WILKES-BARRE -- The Fine Arts Fiesta is one of Wilkes-Barre's biggest events, but this year, one vital piece will be missing, Al Groh. Groh co-founded the event almost 60 years ago. Yesterday, he passed away.
For 58 years, the Fine Arts Fiesta has brought thouands of people to downtown Wilkes-Barre. It's brought art and culture. But there would be no Fine Arts Fiesta if it weren't for this man, Al Groh.
He passed away this week at the age of 92. Groh served as a pilot in WWII and then returned to Wilkes-Barre where he focused on art.
"My memories of Al are being at the Fine Arts Fiesta each year, reading the poem that he wrote to open up the Fine Arts Fiesta," said Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton.
Mayor Leighton says Groh made many contributions to the city of Wilkes-Barre. He co-founded the Fine Arts Fiesta in 1955. He also spent 40 years as a professor and theatre director at Wilkes. That's where Bruce Phair met him.
"It goes back some 40 plus years. He started out he was my teacher for my introductory classes in theatre. I just love the man, and I would not be here in this position if it wasn't for him," said Dorothy Dickson Darte Center managing director Bruce Phair.
Groh hired Phair, and he still works at the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center, the performing arts center on the Wilkes campus. The center is another of Groh's contributions.
"He saw the need for a performing arts venue in the area. We didn't have one at the time," said Phair.
Phair says Groh helped get the funding for the center, which was built in 1965. But Phair says he's most thankful for the influence Groh has had, not on the city or the campus, but on his life.
"He gave me a career, so I will always be grateful for that," said Phair.
Al Groh's funeral service is set for Thursday at noon at the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center.