Yonk’s legacy runs deep
DiLoreto was educator, councilman
STEUBENVILLE — Eric Timmons remembers then-1st Ward Councilman Gerald “Yonk” DiLoreto walking up to him after his first meeting as the 3rd Ward’s representative five years ago and saying, “You’re a Republican?”
“I said yes,” Timmons said. “He said, ‘I didn’t know that. I’m catching heat from the Democrats for putting you in. Oh, well, they can kiss my ass, we did what we thought was right.'”
And that, he said, pretty much sums up DiLoreto’s philosophy during his 31 years in government.
“He cared about getting things done, not politics,” Timmons said. “He wanted results. He wasn’t afraid to speak his mind, that’s for sure. He put progress above all else. He wanted what was best for the city.”
DiLoreto, 83, died Thursday in his sleep. He’d been in failing health and those closest to him were saddened, but not surprised by his passing.
City Manager Jim Mavromatis said DiLoreto “was a joy to work for.”
“My memories of Yonk are all good,” he said. “Because of my previous job with government, I was moved all over the country and traveled the world, but I always knew Yonk was checking on my mom and dad. It gave me peace of mind. My mom would always tell me Yonk had stopped in to see her. That is a true friend.”
Mavromatis said DiLoreto had a big heart, “and while he was a first ward councilman he always tried to look out for the best interests of the citizens.”
“He knew people who needed assistance, especially in his ward, and he would always go out of his way to help them,” he said.
Sixth Ward Councilman Bob Villamagna said he lived next door to DiLoreto for almost 42 years.
“He was just a good guy,” he said. “Yonk did a lot of things behind the scenes that people don’t know about, buying them groceries and (other things).”
He pointed out DiLoreto had been in politics since the 1960s “and he knew everybody, he’d do anything for anybody.”
“I remember years ago he was getting an award at the College of Steubenville,” Villamagna said. “We were all going for Yonk, plus we wanted some laughs. We couldn’t wait for his speech, but he got up and gave a speech like a Rhodes scholar … it was perfect.”
An educator, DiLoreto taught seventh-grade social studies for two years at Knoxville before being named principal. In February 1971 he was named assistant principal at Jefferson Union High School (now Edison), then moved up to principal in 1977. In 1988 he moved to Richmond Elementary, where he remained until his retirement in 1993.
Longtime Steubenville City Schools administrator Dan Keenan said it’s through their shared love of education that he got to know DiLoreto, who was a great friend.
“He was an interesting person and he did a great job as a principal in (Edison) district, particularly as high school principal,” Keenan said. “He approached it the same way he did city government — he had great listening skills and was able to diffuse a lot of difficult situations.”
Keenan said he worked with DiLoreto often after he went to Franciscan University of Steubenville as director of graduate programs and DiLoreto served on the education advisory committee.
“Any time we did workshops or worked with area administrators he was always in attendance, he always took a role and was always very encouraging,” Keenan recalled. “If there’s one thing I could say about him that’s unique, it’s that he was a person who, as a councilman and school administrator, worked through difficult situations and had the respect of people because he’s a caring person and a problem-solver. He took responsibility.”
He said DiLoreto “also had a great sense of humor and he had a lot of friends, as a city official and as a school official. He was a unique person.”
Mike Florak, director of community development at the university, said DiLoreto “was just a classic Steubenville guy.”
“He was just a great person who gave a lot to this community. especially the schools and young people,” Florak said. “That’s where his heart really was. I knew him for a long time … he was a terrific ambassador for Steubenville and we were very proud to call him one of ours, one of our Franciscan University alums. He was very loyal and he’ll be greatly missed, for sure. There will be a hole in this community without Yonk here.”
Florak said if you knew DiLoreto at all, you knew he always had a story to tell.
“Every serious conversation Yonk and I had…always ended up with him telling me stories about people we both know. You never had a brief, two-minute conversation with him — it always ended up with him telling stories,” Florak said.
“Yonk and people like him made this community what it is. When people like him move on, it’s up to the rest of us to carry on their legacy and keep this community a great place to live. We shared a lot of laughs throughout the years, regarding our common friends. He always had really, really great stories, and I’ll really miss that. I’ll really miss talking to him about those things.”
Steubenville Parks and Recreation Director Lori Fetherolf said she got to know DiLoreto when she first came to town a little more than four years ago.
“From the time I got here until now, Yonk would give me money to make sure kids could go to Breakfast with Santa or he’d say ‘here’s money for candy for the party,'” she said. “He cared about his ward, he cared about this city and if it involved Beatty Park, even better. In my career, and I have 30-plus years in recreation, somebody like him doesn’t come along very often. You’re lucky if you know one or two like him.”
DiLoreto also was a legend behind the plate, which is how Steve Seminara, longtime member and officer with the Steubenville Umpires Association, got to know him when he was a kid playing ball. DiLoreto’s father, John “Yok” DiLoreto, was one of the founders of the organization.
“(Yonk) and the late Eugene Babicz, along with the late Alex Lyons, would always hassle me about becoming an official,” Seminara said. “I would always tease Yonk and the others about missing calls. When I was a catcher, I would always get on them about missing balls and strikes. Yonk helped me tremendously when I started officiating. Even after (he) retired from baseball officiating, he would come around to the fields and watch the games. He always had a kind word for me. I remember (him telling me) after a game, ‘Great job today, Steve, I’m so glad you still remember what I taught you.”
Seminara said traveled to a game once with DiLoreto “and the entire trip he talked about umpire mechanics and rules.”
“He was always wanting you to do a great job,” Seminara said. “He always told me …’The fans at the games do not want to watch you, they’re here to watch the kids.’ He also told me over and over again ‘the best umpires are the ones, when they leave the field, nobody remembers their names.'”
Fourth Ward Councilman Scott Dressel said his favorite memory of DiLoreto “was when something would make him really mad at council and he would come in with a stack of notes and read them all, passionately, and then just sit down with a loud, ‘Thank you.’ He really cared deeply about Steubenville. I missed him greatly when he left council and now even more.”
DiLoreto missed being on council just as much as he was missed: In his final interview 17 months ago, he’d said as a member of council, “you just have to try to do what’s best for the city.”
“You’re there to serve the citizens, not for your personal glory or vendetta,” DiLoreto had said during that December 2019 interview. “You just have to try to treat everybody with respect, regardless of whether you agree with them. Respect each other’s opinion, respect the other council members as individuals. And remember, everyone is entitled to an opinion, whether you agree with them or not. It’s their opinion, right or wrong.”