A fitting sendoff for a good guy

My first inkling when I saw Atty. Michael Lombardo, Pittston City councilman, Thursday evening was to give him a big “hello” and shake his hand. I’m sure, out of the corner of his eye, he saw my face light up. In that same eye, though, I caught a look that told me there was a protocol to observe. Which, thank goodness, I did. I stepped right past him without sound or gesture.
Mike was standing at attention as an honor guard at the coffin, the bright green coffin, in which lay the remains of Joe Keating, one time Pittston mayor and for 10 years, Pittston fire chief. Mike was in full dress uniform. One does not interact with an honor guard. So, I am sure he was relieved that I picked up the message in his subtle glance.
At the other end of the coffin was current Fire Chief Jim Rooney, toward whom I nodded ever so slightly. If he noticed, his solemn face did not betray it.
In a side room at Howell-Lussi Funeral Home in West Pittston were several other uniformed firemen, all awaiting their turn to honor the former chief.
Near them was funeral director Bob Lussi, lifelong friend of Joe Keating. The green coffin was a special request of Joe, himself, Bob said. Joe was mighty proud of his Irish heritage.
Joe Keating, 74, spent his life serving the people of Pittston. A dedicated family man, he included everyone in the City in his definition of “family.”
Roger Ebert, the famed film critic, after being awarded the Pulitzer Prize, said from then on, that’s all he would need on his resume. Roger Ebert: Pulitzer Prize winner.
Similarly, all Joe Keating ever needed on his resume was a two-word description of everything his was. Joe Keating: Good guy.
I never encountered him, even if for a few brief minutes after church, that he did not have a kind word and a smile. His warmth came through always.
Joe will be laid to rest today. He would have been grand marshal of the City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade a little more than a month from now. He’ll be there in spirit, in the minds and hearts of all of us fortunate enough to have known him.
We can all honor him by emulating his good guyness.

Ed Ackerman