The Mirror and the area sports community are mourning the death of Frank Polito, a former longtime member of the Mirror sports department.
Polito died Saturday following an extended illness. He was 69.
An Altoona native, Polito spent the vast majority of his career in the sports department, first as a writer covering scholastic and local sports.
"The thing I remember most about Frank was his loyalty to me and to other people on the staff," retired Mirror sports editor Jim Lane said Sunday. "I can't honestly remember a day Frank did not show up for work. You'd go in there at night, and you could always depend on Frank.
"When he'd come in, he'd always have a smile on his face and never hesitated - ever - to jump on that first phone call. He was guy behind the scenes, and he took a lot of pride in the job that he did."
Shortly after joining the Mirror in 1967, Polito began assisting Lane and former Mirror sports editor Herb Werner.
"Way back, Herb and I were a two-man staff, and Frank came on as the third guy when we tried to branch out to cover more games," Lane said.
Some of that coverage centered around Hollidaysburg and Bishop Guilfoyle. Polito covered the Marauders' run to the PIAA Final Four in 1974 in addition to some of Hollidaysburg's better football teams in the 1970s and '80s.
"Frank was a great guy," former Hollidaysburg football coach Harold Price said. "He was always very fair. He didn't write bad things about people. If somebody didn't have a good game, he'd kind of pass over it. I'm sure going to miss him."
Ex-BG football coach Tom Irwin also appreciated Polito's judgment and fairness.
"He had a good connection with Hollidaysburg and BG, and he expressed loyalty to all the local schools," Irwin said. "I don't think he took any favorites. I think he was fair to everyone."
As the Mirror extended its coverage into the Cove, Polito handled Central and Williamsburg events.
"In 1971-72, when we [Central basketball team] won the Mountain League, most of the stories were done by Frank," Don Appleman, who coached at Central and now Williamsburg, said. "He had a real pleasant way about him, and when I would see him in other places, we'd always stop and talk. He was truly one of the good guys - a genuine, all-around good person."
Irwin, too, enjoyed Polito's "warm spirit."
"It was a pleasure doing business with Frank because he'd reach out and [with] his sense of humor, we could laugh together," Irwin said. "Just the sound of his voice made me smile. He'd laugh a lot and find humor in almost everything. I always respected that.
"He was just being Frank."
Like Price and Appleman, Irwin called Polito "a close friend."
In the latter stages of his Mirror career, which spanned more than 40 years, Polito was an anchor on the night sports desk, fielding countless phone calls and handling various results from area schools while also coordinating the paper's scoreboard page.
"Salty, as he was affectionately known in the newsroom, was one of a kind," current Mirror sports editor Buck Frank said. "He did a lot of the work that goes unnoticed to the average reader but is just as important. Those that worked with him will always remember him fondly."