As the curtain comes down on 2018, so did a slew of Delco iconic landmarks undergo some serious change.


After a July 2017 grease fire caused Upper Darby’s Llanerch Diner to close its doors for five months of renovations, the Township Line Road landmark reopened its doors on Jan. 3. The diner had to contend with a snowstorm the following day but that didn’t keep customers away, both regulars and Mayor Tom Micozzie and Police Superintendent Mike Chitwood.

Power Home Remodeling in Chester made sure that a county-based business garnered national headlines in February when it posted three billboards along Interstate 480, south of Cleveland, Ohio, urging LeBron James to come to the Sixers, inspiring a string of copycats. The hoops-loving corporate officers at Power decided to top the first effort in June by chartering three planes to carry banners across the skies of Manhattan and Brooklyn during the NBA Draft, looping its location in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, reiterating the message before James entered free agency on July 1.

The Media zip code had its share of changes in 2018, with several iconic businesses closing their doors, buildings coming own and new development underway in the borough and neighboring Middletown Township. April brought the announcement that the Joseph D. Doubet jewelry store would be closing its doors for good. News that the property owner would be selling the building prompted Joyce and Joseph Doubet to retire from the business. One branch of the third-generation jeweler family that independently operates stores around the county and northern Delaware, they had operated the Media location for 25 years.

Two-and-a-half miles south in Middletown, another third-generation business family announced their decision to close in April. The Riddle Ale House served its final drinks and roast beef sandwiches after 56 years as a Baltimore Pike landmark under the ownership of the Pompei family. The restaurant’s roast beef sandwich lives, however, as Arnold Pompei and his son Nick opened Pompei’s State Street Sandwiches in Media Borough.

The landscape of Baltimore Pike through the township continued to change into the summer. Toys “R” Us closed all U.S. brick-and-mortar operations in June, and with it the Middletown store.

While Weathers Motors at Baltimore Pike and Pennell Road survived the loss of its Dodge dealership status in the midst of Chrysler’s 2009 bankruptcy, Larry Weathers III announced in July there was no path to survival for the historic Weathers Market building on the property. The building – once one of the few inns on the path from Chester County to Philadelphia – had been in the family’s hands since 1915, seven years before it entered the automotive business.

In the midst of the aforesaid changes, the Promenade at Granite Run continued to take shape as more businesses opened in the ongoing redevelopment of the former Granite Run Mall site.

Back up in the road in Media Borough, details emerged over the course of the year that the vacant D’Ignazio’s Towne House will only be partially demolished to make way for an outdoor dining area. Details of a new tenant are being kept under wraps, but the new business is expected to open in summer 2019.

Another demolition project began to take shape in the borough in September, when an application for redevelopment of the Raven Motel site for mixed used office/retail and apartment space came before the zoning hearing board. About two dozen neighbors of the motel site then appeared before borough council to voice traffic and parking concerns with the project. The zoning hearing board approved a needed variance for a fourth floor in late September. The board voiced concerns about parking, but said that would be handled by borough council.

Delaware County drinkers and fans of the long-touted “largest takeout beer selection in Delaware County” received word in August that the days are numbered for the Frontier Saloon and its animal statue-filled rooftop in the Folsom section of Ridley Township, and with that the fate of neighboring Charlie’s Hamburgers was up in the air.

Frontier owner Jill Keenan had decided to retire from the business after 45 years and put a for sale sign on the property, which includes the building that now houses Charlie’s. The longtime Springfield-based Charlie’s moved to the site in 1986 and leases month-to-month from Keenan.

Ridley Township saw a new high-profile tenant move in late in the year when the Lidl supermarket opened on the site of the former MacDade Boulevard Pathmark the first week of December. It is the first Pennsylvania location of the German-based multinational, which operates about 10,500 stores in 29 countries. The Ridley store marks 61 in the U.S. Lucia Menz of Broomall, a native of Frankfurt, Germany, was one of the early customers on opening day.  


The proverbial Chester Clipper found itself in steadily calmer waters over the course of 2018. The City of Chester ended the year with a balanced budget approved for 2019 and controversy dying down regarding two of its municipal authorities. The city had entered the year facing an Act 47 deadline and packed meetings over the status of the Chester Water Authority and the new Stormwater Authority.

The Chester Business Association started an effort in January to challenge newly imposed fees by the Chester Stormwater Authority in court. The fees, measured by Equivalent Residents Units of 1,139 square feet of impervious surface, were cut in half at the end of 2017 to $8.25 per ERU per month. Residents and business owners still questioned whether the fees were arrived at by arbitrary means and if the authority’s work was duplicative of stormwater remediation performed by DELCORA.

Four preliminary injunction petitions were filed in January and February on behalf city business and property owners. City Council passed a resolution on Feb. 28 granting the authority permission to start its first five projects two days before a preliminary injunction hearing in the county Court of Common Pleas was held on March 2. While the injunction decision was still pending, the authority announced in late April it had received two low-interest loans totaling $10.8 million from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority.

Judge Spiros E. Angelos issued his decision on May 7, denying the petitions for preliminary injunction.

The authority began to issue refunds and lower ERUs on properties on appeal for properties found to have their own stormwater remediation facilities and greater pervious surface than first determined. It announced in August that it was on the verge of settling with Widener University, the largest plaintiff still challenging fees.

The city received another fiscal lifeline in late May when the state granted it a three-year extension on its exit plan from financially distressed status under Act 47. Operating under Act 47 since 1995, the city had improved to the point of a general fund surplus in 2012 before faltering from 2013-2016. A balanced budget for 2018 and increased payments to the city’s large police pension fund liability were among the achievements that swayed the state to grant an extension rather than declare a financial emergency and move for state receivership. City Council approved its new exit plan in October and passed another balanced budget for 2019 in December.

Concerns quelled over the course of the year regarding a byproduct of Chester’s Act 47 status, one that spilled out of city boundaries and engulfed large swaths of Delaware and Chester counties.

Over the course of 2017, Right to Know disclosures revealed that an unsolicited bid from Aqua Pennsylvania to purchase CWA for $250 million in May was preceded by talks between Chester’s Act 47 consultants and for-profit water companies. With 78 percent of CWA ratepayers living outside of the city, the rumored sale and potential attempts by the state to use it to bolster Chester’s struggling financial situation sparked much controversy.

City Council and Chester Water Authority each approved a Mutual Letter of Intent in March this year to privately negotiate through Dec. 31 to resolve disagreement on the issue without the presence of the many third-parties who had been involved.

The preamble to the city’s resolution on the Letter of Intent summarized a key disagreement between the city and CWA: The city’s position that “because the city was the incorporator of the Chester Water Authority, the city can unilaterally terminate the authority’s existence and/or unilaterally acquire any project of the authority.”

The city’s Act 47 coordinators Econsult Solutions released a report May 4, “Financial Condition Assessment of the City of Chester,” which Solutions concluded selling the authority was the only way the city’s finances would stabilize.

“(M)uch of the information contained in the assessment is inaccurate, misleading or creates false inferences…,” Cynthia F. Leitzell, chairwoman of the Chester Water Authority, wrote to Econsult on May 18. Leitzell said a sale would result in increased rates for customers and could be tied up in court for years.

In a July 6 letter sent to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, the state agency that oversees the Act 47, Kevin Dooley Kent, an attorney for the CWA, wrote, “The recommendation is inconsistent with Act 47 and unsupportable.”

By the time of the July 6 letter, officials from CWA and the city had brought Corvias, a private firm which has been working with the city’s Stormwater Authority, into negotiations to find a solution that works for both parties.

“They want to make sure that the rate payers are protected from a sale and they want to help the city as much as possible,” Catania said, adding that “What we don’t know is if the Act 47 (coordinators) are going to try to hijack the process.” This proved to not be the case as the city’s three-year Act 47 exit plan was approved by the state in September with no move to sell CWA.

Delaware County saw the passing of many high profile figures over the course of the year. 


The legal community was rocked by the passing of Common Pleas Court Judge James F. Nilon Jr. at 65 in January. Members of the legal community remembered him as a “fair but strict” judge who kept cases moving, while his family remembered him as a Renaissance man who excelled at a wide range of interests.

County law enforcement faced the sudden passing of two officers in 2018. Newtown Township Police Sgt. Clinton Cunningham died from a cerebral hemorrhage at 37 in March, a day after he was stricken while working out. Earlier in the month he was named “Officer of the Year,” an award voted by his peers in the police department.

Chester Police Officer Christopher Senkow died in June at 32 after being stricken with a pulmonary respiratory event at his home in the Boothwyn section of Upper Chichester Township. He was the son of retired Clifton Heights Police Chief Walter Senkow. In addition to working the midnight shift on C Platoon, he was a member of the Search and Rescue Dive Team. He was SWAT certified, a Combat Cross Award winner, and a member of the William Penn Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 19.

Faith Ryan Whittlesey, who rose from Delaware County Council to be the highest-ranking woman in the Reagan White house, died at her home in Florida in May at 79.

Whittlesey entered County Council in 1974 as one of the “New Look” Republicans who succeeded the War Board era. She defied local Republicans in 1976 when she supported Ronald Reagan over Gerald Ford as an alternate delegate at the Republican National Convention. A co-chair of the Reagan for President Pennsylvania campaign in 1980, she was rewarded with the ambassadorship to Switzerland from 1981-83 and 1985-88. She served as assistant to the president for public liaison in between, being the highest-ranking woman in the White house from March 1983 to March 1985.

The City of Chester lost a longtime community activist with the passing of the Rev. Bernice Warren in July. A 1970 graduate of Chester High School, Warren helmed Chester Eastside Ministries for 20 years until her retirement in 2016. Upon her arrival there, Warren was tasked to rebuild the organization’s programs and built it to be one of the most high profile operating in Chester.

Longtime Aston Township Commissioner James “Jim” McGinn died suddenly in July at 68. McGinn is widely credited with the construction of the Community Center on Concord Road as well as the Aston Township Veterans Memorial Garden located at Five Points.

He served as a Republican commissioner for 39 years. In 2001 he had the distinction of being named Pennsylvania Township Commissioner of the Year by then-Gov. Tom Ridge.

Media Borough lost longtime tax collector and Democratic leader Bob Dimond in October at 84. Dimond was also a former councilman and mayor in East Lansdowne. Serving 15 months in the U.S. army during the Korean War, he was known for a commitment to veterans. “I told him we had a Veterans Day Parade coming up, and I needed help. He was the best organizer. I’ll miss that,” Media Mayor Bob McMahon said of the final time they spoke.

Later in October Darby Township lost longtime Commissioner Arnold L. Covert Sr. at 71. A fixture of the Darby Township community since 1958, he was the Ward 1 Democratic Commissioner for 23 years and served the township in a variety of other positions. Covert joined the Studevan Plus Association in 1980, worked on a youth aid panel and Concerned Citizens of Darby Township, served as president of his neighborhood watch, and was as a Scout Master to the Darby Township Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts Troop #360.

Former Delaware County Community College President Jerry Parker died in November at 71. Parker, 71, was almost synonymous with DCCC. He arrived there in 1977, becoming president in 2003. Former Republican state representative and county councilman chairman Mario Civera said he had many breakfasts with Parker, who led the charge in Harrisburg to restore funding to community colleges following drastic cuts many years ago and was the key driver to build a new, state-of-the-art STEM Center in 2010.

Collingdale lost its mayor of nearly five decades in November. “Mr. Collingdale” Frank Kelly died at 84, having first been elected mayor on Nov. 4, 1969 after three years on borough council.

The Republican held the longest consecutive mayoral term in the history of Pennsylvania.

On the other side of the county in November, the Lower Chichester Township community mourned the loss of lifelong Linwood resident Rocco Gaspari, 80, served 28 years a Republican commissioner – 26 of them as president – followed terms as a Magisterial District Judge from 1994-2005. In August 2008, the township dedicated the Rocco Gaspari Sr. Memorial Park on Hewes Avenue. “I love Linwood and might be a little prejudiced, but I think this park is one of the nicest in Delaware County,” he said at the time.

Former Brookhaven Fire Department Chief Robert Montella’s death on Dec. 3, left a void in the department where the 76-year-old St. James High School alum served for nearly five decades.

Since stepping down as chief in 2001 – succeeded by his son Rob Jr. – he served had served as treasurer and chairman of the board governors.

The Tinicum Township community lost a prominent figure in December with the death of longtime board of commissioners President Thomas Giancristoforo Jr., at 64. A lifelong Essington resident, Giancristoforo also served as president of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Commissioners from 2006-2007; was executive director of Community Transit of Delaware County; a member of the airport advisory board; and longtime Tinicum Township Republican leader. At the time of his death, he was president of the Tinicum Fire Company.

The county Democratic Party lost former chairman Cliff Wilson in December. Wilson led the party from 1994 through 2010. At the time of his death, he served a Southeast Delco School Board member. Wilson also served in a number of other political capacities over the years, including a stint as Folcroft Borough executive director, chairman of the Southeast Delco Democratic Party, chairman of the Radnor Democratic Party, as a member of the Delaware County Board of Elections and as a special assistant to U.S. Rep. Bob Brady. Before moving to Pennsylvania, Wilson served for eight years in the New York State Assembly.

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