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Milestones for man, church marked

St. John the Baptist Byzantine fetes 80 years, cantor’s 50 years.

Bishop William Skurla, Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic, N.J., was special guest at Sunday’s Mass and celebration of the 80th anniversary of St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Church in Wilkes-Barre Township.

Pete G. Wilcox/The Times Leader

George Daru, cantor at St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Church in Wilkes-Barre Township, and the Rev. Glenn Davidowich, former pastor at the church, flank a cake made in Daru’s honor.

STEVE MOCARSKY/THE TIMES LEADER

WILKES-BARRE TWP. – George Daru used to hitchhike home from college so he could sing with his church choir on weekends – an activity Daru began at age 15 and continued ever since.

On Sunday, Daru’s parish honored him for 50 years of dedicated service in conjunction with the 80th anniversary of his parish – St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Church in Wilkes-Barre Township.

After an anniversary Mass concelebrated by The Most Rev. William C. Skurla, bishop of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic, N.J.; the Rev. Mykhaylo Prodanets, pastor of St. John the Baptist; the Rev. Glenn Davidowich, former pastor of the parish; and Deacons Basil Soroka and Edward Frey, the congregation gathered for a celebratory dinner at Bentley’s in Ashley.

Davidowich organized a committee to plan the event before he was transferred to St. George Church and the Heritage Institute – the cultural museum for the Diocese of Passaic – in Linden, N.J., in March.

“Between cantoring, singing with the choir, organizing all the fundraisers, dropping off bulletins (for the infirmed of the parish), George has never taken a salary, and he’s responsible for just about everything we do at St. John’s,” Davidowich said.

Davidowich said Daru has collected much money for the poor in Uzhorod, Ukraine. Daru’s ancestors are from Veliky Komjaty and Onok, two small villages outside Uzhorod, from where, coincidentally, Rev. Prodanets hails.

“There people have no idea how much work this man does for the church, and he doesn’t want his own horn tooted,” Davidowich said.

But it was time for the parish to show appreciation on Sunday. An icon of St. George was painted, or written, in Daru’s honor by Ekaterina Piskareva, a painter/restorer/iconographer from Carmel, N.Y. And a committee had The Food Network’s “Ace of Cakes” decorate a cake depicting a replica of St. John’s choir loft – stained glass window included – with Daru standing in the center, posed as if he were directing a choir.

Daru, 65, said the event was “beautiful. They’re honoring me for 50 years of singing in the church. I’m self-taught. I can’t even read music. But I love the music and I love singing.”

Daru has also served his community in government – four years as a Wilkes-Barre Township mayor and another four on council. He and his wife, Carol, are retired Wilkes-Barre Area teachers. “They’re the best couple in the world. They’re perfect for each other. Their story is known throughout the school district,” said Carol’s niece, Amy Pascale.

“She cared for her mother. He cared for his father. And after (their parents) passed away, they got married,” Pascale said.

That was 11 years ago. And the couple’s love for each other and for their church is still going strong. So, how much longer does George plan to sing? “As long as the good Lord lets me.”

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