PITTSTON -- He served as the mayor of Pittston for nearly 20 years from 1980 to 1998. Thomas Walsh died in Scranton on Monday.
Mayor Walsh is credited for helping organize the first Pittston Tomato Festival back in 1984 and helping to get the downtown revitalization project started.
As the city of Pittston gets ready to celebrate one of the happiest times of the year, it must first mourn the loss of longtime mayor Thomas Walsh who died Monday at the age of 88.
A black shroud hangs from the entrance of City Hall, a sign that Pittston has lost one of its own.
Lifelong Pittston resident Leonard Kridlo remembers Walsh as someone who also looked out for his city.
"He was you know a good man. If you ever needed help he was right on the spot to help you out," said Kridlo.
During Mayor Walsh's run, the first ever Tomato Festival was held back in 1984. Walsh is credited as a key player in helping organize the event and helping it grow to what it is today.
Former mayor Michael Lombardo also co-chairs the now-famous annual Tomato Festival.
"I think the mayor had a vision and he was able to because of his great leadership. He was able to get people to circle around him and get the festival off the ground and there`s no question that when you look at the history of the festival much of the accolades have to be directed toward Tom Walsh," said Lombardo.
Lombardo also credits Mayor Walsh in spearheading the downtown revitalization project that helped transform blight into beauty.
Former district magistrate in the Pittston area and current Luzerne County judge Fred Pierantoni calls Walsh a grandfather-like figure for the entire city.
"He was a connection to the past just as many of us have parents and grandparents from whom we learn lessons. Sometimes we think we might know everything but when you speak with someone who has the age and wisdom, you come to realize that having to live through certain events they can share a lot and we can learn a lot from him," said Pierantoni.
The Tomato Festival begins this Thursday. Organizers say there are plans to make a permanent memorial honoring Walsh and his dedication to the festival in the future.