Dick Palmer: A tip of the hat to Lois and Jeno

Jeno F. Paulucci is an SOB (serious, organized and benevolent). I mean that, without a doubt, and have watched the career of Jeno blossom from the beginning of his Chun King days here in Duluth in the early 1950s.

Jeno F. Paulucci is an SOB (serious, organized and benevolent). I mean that, without a doubt, and have watched the career of Jeno blossom from the beginning of his Chun King days here in Duluth in the early 1950s.

He sold that enterprise to Reynolds Tobacco Company for a cool $6 million, or was it $60 million? I don't remember, I've always had trouble with zeroes, especially those kinds of zeroes.

Even after that effort, he didn't abandon Duluth although there were those who were constantly prodding Jeno with less than complimentary comments.

Oh, he'd flare up once in a while, but he stayed the course and never forgot his humble beginnings on the Iron Range where he often reflects on those "good old days" picking up pieces of coal dropped from passing railroad cars. Those pieces of coal were used to heat the family home.

He never forgot the challenging days of the Great Depression or his ethnic traditions and values. Jeno may be one of a kind, but he is one of us, and I'm pleased to call him my friend.


Because of my casual run-ins with Jeno, through the years -- run-ins, incidentally, that always brought a smile after the smoke cleared -- I am pleased to have experienced the wrath and warmth of a good citizen.

One time, Jeno was trying to reach me by phone. I had just been elected to the Minnesota State Senate and Jeno wanted to visit with me. I was in the composing room of the former Labor World printing plant, working on the Budgeteer. He was put on hold while I was paged, and he fumed. He then got others in his office to call the composing room and, when all the lines were blinking, I was finally informed Jeno was waiting for me on the other line. Fortunately, I picked up a line that Jeno wasn't waiting on and got off easy.

Another time, a reporter for the Budgeteer and I were at a boring Duluth City Council meeting. The reporter, in his notes, wrote it was rumored Jeno had his Pike Lake home up for sale. Would you believe that line escaped my scrutiny and ended up in the council story?

The roof fell in when I answered Jeno's phone call. He was angry, wanted my head on a platter, and I was scared. However, one of his subordinates calmed him down, we ran a retraction, and the crisis was over.

After that, Jeno and I just sort of got along and, obviously, I had my caution hat on every time I visited with him. I learned to respect Jeno, understood his values and knew exactly what he was trying to do for the communities he served. Jeno, as a citizen, is a keeper, and I will be in the first row applauding him if he is ever unfairly challenged.

Our associate Ralph Doty wrote a story for the Budgeteer last week noting that Jeno and wife Lois have helped about 70 agencies serving needy families in central Florida. The idea of "Free Food for the Needy" came from wife Lois and began in 1992, nearly 14 years ago. Jeno's company has provided more than 120,000 frozen Michelina dinners to feed poor and needy people in Seminole County. Jeno has delivered two to three semi-truck loads of Michelena's frozen dinners annually. This isn't the first time Jeno has shown his benevolence, but generally it goes unannounced.

Well, this is a new year now, and we should all pause for a moment to salute our friend Jeno for his many contributions to our area and citizens in need wherever that need was apparent. He hired people, many who were unable to get jobs elsewhere. He played politics with a passion, sometimes not to my liking, but he was always up front and people knew exactly where he was going.

So, happy New Year, Lois and Jeno.


Speaking of the New Year, perhaps the most talked about issue of the moment for our local politicians is how the city of Duluth will resolve its out of control employee health insurance that, if not modified, will most certainly bankrupt the city. Tough decisions will have to be made, but if it is of any consolation, other communities throughout the country are facing similar challenges and many are much worse off than Duluth.

Again, Mayor Herb Bergson's leadership or lack thereof may well control the destiny of this tremendous issue. We hope cool heads will prevail here, and we get the job done and done right.

Dick Palmer is the former editor and publisher of the Budgeteer News. He may be reached by telephone at 729-6470 or by

e-mail at .

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