The late Ed Pallo, otherwise known as The Masher, heads up the 11th Fitch Hall of Fame Class
By Greg Gulas
The Masher is finally getting his due at Austintown Fitch.
In the early 1950s, Ed Pallo earned the nickname with a punishing style of play as a linebacker and halfback under Fitch head coach Del Dickerhoof.
Pallo and 11 other former Falcons set for induction into the Fitch Athletics Hall of Fame, will be honored tonight at halftime of a game against Warren Harding at Fitch Falcon Stadium.
“With Ed Pallo, I’ve heard things about him that made my head spin, plus he was a wonderful human being,” said Dan Bokesch, the committee chair of the Fitch Hall of Fame. “It’s truly a well-deserved honor.”
Pallo was a 1954 graduate who was a three-year starter and letter-winner. He is the lone posthumous selection in this year’s class — he died on Aug. 10, 2015 after battling throat cancer, despite never having smoked.
Other members of the 11th Fitch Hall of Fame class are: Anthony Camuso (basketball); Tom Case (coach, volleyball); Chris Inglis (football); Dan Inglis (football); Robert Johnson (football, basketball, golf, track and field); Gary Jones (baseball); Brittney Koch Getz (soccer, track and field, basketball, football); David “Bear” Patrick (contributor); Dr. David Ritchie (contributor); Christina Toth (volleyball, basketball, softball); and Mike Uhlar (football).
Fitch’s 1986-87 boys cross country and 2001-02 girls volleyball teams also will be inducted.
“Our 2018 hall of fame class is a diverse group of Fitch athletes who collectively excelled in 12 different sports,” Bokesch said. “In their respective years as Fitch athletes, they set the bar extremely high through their athletic efforts.”
Playing in an era when records and statistics were incomplete, Pallo scored three touchdowns in a 55-0 win over Jackson-Milton.
According to teammates, his greatness transcended statistics.
“Ed could start on any team that Fitch ever fielded, he was that good,” said John Africa, a teammate of Pallo’s and 1955 Fitch graduate. “I remember Paul Vath once telling me that he was getting ready to make a tackle, but the Masher had already done so.
“As freshmen, Ed and Jim D’Eramo were often called up to scrimmage with the varsity because they were as good as any of the varsity team members.”
Another teammate, Tim Van Fossen, said, “He was a punishing defensive back. His helmet wound up being all red because he knocked all the white paint off it.”
Pallo spurned offers to play college ball, opting instead to work multiple jobs to support his parents and younger siblings, Bobby and Shirley.
After joining the U.S. Army, Pallo was stationed in South Korea and helped with construction efforts as America helped rebuild that nation.
He worked as a concrete finisher when he returned home, only to be faced with multiple challenges and more life curves than Justin Verlander throws in a single game for the Houston Astros.
Pallo had two daughters, Barbie, an artist and stylist who is in account management-sales for Dupler Office in Columbus, and Kimberly (K.P.), who is developmentally disabled and a year younger than Barbie.
“My father was a very caring father. He was a single dad who was devoted to us,” said Barbie, whom he nicknamed Babsie Mae. “My parents divorced when I was 3 years old and my mother really wasn’t fit to be a mom, so my dad kept petitioning Children’s Services, kept fighting for us and finally won sole custody.
“We were a tri-pack, each took care of the other and at 13 years old I became the mom, which I absolutely loved.”
While growing up, Barbie Pallo heard all the stories about her father’s prowess on the field, yet as a kid they never fully sunk in.
That is, until she grew older.
“The one word I kept hearing from those that knew my father or watched him play, was that he was punishing. He was anything but punishing with my sister and me, in fact, he was very protective,” Barbie said.
“One day you’re a freshman in your first period class with Mr. [Ralph] Roberts. He yells out my name, asks me if I am the Masher’s daughter and when I answer yes, proceeds to tell the class what a great player he was.
“It’s very humbling to hear his friends and the many others still talking about my father.”
When Pallo fell ill, it was the recently married Barbie who moved both her father and sister to Columbus so she could care for them.
“I married late, at 47, and my husband, Eric, absolutely loved my father and sister. There was never a concern about us being their caregivers,” Barbie said. “Eric never really had a relationship with his birth father, so he asked my dad’s permission to take his last name when we were married, to which my dad gave his full blessing.
“Before he passed away, I promised him that we would look after K.P. and my husband and I are now her legal guardians.”
Barbie has called her father both funny and stubborn but most of all, the rock from whom she has drawn her strength.
“I think if you asked my Dad what his greatest accomplishment in life was, he would tell you that it was his unconditional commitment to raising his girls,” she said. “He gave up his whole life for us and never got married a second time in order to dedicate his life to my sister and I.
“He knew that it would be hard for another woman to accept my sister’s disability, especially if she had other children of her own and he never wanted my sister to be a burden to anyone.
“His strength was like no other man I have known, and he took on his cancer and fought it with vengeance like no other. He drove himself to every appointment and refused help because of his pride and stubbornness. He told me once that he wanted to see just how much he could take and to test himself to see if he was still as strong as he once was. I told him he was crazy!”
Barbie said the Masher was a very simple man with simple tastes from the clothes he wore to the food he ate. She called him a meat and potatoes kind of guy who wore jeans, t-shirt, a ball cap but never shorts.
“My father was my angel on Earth, my rock, my hero and I was his biggest fan, as he was both mine and my sister’s,” she said. “The legacy that my father left behind may have started on the football field, but was left behind in the hearts of all that knew him for the man that he was both on and off the field.
“God only made one like him and I was lucky enough to have him as my father.”