My Friend Nick

Since leaving office 6 years ago I have avoided the media. My life has taken a new path allowing me to spend more time with my family and doing business worldwide.

However, I could not let the passing of Nick Catania go without some comments. I read the tributes and the mention that Nick saved the County significant money because of the purchase of the County Landfill in Berks County. While that is absolutely true – it is but one small piece of Nick’s legacy!

I only knew Nick by name when I was elected Mayor of Marcus Hook – I knew the Catania name because their Real Estate Agency sponsored one of the best softball teams in the County’s history. Because this young 29 year old upstart took on the “Party” Nick was not one of my early supporters.

But as we came to know each other, Nick and I became close friends. I had the pleasure of working with Nick every day for 5 years on the Delaware County Council and the 20 years that I served in Congress. Nick had the public persona of a “tough guy” – but was often misunderstood. The Nick that I came to know was ‘one of a kind’ – a caring man who never forgot that his commitment as an elected official meant that he would help anyone in need – and Party didn’t matter!

Nick was devoutly religious and dedicated to his beloved Church – he never drank or caroused – he spent his life dedicated to his family and friends along the Pike and the Boulevard in Ridley and worked tirelessly on their behalf. I could never tally up all of the personal funds that I witnessed Nick give to families who had fallen on hard times. How many hundreds of thousands of dollars were raised for United Cerebral Palsy because of Nick and the Delco Tavern Owners Association or Youth Programs in most of our towns?

Before I ever met Nick, as a County Commissioner, he had the foresight to provide County Land for the Penn State Campus, the Mirmont Facility, the YMCA and then support for the Community College in Marple. How many of our friends and neighbors have taken classes or received degrees or help because of these institutions?

But there is a larger legacy that we can assign to Nick – and we must start with not just the Landfill, but must also include the 1st Co-Generation Plant in the Eastern United States as well as the 1st Countywide Recycling Program in the entire State – saving the taxpayers millions of dollars. Trash is not sexy but it is costly –and Nick spent years on long range solutions to our trash headaches!

Jobs were Nick’s focus –and according to Nick everyone deserved a decent paying job. Thousands of our neighbors can thank Nick today because of a job he helped them or a relative acquire. But these weren’t just County jobs – it was Nick Catania who traveled to Harrisburg to convince then Governor Thornburgh to match the County’s financial commitment to lure UPS here as opposed to Northern New Jersey or North Carolina. Enlisting the support of his beloved Labor Friends (especially the Teamsters) we won the fight and over 2000 of our neighbors work today at the Airport UPS Complex.

When State Farm wanted to expand and locate their Regional HQ in Western Delaware County, it was Nick who worked with County and elected officials in Concord and Western Delco to gain PA DER approval and keep hundreds of jobs in the County.

When Boeing announced that the Ridley Plant was to be ‘phased out’ Nick joined the small team that traveled to Seattle to meet with Boeing’s CEO and Chairman and again ‘win the day’. Today almost 6000 of our neighbors are doing well because of Nick’s effort and dedication and the Boeing Plant keeps growing.  From the small Mom and Pop businesses to the largest employers that make our County strong – Nick had a hand in every job that was created. Time and again when business and labor threatened actions against each other, Nick stepped in to moderate fair agreements for both sides.

Nick was Labor’s guy and Labor never forgot that Nick worked 24/7 for our County’s economic success to expand our work force and their membership.

How ironic that his final days were spent in the very facility (Fair Acres) that he planned and created as a County Commissioner – Fair Acres remains one of the finest public Nursing and Extended Care facilities in the State. I had several opportunities to visit with Nick in recent years and proud he was that everyone in Fair Acres was receiving the same quality care.

Controversy, jealousy, envy – that’s what comes with leadership, and there were some who chose to criticize Nick – but he took it all in stride never wavering from his commitment, his passion and his legacy!

An ordinary man who did extraordinary things – Thank you Nick – we are all better for having known you!

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