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Al Durante: “I’m Alive Because of People”

April 7, 2017 12:31 am0 commentsViews: 1498
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He was busy chatting with customers as they waited for their cars to get serviced when I walked into Tire City on Veteran’s Highway to meet Al Durante. As he began to excuse himself all you could hear is, “love ya, Al” from everyone in the room! Men stood with respect to say goodbye and shake the hand of this eighty-eight year old staple of the local community. He told every single one of them he loved them too as we exited the building.

Al was born in the Frankford section of Philadelphia on September 1, 1928. He lived with his parents and older sister until his father’s death. Al’s mother enrolled him into Gerard College where he stayed throughout the remainder of his school years. He was a star basketball and baseball player and still holds the school soccer record, 24 goals in 8 games.

While still in school a beautiful blonde from the Frankford neighborhood, Nancy Falana, caught his eye and they began to date.  “She was quiet, lovable and well-built,” he said with a smile.

After graduation he was drafted by the Army. He served as a Private for 2 years in Fort Mead, Maryland during the Korean Conflict. Upon his discharge he couldn’t wait to knock on Nancy’s door and ask her for a date. Her father was very strict, so Al knew he needed to have her home on time or he’d never see her again.

Nancy was working at Kresge’s Five and Dime on Frankford Avenue. He landed a job at Dyeworks in the city.  “I used to walk up the street to visit her at work, sit at the counter and grab a bite to eat,” he reminisced. He later found work at Yale and Towne selling forklift equipment, where he met Boney Jones, original proprietor of Tire City.

Durante wedding bw

Al and Nancy dated for a couple years before marrying at Mater Delarosa Roman Catholic Church on April 14, 1952. Initially they lived with her parents, then moved into a home in Philadelphia before using the GI Bill to buy a Rancher style home in the Appletree section of Levittown in 1953.  The need for more space grew as the family expanded with the additions of Steven, Mark and Craig. They sold their Appletree home and bought a Jubilee in Cobalt Ridge in 1960, where daughters Donna and Cheryl joined the family. They worshipped at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Pinewood Drive.

Except for their annual trip to the Jersey Shore, the Durante family had little time to vacation.

Al was employed by the Neshaminy School District. The children attended Neshaminy schools.  Al coached and the children participated in the Middletown AA baseball and softball programs.  Nancy worked as a hall monitor at Neshaminy High School and Al became the beloved baseball and basketball coach at Carl Sandburg Middle School.

Al served for twenty years at the schools. He then became a County employee, working at the Pennwood Library in Langhorne from 1980-2010, from which he retired.

While “Coach” ran a Friday night men’s basketball program and a Saturday morning kid’s basketball program for thirty-five years, Nancy was involved at All Saints Episcopal Church in Fallsington. They moved to Buckingham Springs in 1990, but decided the commute was too daunting. Nancy found a piece of property in Langhorne and helped design a modular home that was carefully placed on the land in 1997.

Holiday gatherings, including their three grandchildren, Jeffrey, Danielle and Nicholas and two great grandchildren, Shiloh Rose and Jameson, were the times most revered by Al and Nancy.

Not one to sit around, Al became the morning greeter and cafeteria monitor at Carl Sandburg. In March of 2015 he received the Bucks County PIAA Basketball Chapter Lifetime Achievement Award. “I’m alive today because of people,” he said. “I have a good rapport with people. I remember happy times, tough times, but happy times. I have a good attitude.”

Broken-hearted after losing his beloved Nancy in 2014 and stepping down from his post at Sandburg, Al didn’t know what to do with himself. But his friends at Tire City did. Shirley Saba, daughter of Boney Jones, reached out and asked him if he’d come work for them. Every weekday morning he sweeps the floor, takes out the trash and does what he does best: sharing a warm smile and a kind word, telling everyone he loves them and offering a hug.  He smiled at me and said, “They take good care of me.”

 

—Debra Metz

 

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