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A Sit Down with Scranton’s Sweetheart - Happenings Magazine — Happenings Magazine

A Sit Down with Scranton’s Sweetheart

Evie Rafalko McNulty, 57, is a well-known presence in Scranton politics. As a multi-term Lackawanna County recorder of deeds and a member of the Democratic National Committee, Rafalko McNulty was adelegate to the Democratic National Conventions every four years since 1992. Rafalko McNulty is also known for her vibrant personality and self-effacing style, which has endeared her to voters and boards of directors. She has emceed many high-profile events and created a parallel career as an avid volunteer for worthwhile interests.

She was born in the Minooka section of Scranton, “also known as God’s Country,” she said. The eldest of three children, her parents Nancy Coggins Rafalko and the late John (JR) Rafalko, impressed upon her “the importance of hard work” and “to never take myself too seriously or think that I was better than anyone,” she said.

She has no children of her own, but her siblings, sister Robin Purnell, Dunmore and brother Jack Rafalko of Minooka made her an aunt several times over. “Doesn’t get any better than that,” she said. “I am where I am and the person I am today because I have the best family anyone could ask for. The McNultys always teased me that I was ‘the outlaw’ but never once did I feel that way. I’m darn lucky.”

The McNultys are the family of her husband, the late former Mayor James McNulty who served Scranton as its 26th mayor from 1982 to 1986. His campaign pledge was to revive the city’s economy with tourism. His work improved the city’s outlook and he won the November election in ’82.“I met Jim at a Minooka house party held for him
by Mayor Connors’ (James Connors, 28th Mayor of Scranton, 1990-2002) family,” Rafalko McNulty remembered. I went with my dad. My father was the one who wanted to meet Jim and I went along because the Connors family always had great parties. I don’t really remember talking to him, but I did have a great time at the party.”

Evie was 30 and Jim was45 when they tied the knot. Politics drew them together, she reckons but… “since Jim is not here to dispute it, I will go with, he was hot for my body. Yeah . . . that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!”
Happenings sat down for a chat with Rafalko McNulty who opened up on her ideals, pastimes, friends, families and missing
her husband.

Life in Scranton
Rafalko McNulty graduated from Scranton’s Bishop Klonowski High School, class of 1977. “I loved it so much, I cried for weeksafter graduation. My school, classmates and teachers were like a family to me.
All through high school, my talking got me in trouble. I still remember teachers telling me, ‘you can actually be accused of denying your fellow students the opportunity to an education because you talk so much and interrupt the class.’ When I see them now I remind them of what they said and that my talking has become a gift for me in my career.”

A huge proponent of the Electric City, Rafalko McNulty said, “I lived in Washington, D.C. in the ‘80s. There were faces everywhere you looked. That’s it, just faces on people. In NEPA we wear our hearts on our sleeve and those faces have smiles. When asked where I’m from, I say with pride ‘I’m from Scranton, Pennsylvania.’ No matter where I go people hear about Scranton. All roads lead to Scranton in my world.”

“I help when and wherever I’m asked to help. I am not in a financial position to write a check to support a cause so I give my time. Someone I respect very much once said ‘It takes a village.’ We all have an important part in supporting a cause. It’s just the right thing to do. We all benefit from good deeds.”
Recently she went through the process of becoming a volunteer with Hospice of the Sacred Heart. “I will be serving as a patient and family volunteer. That organization was so wonderful to both Jim and me that I wanted to make sure I gave back to them in some way. I’m looking forward to offering help and comfort to people in need as they provided for us. We had family to support us and yet they came and did so much for us. It’s hard for me to comprehend that there are people that don’t have anyone and so many families can’t afford to miss work to tend to sick loved ones. No one should be alone, in life or death.”

On losing her husband and best friend
“Jim went home to be with his parents on March 2 (2016). This may seem strange, but it hit me like a brick on May 2 that he really was gone. I just went through the motions of life in a blur for two months. I have a wonderful family and the best friends in the world. They walked the journey of Jim’s illness with us both and have held my hand in the good times and sad times since his passing. I cry every day for him, really for me, because he is gone. He is in a better place. I believe he’s with me in spirit and I talk to him often. I actually argue with him when I’m in a mood.  Losing my best friend in the world leaves this funny girl with many tears some days. What makes me smile is when someone comes up to me and tells me how Jim touched their lives.”

Career in politics
“I’m serving my fifth termas Lackawanna County recorder of deeds. This is my first re-election without my in-house political consultant. Wish me luck!”The political “bug” may have bitten her when she served as
the babysitter for the Eagen children in high school. “In 1977 Mike Eagen, Jr. ran for district attorney. I got involved in his campaign, got hooked and fell in love with politics. I love people, meeting new people and helping someone get involved that genuinely wants to do the right thing. It’s called politics, but I believe it’s the route to community service. My career has given me some of my best friends and has created many happy memories.”

Rafalko McNulty said she doesn’t like the grudges and the mean-spirited actions that sometimes occur in an election. “The phrase opposition research– I hate that phrase. I’ve never used destructive information about my opponents in an election. I am by no means an angel, but in any election, win or lose, when my head hits the pillow on election night I have no regrets or shame due to bad behavior. I remember my mom crying after receiving a robo call where
I was trashed one election eve. Often times elections hurt the family members and supporters of candidates most of all.”

Vibrant personality
People have taken notice of Rafalko McNulty’s sense of humor, easy speaking ability and self-effacing nature. She is often asked to emcee panels and events. “I love it,” she said. “I’m honored and the head table always gets served first.”
When asked where her sense of humor was formed she said, “I don’t know. I was always a smart ass and liked to make people laugh.”

She often talks about being chubby. “Let me share a funny story,” she said. “This will be in my eulogy.
Mrs. Albert Hazzouri, the mom of a classmate of mine, John Hazzouri, will go down in history for this one. On class night, my friends and I gave her a ride home. She did not know us by name and we all introduced ourselves. I said ‘Hi my name is Evie.’ She sweetly replied, ‘Ahh honey, don’t worry you have a pretty face, you can always lose weight.’ I think it was that night that I knew I may have been on to something. From then on I asked for the corner piece of the cake with extra icing and no guilt.

Jim taught me to believe in myself. I know that sounds corny, but he did. He made me see that my weight and appearance were not what mattered or what good people would see. What was in my heart, my actions and what came out of my mouth was what mattered.

As I became more comfortable speaking in public, I realized he was right. He helped me look at myself from the inside and not what was in the mirror. He loved me for who I am. I think he may have even seen a hot-looking beauty with a great body. He never said otherwise.

I’m comfortable in my own skin and feel good about me. The only person who can take that away from me is me, and that ain’t happening, baby.”

On friendship
“I have several posses of friends. The same core group of friends is still close since high school. They are the sisters I choose. My girlfriends have celebrated my successes with me and cried with me when my heart was broken. I have never walked alone. We are not just friends, we are family.

Life changes everyday. We become different people as a result of those changes. The cycle of life brings us happiness, sadness and sometimes loneliness. The one thing that grows stronger amidst those times and becomes more valuable is friendship.” –Christine Fanning