Hospice of the Sacred Heart lost a board member, a patriot and a dear friend Saturday, January 23rd. Patrick “Patsy” Solano was a member of the original board of directors assembled in 2003 and served faithfully until his passing, under the loving care of Hospice of the Sacred Heart. “We were fortunate to benefit from Mr. Solano’s government expertise, experience and watchful guidance for all 17 years of our organization’s service. “Patsy” was a member of the Greatest Generation and a person you get to meet once in a lifetime. We will miss his contributions and his forever smile,” said Diane Baldi, CEO, Hospice of the Sacred Heart.
The following article appeared on PennLive.com and in the Harrisburg Patriot-News.
Patrick Solano, a World War II combat veteran from Pittston Twp. who served in the administrations of nine Pennsylvania governors, has died. He was 95. Solano died Saturday at home surrounded by his family, his nephew, attorney Frank Nocito, said. Nocito, 63, remembered Solano as a humble man who befriended and gained the trust of the most notable powerbrokers in the state and nation, but never forgot his roots. “He was truly a confidant to all — from presidents to a guy who came from Italy to Pittston. From the highest of the high to the everyday ordinary man. He treated everyone with respect,” Nocito said.
Nocito, who visited Solano’s home nearly every Sunday since he was a child, said Solano was life’s biggest mentor. “Forget college, forget law school. Talking with Uncle Pat was a real life education,” Nocito said.
Drafted into World War II with the U.S. Army Air Corps, Solano served as flight engineer on 23 combat missions over Germany in a B-17 bomber. He recounted his wartime heroics in an interview in July with The Citizens’ Voice, reflecting back that “I remember it all.”
After the war, Solano went on to work in state government. While he was a lifelong Republican, he loyally served both Democratic and Republican governors and was seen as a bipartisan dealmaker. At one point, he headed the state Department of Environmental Resources and later the Department of Conservation of Natural Resources when that agency split into two. He also was deputy secretary of the Department of General Services, putting him in charge of all state-funded building projects.
Solano ended his career as senior counselor to Republican Gov. Tom Ridge. Ridge asked Solano to join him in Washington, D.C., when Ridge was appointed to head the new Department of Homeland Security after the Sept. 11terrorist attacks.
But Solano decided to call it a career. “He wanted to take me to Washington. I told him to go find a younger guy. I’m too old,” Solano joked in the July interview. In the interview, Solano talked about his philosophy on governance. “I was in public service all my life. I always tried to find the common ground on stuff. I look at people today and they can’t get along on anything. There’s no middle,” Solano said. “I’m a Republican by title. But I dealt with the Democrats all my life. They like me and I like them.”
In a statement released Saturday, Ridge recalled Solano as proud patriot, a gentleman and a beloved bipartisan public servant who lived “a consequential life” that should be a Hollywood movie. Ridge said he nicknamed Solano his “Mr. 911” because he was his go-to guy for advice in politics. “Pat embodied the Greatest Generation — a life of honor and service in which he always put others first. He will be deeply missed, but his legacy will be felt here in his beloved Pennsylvania — and around the world — forever,” Ridge said.
Family members recall that during the 2014 campaign between then-Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, and challenger Tom Wolf, the current Democratic governor, both men called Solano for advice. Even at age 95, government officials in Harrisburg still sought Solano’s input and he was still considered a senior advisor to the state Senate.
Bipartisan tributes flowed Saturday after word circulated that Solano had died.
“Today, I give a sad but fond last farewell to Patrick Solano. He was a friend, confidante, advisor and mentor — a second father really,” said state Sen. Lisa Baker, R-20, of Lehman Twp. “Pat was a political guy, a policy guy, but most of all a people person ... He was fully committed to and practiced the precepts and principles of public service. He had faith in his ability to find the better angels in those on both sides of the political fence, locating common ground where no one else was looking ... His mind was the Wikipedia of Pennsylvania politics reaching back nearly a century.”
State Sen. John Yudichak, I-14, of Swoyersville, said Solano’s career “will remain unmatched in its length and in the sheer breadth of his accomplishments.”
“I was honored to be among the many leaders who counted Pat Solano apolitical mentor, and I feel blessed to have shared his company and his friendship over the years. Family always came first for Pat, and my deepest sympathies go out to his wife, his children and his extended family who knew him affectionately as Uncle Pat,” Yudichak said.
U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser, R-9, Dallas, said Solano was one of the great people he’s ever known. “Described by all as a legend, Pat was a respected leader in Pennsylvania state government and politics,” Meuser said. “I was fortunate enough to know Pat for many years. As many elected officials can attest, he was the best political mentor anyone could have ever asked for and one of the greatest men I have ever known. I will miss his sage counsel and wisdom as he is no longer a phone call away.” Meuser recalled one of Solano’s favorite quotes that “the politics of inclusion is how you get things done.” “And he got a lot done,” Meuser said.
U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-8, of Moosic, said Solano’s death was “so sad for all of us in our area.”
“I always liked everything about him. From the personal physical courage he showed in the Army Air Corps during World War II, to his sharing a half century’s worth of stories about his friends in public service, he was a man who attracted admirers from all corners,” Cartwright said. “Best of all, he always told you the truth and he put Northeastern Pennsylvania first.”
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Mark S. Schweiker, a Republican, called Solano a “true patriot.” “He served our nation during World War II when he heroically flew B-17 combat missions over Germany. When he returned home, Pat would spend the next half century continuing his unwavering commitment to the service of his beloved country, commonwealth and Northeastern Pennsylvania,” Schweiker said. “I’ll miss my friend. He provided heartfelt and wise counsel to me, and many former governors. Pat was a giant that simply cannot be replaced. Kathy and I will keep his beloved wife, Marie, and his family in our prayers.”