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Rev. Joseph M. Ziobro

Deceased: 2001-03-08


Seminary Graduation Year: 1973

TUNKHANNOCK – The Rev. Joseph Ziobro was a genuine person who would not have turned anyone away, members of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church said Friday.
Parishioners mourned the loss of their pastor, who died with his father, Edward, on Thursday after a snowmobile accident near Lake Wallenpaupack in Greene Township, Pike County. Edward Ziobro, 77, lived in Exeter.
Joseph Ziobro, 53, a Pittston native, was with the Tunkhannock church for three years.
In the parish office, secretary Mary Lou Chackan and parishioner Anthony Talarico laughed as they looked at a photograph of Joseph Ziobro holding a large fish he caught.
“How we teased him,” Talarico said. Parishioners used to joke that Ziobro enlarged the photograph to make the fish seem bigger.
“He was a genuine priest. He was a very gentle and honest man,” Chackan said with tears in her eyes. The more she talked about Ziobro, the more she cried.
She watched Ziobro leave the office at about 11 a.m. Thursday on his way to the lake.
Ziobro was an avid fisherman who shared a cabin with his family near Lake Wallenpaupack. Talarico said Ziobro went to the lake about once a week. “He needed to have that getaway. He would come back refreshed. That’s what he did and that’s where he died.”
“He was quiet and reserved, but had the type of personality that made everyone feel welcome. It’s a tragic loss to the Diocese of Scranton,” said parishioner Tom Kukuchka. “He was a great friend, a good person.”
Maria Orzel, spokeswoman for the diocese, said Bishop James Timlin will determine who will take Ziobro’s place at Nativity BVM Church.
Parishioners Lorraine Gelnett and Catherine Kukuchka sold pierogies and soup as a fund-raiser for the church on Friday, despite sustaining the loss of their pastor.
“He was a great priest. He was very nice to people. The whole town is in shock,” Catherine Kukuchka said.
Gelnett remembers Ziobro’s sermons as being inspirational and based on people’s lives. He sometimes got down from the pulpit and walked down the aisles, speaking to church-goers. The timing of Ziobro’s death – during Lent – has made the news even harder for parishioners to deal with, Gelnett said.
“He said just because you tighten your belt, that’s not what the meaning of Lent is. You should go out and do good.”
Ziobro and his father were riding on a snowmobile at about 1 p.m. Thursday on the Wallenpaupack River, which runs to the lake. The snowmobile fell through the ice.
A nearby resident called 911, police said. The Ziobros were recovered within 20 minutes and taken to Community Medical Center in Scranton, where they were pronounced dead by Lackawanna County Coroner Joseph Brennan.
Police said the deaths of Ziobro and his father were accidental.
Police urge people to be cautious about walking on ice-covered water.
“As the year progresses and the water gets warmer, the ice gets much more unstable. Therefore, people should stay away from those locations,” said Wilkes-Barre Fire Chief Jay Delaney.
Heavy winter clothes can act like a sponge, sucking up cold water and pulling a person below the surface, Delaney said.