Last updated: June 30, 2020
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Loretto Telecom has a long history of serving its customers — and a legacy of women leading the way. That history began when Ralph and Louise Passarella bought the company in 1946.
Ralph Passarella was being discharged from the U.S. Coast Guard after serving during World War II, and Louise had experience as a switchboard operator. Passarella was still in Brooklyn, New York, doing his final discharge from the naval yard when the Loretto exchange came up for sale. “He told her to go ahead and buy it, even before he returned,” says Desda Passarella Hutchins, CEO of Loretto Telecom and the founders’ daughter.
Disaster struck just five months later when an ice storm destroyed the entire system. “Subscribers pitched in to help rebuild so that service could be restored quicker,” Ms. Hutchins says. The company grew, adding exchanges in St. Joseph, Ethridge and Leoma, becoming the first telephone company in the state to offer touch-tone telephone and long-distance dialing.
Raph died in 1968 and Louise became president — in a time when it was unusual for a woman to work in that role. Five years later she remarried, and her new name, Louise Brown, became known all over the state of Tennessee and beyond. Through the years Ms. Brown served as TTA president and served many years on its Board of Directors. In 1990, she was selected as one of the outstanding telecommunications executives in America by Telephony Magazine. She co-authored “Telephones for Tennessee,” a history of telephony in the state.
Ms. Brown has nurtured and cherished the ideals for a better tomorrow. “In order to accomplish this, I believed in first preserving the rich historical treasures of the area, seeing the past as an inspiration to the future,” she said in a recent company newsletter. “Persistent and goal-driven, I have always seen people as individuals, as ‘seeds for the future.’ I have a vision, formed not by cold, hard, calculating facts, but rather by the hope inside of me. My hope is that my legacy will continue, always striving to affect countless tomorrows, touching future lives.”
Building for the future
Since 1946, Loretto Telecom has been providing telecommunications services to residents and businesses across parts of Lawrence County, Tennessee. Loretto Telecom is capable of providing about 7,000 subscribers with phone and internet services over a 400-square-mile territory. These territories include the Ethridge exchange to the north and Leoma, Loretto, Five Points and St. Joseph exchanges to the south. In addition to voice and broadband, Loretto offers F-Secure Internet Security and Med-Alert medical monitoring services. The company has also put an emphasis on streaming TV options for customers.
In 2018, the company was acquired by SkyBest Communications and its parent company, SkyLine Membership Corp. Since then, Loretto Telecom has taken the lead in building a fiber optic network in Lawrence County. Being dedicated to providing the most advanced technology to customers and businesses is mandatory for business development and growth of the community. Loretto Telecom is focused on being a customer oriented service company by offering the best-in-class fiber internet service, hosted phone solutions and unmatched customer service.