barre.
Born on November 9, 1932, in Nanticoke, he was a son of the late Daniel and Helen Stankiewicz Distasio.
Dan served two years in the Navy and two years in the Marines. After attaining his bachelor’s degree from King’s College, he continued on to earn his master’s degree equivalency.
Daniel was a teacher for 33 years at Nanticoke High School and was a former football coach for 12 years. He also coached girls volleyball, track and Wilkes Linebackers. He was an avid Yankee, Wilkes-Barre Penguins, Nanticoke Area Trojans and Crestwood Comets sports fan.
He was preceded in death by his brother Raymond.
Surviving are his wife of 49 years, the former Gertrude Piepon; daughter Deborah Disabatino, Mountain Top; sons Daniel Jr., Mountain Top; Jeff, Rochester, NY; Steven, Mountain Top; brother Richard, North Carolina; and grandchildren Dominick, Cassie, Jenna, Nico, Maddie, Danny III, Katie, Devon, Raegan, Stephanie and Derek.
Funeral services will be held Wednesday at 9 a.m. from the Earl W. Lohman Funeral Home, 14 W. Green St., Nanticoke, with a Mass of Christian Burial at 9:30 a.m. in Holy Trinity Church, with the Rev. James Nash officiating.
Interment will be in the Chapel Lawn Cemetery, Dallas. Friends may call this evening from 5 to 8 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, the Daniel J. Distasio Memorial Scholarship Fund is being created to provide an athletic/academic scholarship to a deserving senior student from both Nanticoke Area and Crestwood Area High Schools. Donations are to be made to the Daniel J. Distasio Memorial Fund, c/o Luzerne Foundation, 613 Baltimore Dr., Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702.