Joseph A Moran Funeral Home Inc
229 W 12Th St
Hazleton, PA 18201
(570) 454-8341

Francis Libonati

Francis Libonati Obituary

Francis Libonati, "Mr. Lib," 80, passed away peacefully at home surrounded by his loving and devoted family.

He was the last surviving member of his immediate family, having been predeceased by his father, Ralph Libonati; his mother, Rose (Pecora) Libonati; his sisters, Mary Lou (Libonati) Donlan and Concetta Libonati; and an infant brother, Francis P.

He is survived by the love of his life and wife of 52 years, Jacquelyn (Fluri) Libonati; his beloved daughters, Attorney Genene Libonati-Ritz and her husband, Bob Ritz Jr.; and Jessica Getsie, R.N., C.S.N., and her husband, Brian; a sister-in-law, Francine Lettiere; nieces, Kathleen Cunnington and Jaclyn Lettiere Harris and her husband, Jeff; nephews, James Donlan and his wife, Lisa; and Gino Lettiere; his precious grandchildren, Isabelle and Franklin Ritz and Jillian Getsie; as well as several cousins, grandnieces and grandnephews; and his "adopted son," Michael Generose.

A 1957 Hazleton High School graduate, Lib enjoyed a successful scholastic career both academically and athletically. He was his senior class president, student council president and a member of the National Honor Society. He earned five letters, three in baseball and two in basketball. In the former, he was 14-4 for coach Ed Brominski. Lib's highlight came as a junior when he pitched a no-hitter against Lansford in 1956. In the latter, he set an HHS single-season scoring average mark of 19.4 points per game playing for the legendary Frank Serany. In Lib's senior year, he was named All-East Penn League First Team, and he received the Scotty Roman Award presented annually to the region's outstanding student athlete.

Lib was awarded a full tuition scholarship to St. Francis College, Loretto, where he majored in history. He averaged 24 ppg for the freshman basketball team and earned six varsity letters, three in basketball and three in baseball. At St. Francis, he was consistently named to the dean's list and served as president of the Varsity F Club and vice president of his senior class.

Mr. Lib returned to Hazleton in 1961 and became a history teacher at Hazleton High School. The next year, at age 23, he was named one of the youngest head basketball coaches in PIAA history. His teaching career spanned 35 years during which he would develop numerous courses of study and serve as the head of the History Department at both Hazleton High School and Hazleton Area High School. In 1996, Mr. Lib was named principal of Hazleton Area High School and would serve in that capacity until his retirement in 2002. Among the programs, which were implemented during his tenure were: teacher advisory council, senior talent show and Cougar "Kudos," which touted the scholastic, athletic and community achievements of deserving students over the school's public address system. He also inaugurated the Distinguished Graduate Honor List. During his glorious 40-year career in education, he had the pleasure of working with hundreds of individuals, many of whom would become lifelong friends and touched the lives of thousands and of students and staff, many of whom kept in contact with him throughout his life.

Mr. Lib's teaching career did not end with the school day's final bell, and many days it would begin long before homeroom. In the 1970s, he was a sports analyst for WAZL-AM, where he hosted a sports talk show and served as a morning sports reporter. Mr. Lib also was active in the Hazleton Area Recreation Department for 20 years, where he was instrumental in developing an eight to 10-year-old junior Little League Program which implemented instructional clinics that preceded each game. Thousands participated in this unique form of baseball. Mr. Lib did all the pitching; a youngster batted until he hit a fair ball, and all boys had at least two plate appearances per game. His evenings and summers were filled with courses taught to adult learners at Lackawanna Junior College and at Luzerne County Community College's Rise program. He officiated high school baseball and softball games and he served on the Hazleton Police Athletic League Board of Directors for 15 years.

His personal life was as full as his professional one. He married Jacquelyn on June 22, 1968, and together the two built a beautiful marriage and family that served as an example to his two daughters, Genene and Jessica, to whom he would often refer collectively and lovingly as "Libby's Women." But despite all of his personal scholastic, athletic and professional prowess, nothing provided him with more joy and pride than his three grandchildren, Isabelle, Franklin and Jillian, whose development he would help shape as part of a dynamic daycare duo that only he and Jacquelyn could provide. Dubbed Mimi and Gagoo, the two would often be spotted at a local park, shopping center or favorite area eatery with one or more grandchildren in tow.

Isabelle, a senior at Hazleton Area High School, relished in his countless stories of his past experiences and knowledge of world history, and would educate him in the game of golf, one of the few sports which he never played but learned to love vicariously through her. Like so many others, she plans to pursue a career in political science and history due to his influence. Franklin, an eighth grader at Valley Middle School, is not only Gagoo's namesake but also shares his passion for sports in general, and basketball in particular. Franklin soaked up Gagoo's knowledge of the game, and would call him after he completed each shooting session in the back yard or game on the court. Gagoo always seemed to have the perfect words of praise for the times they were proud of their performances and of encouragement when they weren't. He was so proud to share the sports page of the Standard-Speaker with his grandchildren on Oct. 20, 2020, at which time Ron Marchetti published an article in honor of his lifelong friend, and Isabelle and Franklin were both recognized as individual champions in the Wyoming Valley Conference, Isabelle in golf and Franklin in middle school cross country.

Jillian, a fourth-grade student at Drums Elementary, is a gifted artist, a talent Gagoo did not share but was awestruck by. During her weekend visits at Mimi's and Gagoo's, she would quietly sit and create one of her personalized sketches which would become a conversation starter and would be added to the souvenirs that always could be found in a pile at his seat in the kitchen. He loved to watch videos of her piano and dance recitals as well. The two shared a love of all things Penn State, and Gagoo looked forward to the gifts he received from Jillian following her trips to Main Campus with Jessica and Brian.

There is no question that Gagoo left an indelible mark on the lives of Isabelle, Franklin and Jillian, with whom his bond transcended that of grandfather to include teacher, adviser, confidant and best friend.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, a private Mass of Christian Burial will be held at Queen of Heaven Parish at Our Lady of Grace Church, 750 N. Vine St., Hazleton.

Interment will be private in Our Lady of Grace Cemetery, Hazleton.

Joseph A. Moran Funeral Home, 229 W. 12th St., Hazleton, is in charge of arrangements.

Condolences may be entered at www.moranfuneral


The family is planning to hold a celebration of life at a safe time in the future. Anyone interested in attending this celebration should contact Jessica Getsie at [email protected]

The Libonati family would like to thank Lib's special angels and caregivers: JoAnne Merola, Shellie Poluka, Virgen Torres and Mallissa Simms; the staff of Maylath Valley Health Systems Inc.; and Lehigh Valley Hospital-Hazleton.

Donations in Mr. Lib's name can be made to the Hazleton Area Public Library or .

Our beloved Mr. Lib loved to reference quotations by scholars in his own speeches, and the following words of Ralph Waldo Emerson are a fitting summation of his legacy:

"To laugh often and much; to win the respect of the intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the beauty in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that one life has breathed easier because you lived here. This is to have succeeded."

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