Sunday, January 29, 2012

A tribute to Doc: Mattioli's philanthropy reached throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania

Dr. Joseph "Doc" Mattioli and his wife, Dr. Rose, share a kiss during the
Sprint Cup race weekend at Pocono Raceway in June 2011.
Credit: Karel Zubris for Skirts and Scuffs


Sports icon Dr. Joseph Mattioli not only left a legacy in motorsports, but also in philanthropy.

Mattioli, founder and owner of Pocono Raceway for more than 40 years, passed away Thursday at 86 after a lengthy illness. Mattioli, an Old Forge native, brought NASCAR to Northeastern Pennsylvania. He always looked for ways to give back to the region where he made his home.

"'Doc’ was a true leader in every sense of the word,” the Mattioli family said in a statement released after their patriarch’s death.

“ … He had a true love and admiration for the wonderful members of his Northeastern Pennsylvania community. He had a great respect for all of the great people that laid the foundations of prosperity before him, and an even greater hope for the future of our area, which he believed lies in its youth.”

In the 1960s, Mattioli used the millions he earned from his successful dentistry practice in Philadelphia to transform a spinach farm at Long Pond into Pocono Raceway, one of the most unique tracks in auto racing. After nearly going broke three times along the way, the success of hosting two NASCAR weekends a year from 1982 onward allowed the Mattiolis to spread the wealth throughout the area.

When Mattioli saw a need in the community, he rose to the occasion to fill it. As owner of the only family-owned track on the Sprint Cup Series circuit, the man lovingly known as “Doc” treated others in the community like family.

For the Mattiolis, the good will wasn’t about recognition. Mattioli and his wife, Dr. Rose, poured the millions made from the track – including more than $2 million donated anonymously, according to the Pocono Record – into local hospitals, businesses, civic organizations, schools and charities.

In 2009, Mattioli received the Philanthropic Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals for his acts of generosity. That same year, local public television network WVIA named Mattioli as its Great Pennsylvanian.

As a local resident, I’ve been able to see firsthand the good Mattioli and his family have done for Northeastern Pennsylvania. To honor his memory, I’d like to share with you his good works so you, our readers, can have a better picture of the man who has done so much not only for racing, but for the Poconos and the outlying region.

The Mattioli Main Street Fund

In 2007, the Mattioli family donated $1 million to start the Main Street Fund to restore nearby Stroudburg’s downtown area.

Mattioli sometimes had a personal connection to the causes he chose to aid. In this case, he had fond childhood memories of the downtown district and wanted to see it return to its former glory.

In a 2009 interview with the Pocono Record, Mattioli spoke about a trip he and Rose took to Sarasota Springs, N.Y. After admiring its main street, he said, "This is what I'd like to see Stroudsburg have," and decided to set up the Main Street Fund.

The Mattiolis’ generosity resulted in the revitalization of Stroudburg’s downtown, which the fund continues to maintain. For the last three years, Main Street has hosted the Pocono Raceway Festival, a successful event that draws racing fans during the June race weekend.

Hospitals and schools

The Mattiolis have contributed millions to area hospitals to maintain a high quality of health care in the region. Their donations include $1.5 million to Pocono Medical Center in East Stroudsburg.

The Mattiolis with U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, representing
Pennsylvania's 10th Congressional District, before the
drivers' meeting prior to the June 2011 Sprint Cup race.
Credit: Karel Zubris for Skirts and Scuffs
In 2010, they gave $1 million to Lehigh Valley Hospital Center in Allentown. In the couple’s honor, the hospital renamed its trauma center the Mattioli Trauma Center. On Thursday, Mattioli passed away at the hospital, which was a recipient of his own generosity.

As his family’s statement in the wake of his death said, Mattioli believed the area’s future belonged to its young people. With this in mind, Doc extended his philanthropy to local schools.

For more than 25 years, the family has maintained a scholarship program to aid the top two students at each of the four high schools in the Poconos. The Mattiolis also contributed $1 million to East Stroudsburg University.

Wyoming Monument

About an hour away from Pocono Raceway and not too far from where I live near Wilkes-Barre, the borough of Wyoming had a big problem on its hands.

The borough, the site of the famous July 3, 1778 Battle of Wyoming in the Revolutionary War, was trying to pay for its historic monument that had been severely damaged by lightning in 2008. The monument was built between 1831 and 1841 to honor those killed in battle.

Repairs to the damaged structure were estimated at $130,000. Two years after the monument was struck, the Wyoming Monument Association had struggled to raise about $30,000 of the cost. Wyoming officials and association members were worried as to how they would raise the rest of the funds.

According to Times Leader reporter Bill O’Boyle, Mattioli contacted him about the Wyoming Monument. Doc had read a story O’Boyle had done about the repairs, and wanted to know how he could help.

The conversation went like this, according to O’Boyle:

        How much do they need?” Mattioli asked.

        I told him about $93,000 would complete the job.

        “I’ll give them the hundred,” he said.

How did the Wyoming Monument, outside the Poconos (about 33 miles northwest of Pocono Raceway), turn up on Mattioli’s radar? Mattioli said he had driven by the monument in his trips to the area – another personal connection – and wanted to help preserve this piece of history.

O’Boyle shared how Marcella Starr, president of the Wyoming Monument Association, was so touched by Mattioli’s donation that she cried as he wrote the check out at his Long Pond home. With Rose at his side, Mattioli joined in the tears.

In 2011, the restored Wyoming Monument was unveiled and rededicated in time for the Fourth of July.

At the rededication ceremony, Mattioli said, “We had the money to help them out. We love to donate anything to help the public," according to a report in The Citizens’ Voice.

This was Doc Mattioli. Visionary, leader, philanthropist. The above stories are only a few examples of how he has helped the people of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

In addition to the impact he leaves in motorsports, Mattioli's legacy lives on in his good works, which Rose and the Mattioli family will now continue.

Godspeed, Doc.

2 comments :

A an outstanding tribute to an extraordinary gentleman.

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