HANOVER, Md. — For Artie DeSisto, the road to ownership of successful accounting practice in downtown Pittsburgh, started in southern Italy even before he was born.
While his Bronx-born father, Arturo “Artie” DeSisto was serving in World War II as a U.S. Army interpreter, he met an Italian family that asked him if he could connect with the Fusco family of western Pennsylvania, once he returned to the states.
Although a long-shot ordeal after several failed attempts, Arturo finally connected with the Fusco family in the small Italian-centric community of Koppel.
Arturo eventually married Mary Fusco, a bond that ultimately resulted in the birth of two daughters and one son — Linda DeSisto Liberty of Las Vegas; Marylyn DeSisto Warner of Springfield, Va.; and Artie DeSisto of Robinson Township.
Though both parents were born in America, all four young Artie DeSisto’s grandparents were Italian natives. Artie DeSisto was born in the Bronx, where he lived until his parents divorced in 1969. He was 12.
“Things changed after the divorce. That’s when we moved to Koppel, Pa. We didn’t have a lot of money,” he said. “My mom worked for a luggage company, making about $4 an hour. She did the best she could do.”
The move was quite an adjustment to the young boy.
“Imagine playing stick-ball and catching subway trains one day, and the next day, you’re learning to hunt, fish — and play football and baseball,” he said. “The only animals I saw in New York were rats, cats and dogs. And now, I’m hunting deer in the mountains with bow and arrows, a muzzleloader and high-powered rifles. This was a very new experience. Truly a cultural shock.”
DeSisto vividly recalls hoping to play on the Koppel Panthers midget football team, but he was 2 pounds below the minimum weight requirement.
“My friends started feeding me milkshakes and sandwiches, and I eventually made the weight,” he recalled. “They put me on their shoulders and carried me around town, celebrating that ‘Artie could now join the team.’ I’ll never forget that.”
DeSisto also appreciated playing for Tony Esoldo, the celebrated Koppel youth football coach. The Koppel team won the 1969 Beaver County Midget League title after defeating the vaunted Baden Red Wings, which earned them the right to play in the Panther Bowl in Lake Providence, Louisiana, in December 1969. The Panthers won the game and learned life’s lessons about “Southern Hospitality,” he said.
“Although we beat them 27-6, the host team was very hospitable to us and treated us very warmly,” he said.
“Koppel is still a great place,” says Artie DeSisto. “We loved our sports and spent most summer days playing hardball or tape ball at the Koppel ball field, or swimming in the Koppel quarry. We played football at Marshall’s Field and played hockey at Damon’s Pond by the railroad tracks in the winter. It was a great place to grow up.”
DeSisto also found success playing with an undefeated Beaver Falls Jr. High football squad led by Koppelite Karl Florie, Bob Blythe and Al Carbone. Legendary football coach Larry Bruno was his mentor at Beaver Falls High School.
DeSisto likewise credits all three head coaches for their influences in life and sports.
“Those early lessons I learned from all of my coaches were invaluable,” said DeSisto. He said he often reverted back to those lessons while in college and throughout his professional career.
As an undersized high school defensive cornerback (5-6, 128 pounds), DeSisto infused his natural competitive fire, to achieve success in football and track.
Like several athletes from the western Pennsylvania region, DeSisto naturally contemplated reaching the success of another Beaver Falls gridiron icon — Joe Namath. “I never figured I’d reach that level, but it’s good to know I can call him a friend these days.”
Namath has joined the Hall of Achievement committee for Beaver Falls area athletes known as the Larry Bruno Foundation. Coincidentally, DeSisto is a founding member of the Bruno Hall of Achievement committee, of which Namath is a charter member.
After graduating from Beaver Falls High School in 1975, DeSisto, 63, matriculated to Slippery Rock University where he studied accounting. “I was too small to play football,” he said. A solid education at “The Rock” prepared him for the next phase of his life – hard work.
“At Slippery Rock, I received a great education in accounting from some awesome professors, some of whom I am friends with to this day. My goal was not to live in poverty for the rest of my life. I had a lot of fun in college and made some great friends, with whom I keep in touch to this day. But my focus was always on my education and my future and I remembered the lessons that my coaches taught me.”
Philip Kennedy, 75, was a first-year professor at Slippery Rock when he first encountered Artie DeSisto in 1978.
“Artie is one of the few students I’ll never forget. He was mature and well-beyond his age. Not only was he a good student, but eager to learn and do things properly. I’m not surprised at his success after college. His blue-collar work ethic reflected his passion to do well,” said Kennedy, a retired chairperson of SRU’s accounting department and of the business department at Penn State Shenango’s campus in Sharon, Pa. “I can’t imagine having to teach these days, without interacting with my students,” he added.
Since leaving college, DeSisto has only had one job interview – with the Mark Wolk & Associates accounting firm in December 1979. He started with the firm in February 1980, and has continued working there ever since. In 2000, Mr. DeSisto, Jimmy Jones and Don Schneeberger purchased the company. Wolk passed away in 2003. Jones retired two years ago,
making DeSisto and Schneeberger 50-percent owners. However, the firm maintains the name DeSisto, Jones, Schneeberger & Associates, P.C.
According to the corporation’s home-page, “… The Golden Triangle-based firm concentrates primarily on personalized tax planning and advisory services for individuals, closely-held businesses and foundations. Our goal is to become sufficiently knowledgeable about each of our client’s tax and financial affairs so that we can offer suggestions and make recommendations that are appropriate given their particular circumstances.”
In addition to his successful career, DeSisto is also blessed as a family man.
He’s been married to Jewel Murphy DeSisto for 30 years, and the couple has two children, Nicholas, 29 and Natalie, 26. Nick joined the CPA firm five years ago, he said.
“My wife and I have always shared a passion for golf. We started playing in our early 30s and haven’t lost our passion. We have a home on a golf course, just outside of Hilton Head, South Carolina. “She lives there full-time and plays golf almost every day. I get down there as often as I can. We have played hundreds of rounds together, and yes, she did beat me a few times,” he admitted.
Though he’s nearing what was once considered retirement age, DeSisto says he has no concrete plans to hang-up his professional hat.
His wife is a retired nurse anesthetist at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital, he said.
Although he earned a reputation as a “tough cookie” in his youth, Artie DeSisto says some of those high school football hits are rearing its ugly head, these days.
In recent years he has experienced football-related set-backs, including two back surgeries and diverticulitis (colon-related complications). In 2016, he had quadruple heart-bypass surgery to help repair several 95-percent artery blockages. “The good news is that the ‘Widow Maker’ was only 40-percent blocked,” he said. “Thank God I made an amazing recovery and thank God for modern medicine.”
Always a native New Yorker, as youngsters, Artie DeSisto said he and his sisters enjoyed regular trips to the Bronx to visit their father, a U.S. postal worker.
“My dad grew up near Yankee Stadium and encountered Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig before and after games. My father attended Gehrig’s final ‘Luckiest Man On the Face of the Earth’ game/speech and he also saw Don Larsen’s perfect game in 1956. My family are forever Yankee fans, although my mom was a dedicated Pirates’ fan,” he smiled.
“Throughout my professional career as a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) and PFS (Personal Financial Specialist) I have dealt with CEOs, small business owners, doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs and others. They were all great people but so were the cashiers at the cafeteria, or the custodial staffers.
“Our coaches taught us more than just football and baseball. They taught us to work hard, work together as a team, stay humble in victory and gracious in defeat and respect your opponent. Those lessons carried over into my overall life,” he said.
He also credited Koppel baseball coaches Jiggy Nardone and Ron Thellman for their guidance.
“I love what I do for a living. I won’t do it forever and our South Carolina home will be a great retirement home someday. And yes — I do hope to shoot my age in golf one day,” he joked.
Timothy Cox is a Beaver Falls native and journalism-communications graduate of Point Park University in Pittsburgh. He also attended Slippery Rock University and CCBC. His journalism career includes stints with Scripps-Howard, Gannett and the Georgia Press Association. He currently freelances with publications in Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C., Washington, Pa., and the Beaver County Times.