John Lokitis Jr: Former Centralia PA Resident

John Lokitis Jr. painting the Centralia PA bench in 2006. Credit: Flickr/letdown102

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48 Responses

  1. Rachel Buchan says:

    Does he ever go back and visit? I can’t imagine him completely breaking his ties with Centralia forever.

  2. Patrick says:

    When is next cleanup would love to help?

    • Centralia PA Centralia PA says:

      Hi Patrick. The next cleanup day hasn’t been schedule yet. Follow us on Facebook and we’ll be sure to post the date when it is announced!

      • Thank you John. AS a matter of fact, my father’s first wife, Anne Johnson O’Neill, is buried in St Ignatius, along with my half brother who died at birth. The Johnson lot is a big lot at the top of the cemetery. I only visited there a few times. Thanks again for all you do for the memory of Centralia and the good people who once lived there. Take care and God bless. Patrick

  3. Natasha says:

    John Lokitis lived in his grandparent’s home on west Park St, while his parents live over at 316 East Park St still to this day. The two houses beside Lokitis’ were both empty. He has since welcomed a beautiful baby boy with his girlfriend in Milton, Pa.

  4. cathy says:

    I know john and his family well.he has recently suffered through the loss of a parent.i also am from Centralia and was sorry I missed the clean up.i will look forward to spring.

  5. shawna says:

    What beautifully haunting place I just watched the documentary…. It reminds me of my small hometown in ga. Such history and natural beauty even in the midst of a coal fire. To those who were residents there I’m a truly sorry for the loss of your town and its history. It is very unfair how things went. To those who held out I stand with you. I would not abandon my roots either given a choice. This is a place I would love to see and learn more of!

  6. Scott says:

    I just ordered the DVD and watched the documentary. What a sad story–I feel so badly for the former residents of Centralia. I would love to visit the site someday.

  7. Lokitis seems a person with a full of dedication in his life. It is a good portrayal of a faithful human being

  8. Victoria says:

    What a compelling story; my heart goes out to the residents who never wanted to leave their homes but we’re forced to do so. If possible, would like to speak to any residents who remain to this day and to John. I am working on a documentary film with many similarities. Thank you!

  9. Adam Tereska says:

    I have followed the goings on in Centralia since I was 10 years old. (I’m 44 now and visit every chance I get, usually twice to three times a year) I am wondering, in the path of the fire, is Ashland possibly next or is that town safe?

  10. I would like to commend John for his incredible dedication and loyalty to his home and his hometown. You don’t see people like this anymore. I’d like to meet him someday just to shake his hand. I’m hanging on to my own family home right now-different circumstances, but I understand the feeling that you may lose something very dear to you due to circumstances out of your control. My own family home is in Coal Township. John, please know you are in my prayers that you enjoy your new home and never forget the memories of your old home. God bless and take care, Patrick O’Neill, Coal Township , pa.

  11. annacolleen says:

    Great documentary, and well worth a watch! The town looked like many small towns, back in the 60’s; inviting, and warm. I especially loved the film of the Independence Day Parade, that showed what the people were like.John did a wonderful job, of recounting for us the people, who made the town what it was.
    I was made angry, when he and the 2 other men, told how much it would have cost initially, to stop the fire in 1962. The Commonwealth could have paid, but how about the residents? They really could have ‘passed-the-hat’ and come up with the small amount. I know, that the amount was alot, back then, but they could have collected what they could, and shared the cost.
    That’s neither here, nor there, now.
    I remember this town. We passed through it, on the way to my father in law’s childhood home, in Snowshoe, and State College area. As the years went by, it got smaller, and finally it was only a cemetery in the wilderness. I had forgotten there was even a town, and would think;”what is a cemetery doing, out here in the middle of nowhere?”
    Sidewalks that went nowhere in particular.
    I never go back to where I was actually raised anymore, since no one is left to remember me. Thing is, if I wanted to, I could walk the sidewalks up to the elementary school I attended in one of the places, or stand in front of the house my parents worked so hard for. One time, the family asked us in, and memory came back, much like a flood. I can use googlemaps to visit my old Copacabana neighborhood in Rio, even walk the streets.
    I’m usually left saddened, since no one alive now, remembers even having lived there.
    Still, I can do these things, and people like John cannot.
    My heart, and my prayers go out to the people of Centralia. I hope y’all get together for reunions, other than clean up day. If you need a place to gather, I have enough land for tent camping.

  12. NHD Team says:

    Is there any way we could get in touch with him. We are doing a project on Centralia.

  13. Scrublord says:

    Or anyone from Centralia pa

  14. Centralia Fan says:

    I loved the movie.

  15. Dominic Jonhjulio says:

    I too commend John on what he has done. How said for that Town. I live in a Village smaller than Centralia, but, smaller do to just the way it is, not because of any circumstance that Centralia went through. Shame on our Gov’t to allow that to happen and pin people against each other like that. Similiar things are happening to our town now with Fracking coming to our area. I too would stick it out like John did. My prayers go out to evryone from there, and who is still there.

  16. Alex Trussler says:

    I first heard of Centralia on Modern Marvels Engineering Disasters and was fascinated. I loved the documentary “The Town That Was.” I live on a family farm we’ve owned since 1836 and I know how I would feel if the government tried to force me off. I feel terrible for the die hard residents of Centralia.

  17. Robb says:

    I remember going up Rt 61 with my father. He had a small trucking company and we hauled coal out of that region. I remember going through town and father telling me 1 day this will all be gone and he told me the story. I responded, cant it be fixed? He said, probably not the government will take the cheap way out. I guess he was right. I have seen the documentary, with my children, and they asked if we go see the town 1 day, being sentimental as I get older I responded yes!!! Such a shame the close knit towns of days gone by are just that>>>>>GONE!!!

  18. Kathleen Jones says:

    I will be flying into Harrisburg late Sept, and was considering going through Centralia on my way to State College. Is there a safe way to visit what is left of Centralia? I’ve seen the movie, “The Town that Was.” The AAA book doesn’t list Centralia, but says that the fire is visible from Ashland.

  19. Bob says:

    @Kathleen Jones Kathleen you can still go thru the town on Rt. 61. Your not going to see much As far as seeing the fire from Ashland the fires are well underground now and have moved on towards the Mt. Carmel area. (The other direction from Ashland). The fire are there but really not as visible anymore. The trees are coming back but you can still see damaged area just fine. I would just ask that if you do go thru to remember all those who were from this town like my family. They were all great people. I hope you enjoy it

  20. Sherri Cressman says:

    I recently visited Centralia with my son. I noticed that there is still one home remaining. This home looked as though it was occupied. Out of curiosity, why was Mr. Lokitis forced out of his home, and eventually demolished, and the other home is still standing occupied. Also, does Mr. Lokitis ever do personal tours of the town. If so is there a way that he can be reached. My son took particular interest in the history of Centralia, which is completely out of character for him, and I would like to bring him back for more personal research. Thank you.

    • Jennifer says:

      Sherri I thought the same thing when I read he was evicted in 2009 but yet now in 2016 people say that you can visit but don’t bother the residence. I was truly moved by the documentary as well, those poor people. What a sweet little town it once was.

  21. Della Hicks says:

    I thought I read that Mr. Lokitis was finally forced from his home in 2009, is that correct? I too watched, ‘The Town That Was’, and could empathize with him. I am living in the city I was born and raised in, I am second generation, our son is third. My husband is not from here, I can only imagine how devastated I would be, if all the physical locations of my memories were gone.

  22. dean swaim says:

    I really appreciate and understand why and what you are doing. and i admire you for it. you are a special person

  23. Andy says:

    Watched The Town That was bu chance and was moved and saddened.
    Thanks from England where are coal industry has been shattered too.

  24. Eric Umstead says:

    My grandparents and mother were all from another small town similar to Centralia. Jersey Shore, Pa. at one point had a population of about 2,000 in the late 1960’s but due to unemployment the population has dropped to just over 500. My grandparents and mother are all buried there and up until about 30 years ago a Greyhound bus would make a flag stop in Jersey Shore. It’s been about 30 years since I was last there and 50 years ago my grandmother was the tax collector of the town. Currently I live in Minneapolis with all the conveniences of city living (public transit, airport, Amtrak) but at 62 years old I STILL MISS that small town feel of Jersey Shore, Pa. It hurts me to see how the government didn’t give a darn about Centralia, kicked everyone out, & leveled the town.

  25. Tyson says:

    What a truly unique story. I live in Calgary Ab. Canada and just finished the documentary about what happened to John and his town. I hope he is doing well and can’t help but wonder what’s next for that town.

  26. Rob says:

    John would make an excellent mayor. You can see and feel his devotion to the place he calls home. Watching him in the documentary The Town That Was showed a man who, like me, never wants to forget his home, the memories of better days, and how nostalgia can make us never forget. John, I hope you took that green park bench with you…if they are going to level everything, you deserve that bench in your back yard.

  27. Jennie says:

    I have just watched the documentary about your beautiful town. John your passion and love for your town touched me greatly, wish there were more passionate people like you. Sorry to hear you were forced to move. Sending our love from New Zealand a few years later.

  28. Kim says:

    What prompted the eviction notice? If the state technically owned all of the properties anyway, why evict John and not the others living in the town? I read there were 10 people left. I don’t understand.

    I visited Centralia recently, not knowing the full story. Then I listened to the Radiolab episode and watched The Town That Was today. I wish John all the best. It must have been hard to leave.

  29. Tiffany says:

    My husband and I just watched The Town That Was, and what a sad story! John deserves an award for his dedication to that town after all that happened. He truly loved his hometown, and he went above and beyond to keep it alive the best he could. I would love to meet him and shake his hand one day. What a remarkable guy!

  30. Nathan Kelly says:

    Hey anyway I could help out with clean up day this year? Or help out with anything?

  31. Mike Smith says:

    I was hoping that at the end of “the Town That Was” there was a happy ending like the state turned the town into a historic park or state game lands and hired John as the caretaker but unfortunately that was not the case. A great documentary. My great grandparents settled in Oliphant, PA and were a mining family. I now would like to visit there and learn more.

  32. Rob says:

    I was just in Centralia today (1/21/2017) and took many photos. It is an amazing yet somber place to visit. I plan on returning.

  33. Jim says:

    I grew up with john lokitis jr and worked with him in Centralia with the boro. John and I would take care of sweeping the streets and mowing and taking care of the lawns. That town always has and always will mean everything to him. And he would’ve stayed there until the very end if he would’ve been allowed to.

  34. Mike Jones says:

    I’ve just been watching ‘The Town That Was’. It’s almost unbelievable that was allowed to happen, was any person from the council held responsible ?

    John Lokitis seems a honest guy looking after the place that he knew. Such a shame that he was evicted, was he compensated ? How can the state just taken ownership of someones property ?

    Best wishes to John

  35. Wil says:

    I took the kids about 8 months ago after we watched the documentary. Very moving and we had to go. When we arrived, we were very much confused as to what we were looking at, as there is virtually nothing left. Just overgrown vegetation. We walked the graffiti highway, which is spewed with profanity and not child friendly. We asked some guy who was selling hot dogs and water, apparently trying to capitalize on the misery the Centralia people suffered. He and his wife were very abrupt and not very talkative, which is surprising, as nice as they were when I spent $23 for 2 hot dogs and two waters. In any case, we continued our search and found remnants of sidewalks and stairs and trash but little else. It was said and depressing, but if you hadn’t seen the movie, you would pass by on 61 you wouldn’t even know that anything had been there.
    Maybe best to leave the past behind. John Lokitis certainly seemed like a great guy. It’s too bad he couldn’t have stayed to oversee the recreation of Centralia. What a wonderful story that would have been.

  36. Donna Shupock says:

    My father-in-law grew up in Shamokin. Every year since I turned 14 we have been driving through Centralia. It is so sad. I have seen the houses with the red X to be demolished, I have seen the bicycle shop that we thought would never relocate and we have seen the steam coming up from the ground.We have watched every documentary and films about Centralia. My Prayers go out to all the people who once called Centralia there home.

  37. James c iezzi says:

    Can i go visit this place or would i get arrested if i.do ???

  38. Mike Stenstrom says:

    You can visit Centralia without being arrested as long as you don’t walk on the Graffiti highway. A resident complained to PennDOT about all the tourists and the mess that some make, so PennDOT decided to enforce no trespassing. The Cemeteries are open during daylight hours and the Russian Orthodox Church is still there. It’s not easy to find anything there so do homework reading the history and the few maps that are available before you go. David DeKok gives an excellent tour and his tour and book are the best way to see and understand Centralia. Slow Burn, Renee Jacobs’s book is also excellent.

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