Dominic Lettieri, 73, retired teacher, religious broadcaster

Posted: January 09, 2007

Dominic R. Lettieri, 73, of Havertown, a retired teacher who operated a Catholic radio ministry, died of cancer Wednesday at home.

For 30 years, Mr. Lettieri operated the ministry, In His Sign Network, with volunteer staff and private donations. For 20 years, the network featured the daily program he hosted, Putting It on the Line. For 10 years, he also hosted Help Wake Up America. The programs aired on WTMR-AM (800) in Philadelphia. He last broadcast from his studio in Rosemont on Dec. 12. His daughter Mary said family and friends planned to continue the broadcasts.

Mr. Lettieri's guests on Putting It on the Line included then-Vice President George H.W. Bush, Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey, and Catholic television personality Mother Angelica. A fan of Eagles football and Big Five basketball, Mr. Lettieri interviewed Eagles general manager Jim Murray and St. Joseph's University basketball coach Phil Martelli on the air.

Though he was a staunch supporter of Catholic doctrine, his daughter said, people of all faiths called into the programs. She said her father had inspired one nonpracticing Jewish man to return to the synagogue.

Mr. Lettieri organized the annual Catholic Unity Conference for the last 11 years. In 1976, he assisted with public relations for the Eucharistic Conference in Philadelphia, where he met Mother Teresa.

He graduated from Philadelphia's Southeast Catholic High School, now SS. John Neumann and Maria Goretti Catholic High School. He served in the Air Force in the States during the Korean War and remained in the Air Force Reserve, retiring as a lieutenant colonel in the early 1990s.

He earned a bachelor's degree from St. Joseph's College and a master's degree in theology from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. For several years, he worked in his father's clothing-manufacturing business in Philadelphia. When it closed in the 1970s, he told a reporter, he "had an intense calling from Jesus" to start his radio ministry.

He began running his fledgling show from his garage in South Philadelphia in the late afternoon and supported his family by teaching at John W. Hallahan Catholic High School for Girls in Philadelphia. He retired from Hallahan in 1993.

Mr. Lettieri acted in Air Force and local theater productions and, in college, participated in a student competition with Alan Alda. Every December, he read Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol on the air and did all the voices, his daughter said.

His first wife, Patricia Avallone Lettieri, died in 1986.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Lettieri is survived by his wife of 17 years, Joan Crawford Lettieri; a son, Tom; another daughter, Angela McCarthy; stepsons Kevin, Brian, Keith and Tim Crawford; a brother; and 12 grandchildren.

A Funeral Mass was said yesterday at St. Pius X Roman Catholic Church. Burial was in St. Denis Cemetery, Havertown.

Memorial donations may be made to In His Sign Network, 136 Garrett Rd., Rosemont, Pa. 19010.

Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or sdowney@phillynews.com.

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