Frassinelli leaves local legacy
Bruce Frassinelli, a distinguished journalist, educator and proud native of Summit Hill, passed away unexpectedly at his home in North Whitehall Township at the age of 84, his family said last week.
Having retired as editor of the Easton Express-Times and Palladium-Times in Oswego, New York, Frassinelli spent his most recent years as a columnist for the Times News.
As a columnist, he was a government watchdog for Times News readers, as well as giving a glimpse into growing up in a coal mine town. He often injected humor in columns, such as his experience sneaking into a peep show at a fair and his transition from runt to football player.
“It was cathartic for him to write about the towns where he walked when he was growing up in Carbon County,” Bruce’s son Mike said. “He thought that the people in that region were good, hardworking, unpretentious people, and he really respected that. You put in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.”
Frassinelli’s passing has left a void in the local journalism community and in the hearts of those who knew him well.
“Bruce added a valuable dimension of critical thinking that we needed in the Times News, and our readers got a chance to experience the well thought out and well-researched topics he took on when writing his opinion columns,” Fred Masenheimer, Times News Publisher Emeritus, said. “We will all miss Bruce for his contributions to the Times News, and I will miss him as my friend.”
Times News staffer Bill O’ Gurek, who shared a close friendship and his Summit Hill heritage with Frassinelli, said, “The world lost an extremely intelligent man who was a star in the newspaper profession. He was a mentor to me, as well, and we certainly are going to miss having such a special friend in our daily lives.”
O’Gurek is a Phillies fan and Frassinelli was a longtime Yankees fan, which made for some lively texts on game nights.
“We talked, either in person or by text, almost every day, most recently on Saturday night. We shared so much in common, most especially our families, because Bruce, to us, was family. We were often together at family affairs and he had a genuine interest in our daily lives.”
They often met for lunch. “We shared thoughts on many of the things we had in common, including our newspaper careers, growing up in Summit Hill, and even politics, but, most especially, family.”
Before his days as a columnist, Frassinelli’s career took a significant turn in 1966 when he was named Pocono Bureau chief of The Easton Express, which is now known as The Express-Times. During his 25 and a half years at the publication, he climbed the ranks to editor and then general manager. He and his colleagues were nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1972 for their series of articles titled, “Rape of the Poconos.” The series exposed abuses in the vacation-home industry, leading to corrective Congressional legislation.
Under Frassinelli’s editorial leadership, The Easton Express received recognition as one of the 14 best small-city newspapers in the United States and the best in Pennsylvania by the American Society of Newspaper Editors.
“He impacted my career tremendously,” said Mike, who went on to work for The Morning Call in Allentown and the Star Ledger in New Jersey. “I would tag along with him when he would interview players from the New York Yankees and things like that. I remember him letting me play hooky and taking me with him to Larry Holmes Day after he won the heavyweight championship.”
In 1992, Frassinelli was promoted to publisher and editor of The Palladium-Times, the daily newspaper in Oswego, New York. He served in this capacity until his retirement in 1998. During his tenure, he played a pivotal role in the creation of The Palladium-Times Online in 1996, making it one of the first small-city papers in the U.S. to offer a subscriber-based online edition.
When Frassinelli began writing columns for the Times News, he quickly engrossed himself in local issues and the individuals behind those stories.
Retired state Rep. Jerry Knowles, who frequently shared lunch with Frassinelli over the last several years, reflected on their unique friendship.
“We couldn’t be further apart on many of the issues, but he was always so kind,” Knowles said. “Our discussions were always very respectful and interesting. I always liked lunch with Bruce because I would gain insight into how the other side was thinking.”
Knowles has lost friends because of politics over the years, he said, making his relationship with Frassinelli all the more special.
“He and I were a perfect example that you could talk politics without seeing eye to eye.”
Staying true to his ethics, Frassinelli insisted he and Knowles paid for their own meals when the duo dined together.
“When I retired, he lightened up, and when I would go down to see him, he would pay for lunch and vice versa,” Knowles said. “He was sharp as a tack, and I’m really going to miss our conversations.”
in Summit Hill
A son of Italian immigrants, Frassinelli worked in his parents’ grocery store at 19 N. Market St. while growing up in Summit Hill.
“His parents came with nothing,” Mike said. “They had no government loans or anything like that. They started out in Bethlehem and then heard about this mining town and decided they were going to open a grocery store to serve these hardworking miners.”
Frassinelli’s mother had to leave school early in Italy to help provide for the family. Her thirst for learning, Mike said, was passed down to Bruce.
“The biggest trait he had was curiosity and I think that is what made him such a good editor and columnist.”
Frassinelli graduated from Summit Hill High School in 1957, where he was an exceptional student-athlete. During his time at the high school, he excelled in three sports and notably served as co-captain of the Hillers’ football team in his senior year.
Beyond football, Frassinelli was a multitalented athlete, participating in track and field, where he threw the discus and shot put for three years. He was also a standout first baseman for Summit Hill’s first-ever baseball team in 1957, boasting an impressive batting average of .383. In addition to his athletic achievements, he served as a statistician for the school’s varsity and junior varsity teams.
He was inducted into the Carbon County Hall of Fame in 2019.
Frassinelli served as class president and yearbook editor during his high school years. His academic journey continued at East Stroudsburg University, where he graduated in 1961 with a bachelor’s degree in education, majoring in French. He achieved the distinction of being one of the first three recipients of a master’s degree in political science from ESU in 1969.
Throughout his career, Frassinelli was deeply immersed in the fields of communication. He started as a part-time radio announcer at WVPO in Stroudsburg while still a junior at ESU in 1960. Three years later, he took on the role of the station’s program, news, and sports editor.
Frassinelli served as an adjunct instructor of communication courses for the State University of New York at Oswego for 25 years. Over the last decade, he also taught political science courses at Lehigh Carbon Community College. His passion for teaching extended to various other institutions, including East Stroudsburg University, Northampton Community College, Strayer University, Stroudsburg Area High School and the former Washington, New Jersey, High School.
Frassinelli held several leadership positions in the community, including chairman of the board of directors of Oswego County National Bank and its philanthropic foundation while residing in upstate New York.
He also served as governor of Rotary International District 7150 in Central New York and was president of the Oswego Rotary Club, where he chaired its board of directors.
He was master of ceremonies for the regional finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee for 25 years.
Both the Pennsylvania General Assembly and the New York state Legislature commended Frassinelli for his remarkable contributions to the fields of communication and education, recognizing his more than half-century of outstanding service.
He received journalism awards in both Pennsylvania and New York for his newspaper columns.
All of Frassinelli’s accolades aside, Mike said his father would want to be remembered as a great father.
“I got a chance to tell him fairly recently that I really lucked out in the father department,” Mike said. “I think that really meant a lot to him.”