Radocha lives days as mayor
Scrapbook brings back memories for former Coaldale leader.
January 18, 2002|By Chris Parker Of The Morning Call
In his dozen years as mayor of Coaldale, John J. Radocha probably handed out as many silver dollars as official directives.

Pressing the shiny, heavy coins into the small palms of delighted children participating in the borough's annual mini-Olympics is a memory Radocha, 81, cherishes.

It's one of many the former mayor, known as "Yano," recalled as he paged through a scrapbook his daughter, Janet Kupec, compiled of his political career.

Kupec, 52, of Lansford, gave her father the book as a Christmas gift.

"He got so many Christmas presents, but all he wanted was that book," she said. "He pushed everything else aside."

With a house full of relatives celebrating the day, Radocha settled into his comfy recliner and read newspaper articles in the scrapbook, reliving his career.

His years as mayor, from 1990 until this year, capped decades of public service that began soon after he was discharged from military service after World War II.

Radocha became a Schuylkill County health officer soon after his honorable discharge from the Army.

In the 1960s, he served as a Schuylkill County constable. He still carries the badge in his wallet.

Radocha, who worked in the local coal mines for two years, was on Borough Council for 12 years before becoming mayor.

Kupec's scrapbook starts with an article, published Jan. 10, 1990, about Radocha's installation. He won the seat as a write-in candidate, beating incumbent Thomas Boyle.

Newspaper accounts of public meetings -- one about Radocha and council members turning over their stipends to help pay for snow plowing -- are interspersed with clips of Radocha cutting ribbons to open a beauty parlor, throwing out the first pitch of Little League season and officiating at Memorial Day commemorations.

But his tenure wasn't always sunny.

In February 1991, Radocha threatened to "put on the brass knuckles" after being shut out of council discussions about the police department.

He soon won the confidence of the department.

"He was a great guy to work with. He supported the police 100 percent," said former Chief James Strauss.

Radocha also frequently clashed with Councilwoman Claire S. Remington, who defeated Radocha in November for the mayor's seat.

Remington didn't want to revisit old battlefields.

"That's water under the bridge," she said. "He served the community for 50 years. I hope he has a happy life."

Now that he is "retired" from politics, Radocha said he's enjoying his days, working at the Coaldale Veterans of Foreign Wars post and spending time with his 21-year-old grandson, Joe Kupec Jr., and granddaughter, Jaime Lee, 19. Janet is his only child.

Radocha's wife, Mary, died in 1989. He retired the same year from his job as a custodian in the Panther Valley School District.

What, in his 81 years in Coaldale, has Radocha seen change the most?

"The people," he replied.

"I remember when we had almost 7,000 people here, and everybody knew everybody," Radocha said wistfully. "Now we're down to about 2,400 and nobody hardly knows anybody. They move in and out too fast."