Father’s Day tradition continues Sunday

It was such a simple thing, really, but still one of the most memorable days of my life as a small town newspaper guy.
I tend to describe myself as a “newspaper guy” rather than a journalist, by the way, because the word journalism seems so lofty, so much more sophisticated, so much more, well, important, than the things I’ve written about for close to 50 years now. I consider myself a story teller, no more, no less.
It was a summer afternoon ten years ago. An old associate, soon to become dear friend, reached out to me. Jan Lokuta, whom I had known from my days at Wilkes College (now University) decades earlier, was, and is, a lawyer with a home and practice in Milford, Pa., along the Delaware River. But Jan’s heart and soul, I soon learned, was in Greater Pittston, specifically the little town of Dupont, where he’d grown up.
Now, I am drawn to passion the way a mayfly is to a street light, and Jan Lokuta is nothing if not passionate. He’s an outdoorsman, a hiker, a mushroom picker, and a kayaker. He is also an artist and a supporter of art and that was his reason for contacting me. He had an idea: a tour of the churches of downtown Pittston, focusing on their architecture, art and historical and cultural influence.
It was a walking tour he had in mind. He thought of conducting it on Father’s Day afternoon, starting at First Baptist Church, the oldest congregation in the city, and proceeding just a block to the First Presbyterian and United Methodist churches on Broad Street, another block to the impressive St. John the Evangelist on William Street, across the street to St. John the Baptist, and concluding with a bit more demanding stroll up Church Street to St. Casimir’s.
My fond memory is not of that day, however. I spent that Father’s Day visiting with my daughter in Savannah, Georgia, where she was attending Savannah College of Art & Design. My fond memory is of the afternoon a couple of weeks before when Jan and I walked around town, I with a camera around my neck and notepad in my hand, and he with his enthusiasm for the project, as we worked on a story for the Sunday Dispatch, at the time the only local Sunday newspaper in town.
Time disappeared that hot, summer day. Neither of us was in any hurry. We walked and talked, stopping at each location where I’d seek the best camera angle, all the while wishing I had a wide angle lens, and then pull out my notepad and furiously try to keep up with Jan. I did mention his passion, didn’t I?
As he began to describe the Baroque style of St. Casimir’s I had an idea for a front page photo. I took Jan about a hundred yards up Butler Street (St. Casimir’s sits and the corner of Church and Butler) so I could take a photo with him in the foreground and the twin steeples of St. Casimir’s filling the screen behind him. It turned out perfect and I ran it (I was the editor, so it was my call) on page one with the headline “Going for Baroque.”
About 25 people, one of whom was my wife, showed up for that first church tour, and were treated to a marvelous experience. Mary Kay still talks about it.
That was the last time I missed Jan’s summer historic church tour. He continues to conduct them on Father’s Day and they have become a highlight of summer, not only for me but also for several others who have perfect attendance for all ten years. The tours have taken me inside dozens of churches that I had previously only driven past, and I am richer for it.
This year’s tour will be Sunday, June 21, beginning at 1:30 p.m. at St. John the Evangelist Church on William Street. Only two churches will be included, the second being St. Michael’s Byzantine Catholic Church on North Main Street. The focus of the tour will be the art in each church, specifically the way light is used in the paintings and icons and the contrast between Western, or Roman Catholic art (St. John’s), and Eastern, or Byzantine Catholic (St. Michael’s).
Adding interest is that St. Michael’s, where Jan Lokuta’s parents were married, is noting its 100th anniversary this year.
All are welcome. All you have to do is show up at St. John’s by 1:30.

Ed Ackerman