Friends pay tribute to Lehighton distillery owner
Whether they were a longtime friend or a new patron in his Insurrection Distillery Pub, Anthony J. Serafino Jr. made everyone feel welcome.
Serafino, a well-known Lehighton businessman, died unexpectedly on Jan. 3.
On Saturday friends and customers gathered with his widow, Jacqueline, to raise a glass at Insurrection.
“Tony was an extremely positive person. He was an entrepreneur, but what we loved most about him were his hugs, his positivity, and that he was always there for you,” said Mary Amodea, of Nesquehoning, one of Serafino’s friends who turned out to pay respects.
Many said that opening the distillery was a longtime dream for Serafino. A trained chemist, he turned a passion for brewing beer and distilling spirits into a second career.
His business partner Rod Walck shared that dream. The two had previously brewed beer together at the former Red Castle Brewery.
“We became friends many years ago, both doing some brewing. It’s been a long relationship,” Walck said.
They worked hard for three years before the business became a reality. Early on in that process Serafino recruited manager Wendy Strawser. She recalled how Serafino took pride in every aspect of Insurrection, from renovating the building to distilling and processing the spirits.
“He really knew what he was doing back there, he taught me a lot. It’s going to be big shoes to fill, definitely,” she said.
While they’ve spent more months operating under COVID-19 restrictions than not, Insurrection has become a well-known part of the Lehighton business community.
Just a few days after they were forced to close early on in the pandemic, they started producing hand sanitizer for first responders. It was a collaborative effort with other local businesses contributing spray bottles to help them.
When Insurrection opened its doors they already had a customer base in Serafino’s many friends from the Lehighton area.
His widow, Jacqueline, said that it meant a lot to hear from those friends following his death.
“People just love him. That’s a consolation to me that he was loved by everybody. The outpouring of sympathy and condolences,” she said.
He loved to sing karaoke at other pubs around Carbon County, and dance. His nickname was Big T.
Steve Welsh recalled how Tony would tell bar owners to hire Welsh as their karaoke DJ.
“He would sing, he would dance. He had phenomenal energy. He will be very missed when we get back to normal life,” Welsh said.
Sue Steigerwalt said that on the last night she saw Tony, they sang Motown and other oldies.
“It was the best night I had in a long time,” she said. “We laughed about how we couldn’t sing, but we’d sing anyway,” she said.
Dale Miller of Lehighton recalled Tony’s excitement talking about his plans for his own place. He said when Insurrection opened, he was the first customer.
“When he started talking about it, it seemed like it was gonna be his life’s dream. It finally came to fruition. He was very happy,” Miller said.