Paluso, former Washington County Commissioner, Charleroi mayor, dies at 88

September 16, 2017
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Courtesy of Alan Benyak
Ed Paluso, former Washington County Commissioner and Charleroi mayor. Photo provided by Alan Benyak.
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Ed Paluso, far right, is sworn in as County Commission in January 1972. Order a Print

After a 20-year career as a Washington County commissioner, many politicians would be ready to retire, but Edward M. Paluso traded his commissioners’ office for that of Charleroi mayor.

“Ed won a Republican nomination and a Democratic write-in nomination in 1993, which was completely unheard of,” said Mark Alterici, who was a member of a five-person bi-partisan slate for Charleroi mayor and council.

“I served my first eight years (on council) with Ed as mayor.”

Paluso died Friday at his Deep Creek, Md., home, not long after turning 88.

“I just saw him this summer,” said Nancy Bielawski, retired Washington County purchasing director, who visited with him at the end of August, his birth month. “He was doing well. He summered at Deep Creek and lived in Baltimore during the winter. He remembered everything. We talked about old times.”

Paluso, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy who became a Navy pilot and flight instructor, returned to Charleroi, where he and his family owned and operated the Wellington Hotel. He was also the proprietor of Wolf’s menswear store in the borough’s bustling business district.

A Republican at a time when Democrats dominated Washington County politics, Paluso captured the minority-party seat on the three-member board of commissioners in 1971, taking office the following January when the commissioners reported to work at the bulging-at-the-seams Washington County Courthouse.

He was among those who oversaw preparations for the county’s bicentennial in 1981 and the building of the Courthouse Square office building with a commissioners’ suite on the seventh floor, where he displayed photos of himself and prominent members of the GOP on the national and state levels.

President Ronald Reagan, also a Republican, was known for keeping a jar of jelly beans on his desk in the Oval Office, and Paluso followed suit, calling visitors’ attention to a similar vessel of the colorful candy in gourmet flavors and offering samples.

“We would take them when he was there, and when he wasn’t there,” recalled Mary Helicke, administrative assistant to Commissioner Metro Petrosky and now retired Washington County Chief Clerk.

Paluso was on the cutting edge when it came to a concept that gained traction much later and came to be known as “bring your dog to work.” His was a curly-haired white lap dog who regularly went for noontime walks around the courthouse complex.

On the more serious side, he also advocated for senior citizen housing and, on the opposite side of the age spectrum, chaired an annual March of Dimes walkathon.

Serving with Commission Chairman Frank Mascara, also a Charleroi resident, the board laid the groundwork for what became the Southpointe mixed-use development in Cecil Township on what had been the farm of the Morganza juvenile home, later Western State School and Hospital.

Paluso exited the commissioners’ office after he was defeated by fellow Republican Joe Ford in the general election of 1991.

Paluso had been a Charleroi councilman before entering county government, and he gravitated toward local politics afterward, serving three terms as mayor.

“Him being a Republican and me being Democrat, the political divide was different then,” said Alterici, 54, who referred to Paluso as “Uncle Ed” even though the two are not related. “We were Charleroi residents first, and that’s the way it should be. Put your political differences aside and do what’s best for your community.”

He also recalls advice Paluso gave him when borough government was being taken to task, unfairly, Alterici felt, by a local newspaper: “Mark, you’ll never win an argument with somebody who buys ink by the barrel.”

An enthusiastic sportsman, Paluso and his late wife, the former Blanche Michaloski, had a hunting cottage near the former logging village of Halton on the Spring Creek tributary of the Clarion River. They later summered at Deep Creek, Md. Mrs. Paluso died Nov. 13, 2010, a few months after celebrating their golden wedding anniversary.

Funeral arrangements, which are incomplete, will be handled by Carl J. Spallino Funeral Home, Charleroi.

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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