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Local hall of fame inaugural class announced

Luzerne County Arts & Entertainment Hall of Fame committee members are hosting a contest to redesign the logo for the new initiative announced Thursday, Oct. 20, which will honor local artists.
Kat Bolus, WVIA News
Luzerne County Arts & Entertainment Hall of Fame committee members are hosting a contest to redesign the logo for the new initiative announced Thursday, Oct. 20, which will honor local artists.

Local painter Sue Hand only ever wanted to be an artist.

On her fifth birthday, she told her family about her future career.

"They laughed at me because nobody in our family was an artist. They were farmers, housewives, mechanics, carpenters," she said surrounded by art at her Dallas studio. "But I was going to be an artist, I had no idea what it meant.”

Hand is now among her fellow artists and entertainers with roots in Luzerne County that were selected to be members of the Luzerne County Arts & Entertainment Hall of Fame's inaugural class. The organizing committee announced the honorees last week.

The Hall of Fame was established in October, joining only 25 other music halls of fame in the United States. There is no physical permanent location yet for the hall of fame, said Bill O'Boyle, a member of the committee.

Hand grew up in Dallas. She’s passionate about history and paints landscapes with oil, watercolor and acrylics. She’s taught art in public and private schools and at the college level. Her works are displayed throughout the region and have been in galleries along the East Coast.

Hand’s mind got ahead of her when committee member, fellow historian and Wilkes-Barre Councilman Tony Brooks, called her to tell her she was an honoree.

She was thinking Brooks wanted her to suggest a few people for the inaugural class.

"Then Tony said ‘and you're going to be in the first class’ and I'm like ‘me?,’" she said. "I started to laugh and then I started crying. Just, it was overwhelming, just overwhelming.”

She’s joining George Catlin, a Wilkes-Barre native and painter who specialized in
portraits of Native Americans, among others.

"To be shoulder to shoulder with George Catlin is sort of ... I feel very much like an imposter," she said. "These people are just so incredible. When I read the list ... I'm still in shock.”

Among the entertainers selected are musicians like Joe Nardone Sr., the leader of Joe Nardone & the All Stars, and a member of the organizing committee; modern-rock band Breaking Benjamin and Brunon Kryger and the Kryger Brothers.

The Kryger family played polka music from 1937 to late 1990s both locally and nationally.

Brunon Kryger is known as Bruce like his father before him. His grandfather, also Brunon, was an opera singer who moved to Pennsylvania from Poland around 1930. He started the Kryger Orchestra while living in Shenandoah. When he moved to Wilkes-Barre he opened Kryger Music Company on East Market Street.

He passed away in 1951. Bruce’s father died in 88 and an uncle in 2013.

"On a happy note, they provided such great entertainment for over 70 years, continuously and all from the Wyoming Valley and to have them honored, especially my dad, that's what really got to my heart," said Bruce Kryger.

Bruce Kryger said his family made an imprint on not only Luzerne County but the wider polka scene. His grandfather, father and uncles, who made up the band, were inducted into the Polka Music Hall of Fame in Chicago, Illinois.

“I just thought that was a tremendous honor that Luzerne County, Wyoming Valley, have recognized them as as being a central part of the history of Luzerne County," he said.

The inductees will be honored Oct. 14, at a dinner at Mohegan Pennsylvania.

Members of the inaugural class, from the arts category, include:

Adrian Pearsall: an architect and furniture designer, who designed hundreds of distinctive furniture designs between 1952 and the mid 1970s. His furniture was the epitome of classic American mid-century modern design.

Barbara Weisberger: the founder of the Pennsylvania Ballet in 1961. She was George Balanchine’s protégé and his first American student as a child.

C. Edgar Patience: an anthracite sculptor, who took the ordinary piece of coal and sculpted it into something extraordinary. He lived from 1906 to 1972 and crafted works which were given as gifts to United States presidents and displayed in museums.

George Catlin: a Wilkes-Barre native and painter who specialized in portraits of Native Americans. He was the first American to have a large scale exhibition at the Louvre in Paris. His collection is now at the Smithsonian.

Hammond Edward “Ham” Fisher: an American comic strip writer and cartoonist born in Wilkes-Barre in 1900. He is best known for the popular newspaper comic strip "Joe Palooka."

Sue Hand: an artist known for her artworks in watercolor and her hexagon-shaped historical illustrations of mining including: “The Anthracite Miners and Their Hollowed Ground.” Hand is the founder of the national miniature art organization, Cider Painters of America.

Jack Palance: an actor known for playing tough guys and villains. Born in Hazleton in 1919, he was nominated for three Academy Awards and won an Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role in "City Slickers."

Santo Loquasto: a production and costume designer for stage, film and dance. He is a Tony-award winning production designer, scenic designer and costume designer. He was born in Wilkes-Barre in 1944 and attended King's College.

In the entertainment category:

Lee Vincent: formed the Lee Vincent Orchestra after returning from World War II. He played locally and nationally. In February 1951, he and several other jazz groups performed in downtown Wilkes-Barre from 6 p.m. until the early hours of the next day in what would be the beginning of the Newport Jazz Festival. He was also an orchestra leader, talent agent, radio sales manager and played for or arraigned for Natalie Cole, Johnny Mathis and Aretha Franklin, among others.

Joe Nardone & the All Stars and leader, Joe Nardone Sr.: he has entertained thousands of people throughout Northeast Pennsylvania. As a concert promoter, he brought acts such as Neil Diamond, Billy Joel and KISS to the region when they were young and up and coming artists, and continues to promote shows featuring some of the most legendary Doo-Wop acts of all-time. He is the founder of the Gallery of Sound record stores.

Eddie Day Pashinski: spent 35 years as a music instructor at the Greater Nanticoke Area School District and is the band leader of the highly successful regional acts, Eddie Day & TNT and Eddie Day & the Starfires.

Jimmy Harnen: a native of Plymouth, he is the only artist from Luzerne County to score a top-10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 with his song "Where Are you Now." Harnen has had a successful career in the music business and held positions at DreamWorks Records, Capitol Records and Republic Nashville. He is currently the president/CEO of BMLG Records.

Breaking Benjamin: a modern-rock band who has sold over 19 million albums in the United States. The band has earned three platinum albums and two gold albums. They are the only band with roots in Luzerne County to have an album hit Number 1 on the Billboard album chart.

Bobby Baird: a trumpet player whose career has spanned nine decades. Best known for Bobby Baird and the Dixieland Band, he worked with famous musicians including Ed Sullivan and Louis Armstrong, among others. At age 18, Baird played trumpet solos in the U.S. Navy Band. He also played at the inauguration of President Harry S. Truman and, with the Navy Band, toured 48 states and Canada. Baird has worked with Skitch Henderson and Doc Severinson of NBC’s "The Tonight Show.”

Brunon Kryger/The Kryger Brothers: played polka music from 1937 until 1996 locally and nationally. They were inducted into the International Polka Association Hall of Fame and had both records and radio and TV shows locally.

The Buoys: one of the first acts from Luzerne County to land a national recording contract and have national success. Known for their harmonies, the band signed with Scepter Records in 1971 and scored a Top-20 hit with the song “Timothy.”

Organizing committee members include: Joe Nardone Sr.; Bill O’Boyle, Times Leader; Lindsay Griffin-Boylan, President/CEO Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber; Tony Brooks, Wilkes-Barre City Council/Wilkes-Barre Preservation Society; Wilkes-Barre Mayor George Brown; Constance Wynn, RACETeam (Rediscovering Ancestry Through Culture and Education); Alan K. Stout, Visit Luzerne County; and Jody Busch, musician/recording engineer.

Kat Bolus is the community reporter for the newly-formed WVIA News Team. She is a former reporter and columnist at The Times-Tribune, a Scrantonian and cat mom.
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