Philly sports, serving CHEER’s seniors among ‘Tony D’s’ passions

GEORGETOWN — Duck into Anthony DelFranco’s office cubicle at CHEER Inc.’s headquarters in the Thurman Adams State Service Center and you’ll immediately realize he’s a die-hard Philly fanatic.

There’s a Philadelphia Eagle poster keepsake. Next to that is a salute to the Flyers’ 1974–75 Stanley Cup championship reign, bearing signatures of three key cogs with the famed Broad Street Bullies:  Bill Barber, Bobby Clarke and Bernie Parent.

Master of ceremonies Anthony DelFranco sets the ground-rules for an egg hunt at the Greater Georgetown Chamber of Commerce’s annual event.

“Philly sports,” said 68-year-old Philadelphia native.

Mr. DelFranco also loves his job at CHEER, where he’s the nonprofit organization’s active marketing director.

“I love CHEER. It is a great organization. I’m very passionate about what we do and who we are helping in Sussex County,” said Mr. DelFranco. “I see such a tremendous need for our services and I am so proud of being part of this organization and doing what we are doing for the seniors in Sussex county. I take a lot of pride in my work and what I have done.”

Mr. DelFranco is in his fifth year with CHEER.

Interestingly, CHEER is what lured him out of retirement. After 12 years in the United States Air Force, his employment adventures included a brief stint as manager of a Pizza Hut restaurant, followed by stints in the car business and then various roles in fundraising.

Prior to arriving at CHEER, he worked at Monmouth University in New Jersey.

“I did a lateral move as director of annual fund, but after a couple of years I became the major gift officer there. I actually worked there for 14 years,” he said. “Then I retired at 64 and moved down to Delaware. And I un-retired three months later. I got a job at CHEER as the marketing director. That was September of 2013.”

Military service, employment and vacations have enabled him to see many parts of the world. He’s experienced England, the entire United Kingdom, Thailand, Taipei, France, Italy, Belgium, Spain and just about every nook and cranny of the United States.

“Here’s a factoid: I have physically been in 46 of the 50 states. Alaska is not one, and the Dakotas and Montana, I haven’t been physically been in,” he said.

Mr. DelFranco and his wife Elizabeth Marie have been married for 32 years. They have no children but do have three cats — Celine, Bridget and Spicy — and two dogs, Tiki and Daisy.

Born in July 1949 at Temple University Hospital, Mr. DelFranco graduated from Father Judge High School in 1967.

Mr. DelFranco is on the board of directors for Habitat for Humanity as well as the Greater Georgetown Chamber of Commerce, where he serves as the chamber’s treasurer. He is also on the Wings & Wheels Committee and the Sussex C.A.R.E.S. Conference Committee.

“I am working more now than before when I was working,” he jokes.

Holidays sometimes are spent in the Big Easy — New Orleans in the historic French Quarter.

“I’ve had this timeshare since 2000. It’s called the Quarter House on Chartres Rue in the French Quarter. I’ve been to like 10 Sugar Bowls. I saw two national championship games. And, of course I love the music and I love the food.”

He has a vast collection of sports memorabilia, many with Philadelphia sports ties.

But his greatest claim to fame: dining with baseball Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio. That’s right, the Yankee Clipper, Joltin’ Joe!

Anthony DelFranco shows his colors and support for Philadelphia sports teams.

“On July 13, 1991, I had dinner with Joe DiMaggio,” says Mr. DelFranco.

Through connections when he was in the car business, Mr. DelFranco was asked to drive baseball scout Edward C. Liberatore to New York City to deliver a dress suit to Joe DiMaggio for an appearance at Yankee Stadium.

“Joe and Eddie went to All-Star Game at Wrigley Field. Eddie had his suit. Joe was going to the Old -imers Game. Eddie, who was in his 70s, hated driving to New York,” said Mr. DelFranco. “They came to dealership and asked if I would drive him into New York City to drop off Joe DiMaggio’s suit.”

The rest is history.

“We went to Giambelli’s on 50th Street in Manhattan,” Mr. DelFranco recalls. “For three hours we broke bread. We were talking baseball, about his days with the Yankees. And at the time Pete Rose was being suspended for his gambling. Joe was very adamant. He said Rose should be allowed to go into the Hall of Fame, but not into any park. Another thing Joe shared with us, he said the most underrated player in his opinion was Ernie Lombardi, who was a catcher for the Cleveland Indians. He was the only catcher that actually won the batting title, I think twice.”

“We had a couple bottles of wine. I got his autograph,” said Mr. DelFranco. “That is something I’ll never forget.”

This week’s People to Meet: Anthony DelFranco.

Special military service highlights?

“When I was in Taiwan, my second tour of duty there that is when they ended the war in Vietnam. So, we received all the refugees that were of high class — government officials, representatives — ones that had money. And they lived in barracks while the rest of them were living in tent cities in Guam and the Philippines. So, it was a very interesting time there when the refugees came at the end of the war. They had good food. The ones that had money and the ones that were in the higher government positions were the refugees that came to Taiwan.”

“I was actually stationed in England for a year. There was an interesting situation … a top-secret mission. Twenty-two of us were sent to England supporting two KC-135 aircraft, which were spy planes.”

Your next chapter after military service?

“I was discharged in 1980. Then I went to college Northern Michigan University — Go Wildcats! I worked my way through college through the GI Bill, and I bartended. I only took out one student loan. I got my degree in business management and communications. I graduated in 1983 with my bachelor’s degree and I came back to Philly, where I met my lovely wife Elizabeth!”

For a career, Pizza Hut just didn’t slice it?

“I was manager for about 1 ½ years. That did not last very long. That was not going to be my calling in life.”

And after that?

“Then I got into the car business through the 1980s and into the early 1990s. I started out as a salesman for only about a year and then I then somebody recognized my talent and said, ‘You’d be a great business manager.’ So, I was F and I — finance and insurance. So, I was the guy that set the payments for you and I got your loan approved. I was the last guy you visited. I gave you the keys. Through that I won a couple of awards, as being the top producer of extended warranties. I ended up getting a nice trip. My wife and I went to Hawaii, Maui for a week.”

“In 1993 I did another career change. I started my career in fundraising. I worked at an organization called the Development Center. It was a tele-fundraising organization. They raised money via telephone for nonprofits. And 80 percent of the business was higher education. I worked there for about five years. I started as a caller and it didn’t take me long to make this sort of a career change — another career. I ended up being the phone room manager and program manager.”

“After about five years I wanted to get into higher education fundraising, and I was hired at LaSalle University — Go, Explorers! — as the director of the annual fund. I did that for two years.”

How did your job at CHEER come about?

CHEER Marketing Director Anthony DelFranco interviews John and Joan Fultz at CHEER’s car show.

“It was interesting how I got the job at CHEER. I was looking for a fitness center. The only places I knew were ones in Millsboro and one down on the Coastal Highway. My neighbor said that CHEER had a fitness center. I said, ‘What’s CHEER?’ She goes, ‘It’s a senior place.’ I went and checked it out. I looked at their fitness center and thought, ‘It will work.’ I got all the applications and everything with the intention of joining CHEER to use the fitness center. Then I got curious what CHEER was all about. I googled it and went on the website. Then I went into employment and I saw that they were looking for a marketing director. I thought, ‘I can do this.’ I got a phone call couple days later, and met with Joyce Westen, and I met with Ken Bock. Arlene Littleton was executive director. They said I was under consideration. It was a morning interview. That afternoon, I got the phone call, ‘Do you want the job?’ It has been a great fit.”

Your mission with CHEER?

“I made a concerted effort to get out and be as visible as possible. That meant going to all the chamber events whether they were luncheons, breakfasts, economic development meetings or mixers. By being out there, being vocal and being the face of CHEER, I believe that was very instrumental in bringing CHEER out into the community on what we do and what we are about. I did presentations … to Rotary clubs, church groups … the medical field. We continue to do that.”

“One of the things that I learned and what I heard was CHEER was one of the best-kept secrets in Sussex County. I made this personal goal that I would change that perception, and not have it be the best kept secret in Sussex County.”

The scoop on Cheerful Living?

“I started the Cheerful Living magazine about three years ago. It’s a quarterly publication. Our distribution now is like 23,000.”

“I was also instrumental in developing a partnership with LaRed Medical Center. That is where we are providing space for LaRed Medical Services right now. It is in Ocean View, and it is going to be expanding to Long Neck, Milton and Greenwood at the CHEER centers. Right now, one day a week we are providing medical professionals for ambulatory care and the CHEER Coastal Leisure Center in Ocean View. Through chamber events I met Kevin Loftus of LaRed. Through Kevin and I, we formed this partnership. We have already received around $350,000 in funding from various sources.”

“Under Ken Bock’s leadership we are expanding our presence. Through our transportation branch we are able to go out and pick up our members and bring them to the CHEER centers; we have seven activity centers throughout Sussex county. So, there is no excuse not to come.”

“One of the worst things for seniors to do is to isolate themselves. We provide all the tools and services that will allow them to be able to socialize and be able to go out. Healthy body, healthy mind, it’s so true. We have our Adult Day Program where we are providing a secure and stimulated atmosphere for those people who have early Alzheimer’s or dementia.”

You moonlight as a promoter?

“I am a band promoter: Tony D Promotions. I have a couple different bands that I book at different venues. Jersey Jukebox and the Del Angels are from central Jersey. And I promote a couple of local bands here.”

Are you truly a Philly fanatic?

“I was a 28-year Eagles season ticket holder. I saw the Eagles during the Buddy Ryan era, which was the most fun, watching Randall Cunningham, Reggie White. And I actually went to the first two games of the 1993 World series in Toronto. I am actually on the Major League Baseball tape, the video of the1993 World Series. they actually captured me on there, cheering on Darren Daulton. I went and got the tape just for memories because I was at the first two games, even though we lost the Series to the Joe Carter home run. I am watching it and then all of a sudden, I hear this voice that sounds familiar. And there are me and my wife and they focused right on us!”

“My prize possession is I have a basketball signed by all of the 1983 Philadelphia 76ers. So, I have Dr. J (Julius Erving), Billy Cunningham, Andrew Toney, Moses Malone, Mo Cheeks, even Marc Iavaroni. I have a number of signed baseballs; two Mickey Mantle baseballs, a Sandy Koufax-signed baseball … Mike Schmidt, Pete Rose, Steve Carlton, Eddie Murray … a DiMaggio signed photo.”

Where does leisure time take you?

“I like to go out with my wife. We like to go to thrift shops. We do a little bit of flea marketing and yard sales. We like to do to restaurants. We do like to travel a lot. I have two favorite vacations. We traveled around the whole southwest part of the United States. We flew into Denver and rented an RV. We took it through Utah, Arizona, New Mexico. And we went to Italy for a couple of weeks two years ago. We’ve vacationed in St. Johns in the Virgin Islands. We’ve been to Hawaii twice.”

Any second retirement plans?

“As long as I feel good, I’m going to hang in there. The thing I love about coming to work is it gives me a purpose. It gives me something to look forward to, especially working for a nonprofit organization like CHEER. It is a definitely a feel-good experience. God willing, I maintain my health — my dad is 95 years old. Not that I am going to be doing this until I am 95 but I figure that I have another five or seven years. Why not? As long as they will have me, and they are happy with my work. I like to live in the moment and I think I am doing that.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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