AROUND TOWN: King Joe's legacy lives on

·6 min read

Aug. 6—Spend any time in Dunmore and you knew "King Joe" Amendolaro.

For years, he ran a mom-and-pop store with his family. Won countless weightlifting titles on the world stage. Helped Dunmore football players grow stronger for more than two decades in his nothing-but-the-basics Drinker Street gym.

There were some very public moments for Amendolaro, who died July 29 at 94. But there were also some very private moments that explain who King Joe really was.

A day after laying his father to rest, his younger son, Tony, shared stories even his closest friends might not know.

"The last four days, all the stories and all the love, it's beyond belief," Tony said. "I don't think any of us expected (the response). He was always just Dad to us. Everybody coming out of the woodwork, influential people in Dunmore who were crying at the viewing, saying if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be who I was.

"Being his kids, my brother (Joe) and I agree 100%, but this guy wasn't his child. Just so many stories, and stories people would not believe. People we call important like CEOs and bankers."

Working at his dad's store was a 365-day a year adventure. He didn't need the money, his son said, but he knew other people would need items on Christmas morning, so he, his mom and dad, and brother were there to give others what they need, whether it was the famous hard rolls, or film for the camera, or flashcubes.

Sometimes, like 1974, even more.

"We had two registers open we were so busy Christmas morning," Tony explained. "We were the only show in town for that stuff. It was all hands on deck.

"This guy walks in and he's pale. He said, 'Joe, I got my kid a set of drums for Christmas and I thought they would come with drumsticks and they didn't.' "

The store sold almost everything, but not musical instruments.

"My dad had boxes and boxes of junk he'd collected for years and years and he's digging through the junk," Tony continued. "My mom, my brother and I are yelling at him. We have lines of people. We need you up here. After 15 or so minutes, he comes up with a set of drumsticks. This guy would have paid $500 for these drumsticks. He asks my father how much he needs for them. I'll never forget, I was 11 years old. He slipped his hand across the counter and said, how could I charge you for something I didn't know I had. He said Merry Christmas, and he gave him the drumsticks."

It's one thing to do the right thing when everyone is watching. It's another to help someone when no one is there to capture the moment.

And there were plenty of those moments, too.

Photos in the paper of King Joe setting one of the four world weightlifting records the 132-pounder held. A section of the Weightlifting Hall of Fame dedicated to him. Bob Hoffman, founder of York Barbell, spending time at the Amendolaro home. Members of the U.S. Olympic team, which King Joe never quite made, were among his closest friends.

And those amazing photos, including some with two-time world champion and two-time U.S. Olympic coach Johnny Terpak, and Russian Vasily Aleksseyev, the first man to lift 500 pounds over his head, to name a couple.

For all the little things he did in the biggest competitions, his understated gym was where special things happened. Thousands came through the doors and King Joe taught them one thing. Do it the right way.

It led to plenty of individual successes, but Dunmore's football team was one of his biggest benefactors.

"King Joe used to work with us in March, April and May with the weight program," former Dunmore head coach and Hall of Famer Jack Henzes said. "He was a great man. He used to work with our kids. If they'd do it wrong, he would tell them to stop right there. He would correct them. He was so positive in everything he did.

"Twenty-two years with us. He did a great job. Our leg strength in our kids was unbelievable with the exercises he did. What a man."

Current Dunmore head coach Kevin McHale echoed those

sentiments.

"I think so many kids, at school, at his gym, it bred confidence in them," McHale said. "He got them to go out for football. He made them better at football. He got them to enter a (weightlifting) contest. There are so many kids he spent a little time with and gave them a spark.

"He'd bring barbells, he'd bring squat racks down to the fieldhouse. He was an important person to what we were doing for 25 years or so. He was a generous, generous guy. He wasn't concerned about money. He wanted to put smiles on faces."

Along with the tears, there were heartwarming stories told after King Joe's passing. There will be for years to come.

"You're not going to meet a more generous person," McHale said. "He is literally the give-you-the-shirt-off-his-back person."

But there were times when a little something was expected in return. For one well-known Dunmorean, it was for him to care for the family dog, study hard and take out the garbage. His weekly reward for accomplishing that came Sundays when King Joe would give him a 30-cent Matchbox car.

That weekly toy car, Tony said, taught the leader, who he declined to name, lessons he carried through college and life. The same for multiple civic and business leaders who paid their respects.

"We didn't hear that from one or five people, we heard it from many," Tony said. "It was people in their 60s telling stories from

40 years ago."

When he learned of King Joe's passing, McHale sent out a text message to Dunmore players past and present.

"One response said 'Legends never die,' " McHale said. "He's a legend in Dunmore and a legend in Northeastern Pennsylvania."

Teeing it up for Parkinson's

Pocono Farms Country Club will host a pair of events Aug. 26 to benefit The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research and Rock Steady Boxing Pocono.

Choose from either the Putting for Parkinson's Disease or the full tournament, the Pocono Fox Trot on the Fairway, or both.

The putting course, sponsored by Callaway/Odyssey, is $10 per try, $5 for additional attempts, and the winner gets an Odyssey putter.

Tee times for the tournament are from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. for the four-person scramble. Cost is $68 per person and a boxed lunch is included. There also will be mulligans, and a 50/50 drawing. Hole and putting contest sponsorships are also available. Contact Kim Kleinle, 570-894-4435, ext. 3, for more info.

MARTY MYERS is a Times-Tribune sports writer. His Around Town column appears Sundays. Contact him at mmyers@timesshamrock.com, 570-348-9100, ext. 5437; or follow him on Twitter @mmyersTT.

MARTY MYERS is a Times-Tribune sports writer. His Around Town column appears on Sundays. To contact him, email mmyers@timesshamrock.com, call 570-348-9100, ext. 5437 or follow him on Twitter @mmyersTT.