This year's newsletter is dedicated to Verna Kuzio, who died on June 9th
1998. When Verna died from complications during an aneurysm operation in June, it left a
void in many lives. We lost a mother, grandmother, aunt, sister, cousin, friend,
confidant, companion, and soul mate. She made her home a place of refuge where everyone
was welcome. Her cheerful smile often belied her own pain and sorrows, which were many.
You left her home or her presence feeling refreshed spiritually and physically. The pots
of coffee that she made and served her visitors would fill a well. Her generosity and
charity toward others fulfilled the Christian Spiritual and Corporeal Acts of Mercy. She
lived her faith! We who knew her well will miss her, but in our hearts we know that she is
with our Lord and his dear mother, Mary, and all her loved ones who preceded her. May the
perpetual light shine upon her!
Welcome to the 17th annual family reunion of descendants of the
Oravetz, Oravec, Rebar, Kovachik, Lelak, and Kozak families. In The Family Portrait
this year we are featuring four stories, some charts and a little surprise that showed up
last Wednesday evening: a hand-written note by Aunt Verna. Her son, Mike, found it and
sent it along. Unbeknownst to Mike, that very same story had already been included in this
Last year, we promised that Mike Kuzio would continue the story of tracking his Rusyn
roots, but circumstances did not allow it this year.
You will notice that we are including more old photographs this year. We welcome your
stories and picture contributions. As the Internet grows in popularity, we have new ways
to share these precious old photographs. Jim is working on a repository of photos,
scanning them into the computer and cleaning up cracks, tears and smudges.
Some new contacts were made this year with relatives in distant places. Betty Raymond,
in Michigan, Norann Lustfield, Euless, Texas, and Carl Knapp in Florida, are all
descendants of Barney and Mary (Kozak) Valco from Barnesboro. Jim has been corresponding
with them and just received a Valco family sketch from Norann this week especially for the
At the 1997 reunion there were 74 attendees from 5 states.
Florida: Albert and Peg Kovachik (Lutz); Frank and Barbara Rebar
(Ormond Beach); and Robert, Linda, Matthew, and Amelia Paterno (Miami);
Virginia: Nancy Rebar (Fairfax); and Tony Pasquale (Centreville)
Maryland: Joyce Rebar (Baltimore);
Jean Hogan (Baltimore); Ed and Mary Rebar (Bowie); Natalie Rebar (Crofton); Jim and
Carolyn Rebar (Columbia); and Mary Ann and Tony Rosano (Walkersville);
Michigan: John and Teresa
Rebar, Patty Kus-Curson, son Jeff Curson, and other children Christopher
and Andy Kus (Lake Orion); Karen, Rick, Leah, Erica, and Valerie Semik;
and Stella Rebar;
Pennsylvania: Bunni and Betina Rebar (Clearfield); Sandy and Bill
Harchak and children Melissa, Zachary and Mackenzie (Osceola Mills); Marlene Kohute
(Ramey); Elma and Tony Venerick (Clearfield); Shelley and Bill Cunningham; Sara and Paul
Mohar (Harrisburg); Mike and Jean Kuzio (Altoona); Tisha and Carl Gallaher and son Zachary
(Westover); Betty Lechene and friend Mike Berzorsky (Bakerton); Verna Kuzio (Bakerton);
George and Lynn Kohute; Brian and Amanda Milliron (friends of the Kohutes); Christopher
Bungo; Dave and Elsie Rebar (Whitney); David Rebar, Jr. (Whitney); Wayne Rebar
(Greensburg); Donna Sivy (Pittsburgh); Ed Linsenbigler (East McKeesport); John and Betty
Kuzio and children Matthew, Dana, Mellissa, Robert, Marie, and Monica (Barnesboro R.D.);
and Dot and Andy Polenik (Clymer R.D.).
White died September 23, 1997. George was born on January 16, 1910, and is survived by his
wife, Mary (Oravetz), children Karen (White) Morgan, George Jr., and Robert, and
grand-children Scott White, Christopher Morgan, and Shawn and Matthew White. George was a
member of our family for more than 50 years, so it seems that he was always there. He was
the ultimate teaser and joke-teller. I lived with George and Mary for 3 years when I
worked in Pittsburgh, and he was like a second father to me. Our entire family will miss
him very much.
Catherine Blaha Kozak, 83, formerly of Ginter, died Thursday morning, Oct, 30, 1997 at
Altoona Hospital. She made her home with Mr. and Mrs. Casey Jones of Irvona for the past
eight months. She was born April 30,1914, in Viola, Gulich Township, the daughter of the
late Metro and Mary (Zazworsky) Blaha. She married Raymond A. Kozak. He died June 18,
1995. Mrs. Kozak was a member of Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Ramey. She was assistant
postmaster of Ginter for 40 years. Surviving are a brother, Michael in Oregon; and four
sisters: Anna Rawls and Olga Elliot, both in New Jersey, Marge Gurskey in Florida and Mary
Rudison in Ohio. A daughter, Marjory Ann, preceded her in death.
I was able to meet Catherine and Raymond Kozak a couple of years ago. They both seemed
to be very nice people. Raymond was the nephew of my grandparents, Andrew and Kathrine
Veronica Kuzio, 82, (Bakerton) Elmora, died June 9, 1998, at Bon Secours-Holy Family
Hospital, Altoona. Born May 15,1916, in Barnesboro, daughter of Joseph and Maria (Lelak)
Oravetz. Preceded in death by parents; husband, Michael, who died May 28, 1995; son,
Joseph; infant daughter, Mary Kay; brother, Rudolph; and sister, Margaret Rebar. Survived
by children: Michael J. Kuzio, Altoona; John J. Kuzio, Nicktown; and Elizabeth Ann
Lechene, Bakerton; 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Sister of Mary White,
Glenshaw, Pa. Also survived by numerous nieces and nephews. Retired, in 1970, from
Ebensburg State School, after 11 years' service. Her interests were her grandchildren.
Member of St. Jude Catholic Church, Bakerton. The viewing was at Stevens Funeral Homes
Inc., Carrolltown. A funeral Mass was celebrated on Saturday, June 13, at St. Jude church,
the Rev. Dr. David W. Cronauer officiating. Interment followed at SS. Peter & Paul
Pollock and Joel Michael O'Dorisio will be married in a Nuptial Mass August 9, 1998, at
Our Lady of the Valley RC Church in Sheffield, Massachusetts. Mary is the daughter of
Carolyn (Young) Rebar, wife of Jim Rebar. Mary can trace her ancestry back to the original
German settlers of Pennsylvania in the early 1700s. Mary is a Customer Service
Representative at Sheffield Pottery, Sheffield, Massachusetts. She plans to return to
college for a second B.A. in Ceramic Arts at Alfred University, Alfred, N.Y., in 1999.
Joel is a professional glass blower. They will soon relocate to Corning, N.Y., where they
will open a glass works.
Rebar, son of Dave and Elsie (Williams) Rebar, and Monica Rose Mulcahy,
both of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, recently announced their engagement.
Wayne is a 1987 graduate of Greater Latrobe High School, and is an Army
veteran. He is currently attending classes at Westmoreland Community College.
Monica, a 1993 graduate of Ligonier Valley High School, is also attending
Westmoreland Community College. The couple plan to marry in the Spring
Tyler Kenneth Wadding was born on August 8, 1997, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Tyler
joins brother, Joshua. The proud parents are Margaret Ann (Cernik) and David Wadding.
Tyler is the grandson of Margaret Ann (Burkholtz) and Casey Cernik, great-grandson of
Matilda ("Tillie") (Kovachik) and Gus Burkholtz, and great-great-grandson of
Margaret (Lelak) and Joseph Kovachik.
Jacob Michael Pollock was born on October 12, 1997, to Daniel and Mindy (Balukonis)
Pollock, of Lecanto, Florida. Baby Jacob is the grandson of James and Carolyn (Young)
Brett James McCaulley was born on January 3, 1998, in Altoona, Pennsylvania, to
Michelle Lynne (Kuzio) and Christopher Robert McCaulley. Brett is the grandson of Michael
and Jean (Parrish) Kuzio, great-grandson of Verna (Oravetz) and Mike Kuzio, and
great-great-grandson of Joseph and Mary (Lelak) Oravetz.
Laura Dawn Kohute was born 5:01 a.m., February 20, 1998. The proud parents are David
and Rebecca (Noble) Kohute. Laura Dawn is the granddaughter of Marlene and David Kohute,
and great-granddaughter of Joseph and Elizabeth (Swartz) Rebar. She is the
great-great-granddaughter of Andrew and Kathrine (Kozak) Rebar.
Ruby Sage Pollock was born on June 28, 1998 to David and Tamsyn (Paddy) Pollock, of
Reno, Nevada. Baby Ruby is the granddaughter of James and Carolyn (Young) Rebar.
Susie Prusak, daughter of John and Sylvia Prusak, graduated from the Pharmacy School at
the University of Cincinnati. That is a wonderful career choice, and we wish Susie all the
success in the world.
Anne Marie Prusak, daughter of Bill and Mary (Woodley) Prusak, recently received her
Master's Degree. As of this writing, I don't know Anne Marie's area of study, but we
wanted to make sure to congratulate her.
David Amen, son of John and Patty (Prusak) Amen, graduated from Toledo University with
a degree in computer programming. He already has a job with the May Company. Another
excellent carreer choice, and we're sure David will have great success.
Bill and Mary
(Woodley) Prusak of Parma, Ohio, were involved in a car accident in April 1997. They are
still mending. A young woman ran a stop sign, crashing into Bill and Mary, causing their
car to flip over.
Mary (Molnarko) Rebar, wife of Ed Rebar, had major surgery last winter, and is
Melissa Harchak, daughter of Bill and Sandy Harchak (Osceola Mills) and granddaughter
of David and Marlene (Rebar) Kohute, danced in ballet theater in a presentation of
"Poles from Russia." She also had a perfect attendance last year in the 3rd
Grade. Her brother, Zachary, won the 1st Grade Spelling Bee.
Jeffrey Curson, son
of Pat (Rebar) Kus-Curson, was baptised on June 28, 1998, at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic
Church, Lake Orion, Michigan.
Christopher Bungo, son of George Kohute III, made honor roll in 3rd Grade,
and in his karate class as well.
Jason Kohute, son of Stephen Kohute, graduated from the 6th Grade.
Continuing with the custom begun in this newsletter about fours years ago, I am
including the stories below about the death of my grandmother, Maria (Lelak) Oravetz, the
story of the George Kozak family, and another short piece on the Lelak sisters. So little
written history remains about these brave ancestors of ours, who gave up everything to
come to this country, and I want to preserve as much of the oral history as I can.
Maria (Lelak) Oravetz
Dot (Rebar) Polenik
June 13, 1942
Maria (Lelak) Oravetz loved to work in her garden. She always wore her husband's (Joseph) old felt hat to keep the sun's rays off her face. She also wore his old shoes to
keep from sinking in the soft soil. These were the days before athletic shoes were in
vogue. On this particular day she felt very faint so came into the house and lay down on
Verna and Mary,
her daughters, came home every day at lunch time to eat the noon-day meal prepared by
their mother. They worked in the local shirt factory in Barnesboro, located in the valley,
and their home was about 3 city blocks up a very steep hill on Elder Avenue. They walked
up the hill because they did not own a car. Verna was already married (September 13, 1941)
and she and her husband, Mike, started housekeeping in an apartment in Barnesboro, but she
continued to go home at noon to be with her mother and sister. They were very close.
When they arrived home, they were alarmed to see their mother lying down and seeming to
be in a state of shock. She was sweating profusely and was drenched and very pale. She was
diabetic and was going into a diabetic shock. She kept saying she smelled roses, and at
one point, she said, "What beautiful roses on the sewing machine!"
It was decided that Mary would get the priest. Verna stayed behind with their mother
and tried to ease her discomfort with cool cloths on her forehead. They had no telephone
in the house so Mary had to run about 2 ½ city blocks to St. John's Slovak church. The
priest was not home so the housekeeper called the Italian priest from Mt. Carmel church to
go to the house. The housekeeper presumedly also called a doctor and he later went up to
the house (Dr. Sloan).
While Mary was gone, Maria asked Verna who that beautiful lady was, coming into the
room. At this particular moment she appeared calm, but animated. Verna did not see anyone.
A few seconds later, as the noon day church bells were ringing the Angelus, Maria closed
her eyes, and with a lovely smile on her face, she expired.
The priest arrived and gave her the Sacrament of Extreme Unction, now called Anointing
of the Sick. Dr. Sloan pronounced her dead. Insulin was new in thoses days, and when the
doctor said they should have given her an insulin shot, they didn't know anything about
it. Maria's family doctor only had her on a sugarless diet and apparently was not up to
date on insulin medication.
Our family has always believed that Maria saw an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary
that day. It is said that flowers and their sweet scent are often associated with visions
and miracles of the saints. Maria worshipped Christ and especially loved his mother, Mary.
She was a member of the Legion of Mary.
The nuns at St. John's said that to die on June 13th was a good omen. We
cannot remember the explanation but do know that it is the feast day of St.Anthony of
Padua, who had the happiness of receiving in his arms our Blessed Lord in the guise of a
The "Angelus" is a prayer said at the sound of the bells at
noon in honor of the Incarnation of the Son of God.
George and Anna (Barnic) Kozak
The following story was submitted by Bertha (Kozak)
Kost, about her mother and father, George and Anna (Barnic) Kozak,
as told to her daughter, Ann (Kost) Closson, the grand-daughter of
George and Anna. Ann wrote this for her children, hence the reference
to 'Great-Grandma Anna.' Austria in the story should probably be Slovakia,
and the city was more than likely Kosice, not Vienna. Here's Bertha's
Great-Grandma Anna (Barnic) Kozak and Great-Grandpa George Kozak were born
in Austria. Anna's parents died of cholera during an epidemic in 1860. They died in the
fields. There were so many people that died, and they could not bury them fast enough.
They then put llme over the bodies to keep the odor down.
Roman Catholic Church, Nizna Mysl'a, Slovakia
Anna had seven sisters and
brothers. She never saw them after her parents died.
The bishops and the Jewish people were the only ones who could take care of the men,
women and children. A bishop took Anna and twenty two children in to raise. They taught
Anna to be a pastry cook. At twelve years old she went to work for a Jewish family. She
took care of the children and did all the cleaning and cooking. One year's pay was a pair
of shoes, a dress and two dollars.
Anna met George Kozak at the Jewish family home. George was a butler and gardner.
Anna and George fell in love and got married in 1885 in Vienna, Austria. Thay had two
children, Andrew and Zella.
Three years later in 1888 George came to America. It took many weeks on
the boat. They arrived in New York. All the men and their friends were sent to a small
coal mining town, called Ramey.
George worked for two years and saved money for his wife
Anna and their two children, Andrew and Zella, to come to America. They arrived in 1890.
Zella died a short time after they arrived here. She died of typhoid fever.
Above: Interior of Nizna Mysl'a RC Church
A good pay for George was twenty dollars a month.
George and Anna had eight children. Andrew was born in Austria in 1886; George was born
in 1892; Bertha Margaret was born in 1894; the twins, Anna and Marie, were born in 1896;
Stephen was born in 1898; Helen was born in 1900; and John was born in 1902.
They all went to Sacred Heart Catholic church in Houtzdale.
The boys all worked in the coal mines with their dad.
Then, eventually Steve and John went to work in the Altoona railroad shops. George went
to Pittsburgh and was a street car conductor. Andrew bought a hotel and post office. Marie
worked at the Ward Hotel in Tyrone as a seamstress. Bertha worked as a waitress at the
Anna (Barnic) Kozak died of a heart attack at the age of 51. It was so sad for all the
children. Bertha and Helen remembered that they went in a horse and buggy to pick a
cemetery lot. It was pouring rain, and there were many tears shed for many miles. The
caretaker was not home, so they all made the trip again the next day.
They remembered how Anna wanted to go back to Vienna, Austria. She said it was so
beautiful and clean. She would say she scrubbed on her hands and knees the black coal
miner's clothes every Saturday. She remembered in Austria she would go dancing every
Saturday night on the street.
All the girls helped to care for their dad. Helen was 15 years old and kept house until
she got married in 1923. Bertha got married in 1923 also. The children took turns in
caring for their dad.
George died at Bellefonte at Anna's home at the age of 92 in 1949.
Dot (Rebar) Polenik
Margaret (Lelak) Kovachik, sister of Mary (Lelak) Oravetz and Josephine(Lelak) Herpak,
was a petite lady; very pleasant, hard-working, with a wonderful sense of humor, and much
kindness. She had much sorrow in her life but she kept a cheerful attitude. She and her
sister, Mary, saw each other every day since they lived next door to each other, and that
perhaps sustained her, although Mary died in 1941, and she became the surviving sister.
You could see the love they had for each other. Margaret died in 1953 from cancer.
Josephine (Lelak) Herpak also was petite and had the same traits as her sister, from
what I remember and was also told. Her nickname "Peppy" would denote her personality, even though
the nickname is Slovak (or Hungarian) and was given to her in the Old Country. "Aunt
Peppy" is what we called her. Until her untimely death in the early 1930s she visited
her sisters every Sunday. The Herpaks lived about 2 ½ city blocks from the Oravetzes and
Kovachiks. Josephine died during child birth in 1931, leaving Steve and Zella without a
The children of the 3 sisters grew up together. We will be writing more on the families
in the future.
All 3 sisters are buried with their husbands in the Slovak Cemetery in North
Barnesboro, Pennsylvania, not far from each other.
The Valco Family
Maria Kozak, sister of Kathrine (Kozak) Rebar and Anna (Kozak) Herpak, married
Valentinus (Barney) Valko in Slovakia. In about 1887 the couple and their infant son
Thomas came to the U.S. They settled in Barnesboro, Pennyslvania, where he worked in the
coal mines. Barney built three homes on Railroad Avenue, one for his family and two to
rent out. They had another child in 1897, a girl named Helen. Helen married Andrew Knapp
and settled in Detroit, where he was an engineer for Kelvinator. Thomas married Helen Osif
and stayed in Barnesboro to raise 5 children. Thomas was a coal miner. Thomas and Helen
lived on Railroad Avenue with Thomas' parents. Their children were: Ruth born in 1915;
Evelyn born in 1917; Norman born in 1919; Elmer born in 1924; and Mary Elizabeth
"Betty" born in 1926. As each one finished high school, each moved to Detroit;
usually staying with their Aunt Helen until they could get jobs and places of their own.
Barney died in the 1920's and Mary died in 1953 at age 88. Thomas died in 1956 and Helen
died in 1989 at age 95.
Ruth married James Brosnan and they settled in the Detroit area. They adopted two
daughters, Catherine and Patricia. Catherine Stevenson now lives in Florida and has one
son, Curtis. Patricia Cerretani lives in the Binghamton, New York, area and has three
children, Jaqueline, Nicholas, and Patrick. Jim died in 1984 and Ruth died in 1987.
Evelyn married Ed Janssen and they also settled in the Detroit area and
had 4 children, Marlys, Bruce, Elaine and David. David died at nine years
old. Marlys Hasey lives in Florida; she has two daughters, Christine and
Colleen. Bruce married Jody and lives in Boyne City, Michigan. Elaine
and Tom Jackson settled in Lansing, Michigan, and have three children,
twins Brian and Nicole, and Kevin. Evelyn died in 1994.
Norman married Lois McIntyre and settled in Corpus Christi, Texas to raise three
children. Norann Lustfield now lives in Dallas-Ft. Worth area and has one daughter, Lee
Ann. Larry married Connie and is now living in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. They have one
boy, Bud, and one daughter, Leslie. Tommy married Carolyn and they now live in Raleigh,
North Carolina. They have a daughter, Kimberly and a son, John Thomas.
Elmer never married. He settled in the Cleveland area where he is now retired.
Betty married Norman Raymond and raised 5 children in the Detroit rea. Greg
lives in San Diego California . Janet and James Adler live in the Nashville,
Tennessee, area and have two daughters, Lindsay and Rachel. Joseph married
Donna and settled in the Detroit area with three sons, Jessie, Joseph,
and Jacob. Paula died in 1991 in an auto accident. Lisa Dzwilewski lives
in the Detroit area and has one son, Michael.
Well, that's it for another year and another newsletter. Please remember to
drop us a line next year when you get the reunion invitation, and let
us know of any special events that have occurred in your family. We want
everyone to feel like they're a part of the family, and we do this by
sharing your information with others. You can play a big role in this
Dot Polenik and Jim Rebar
Many people save both the newsletter and the invitation. On last year's
family reunion invitation, the young boy in the picture (the same picture
appears above) was incorrectly identified as Helen Valco's son. He is really
Eddie Linsenbigler, son of William and Helen (Oravec) Linsenbigler. The
woman behind him, Elisabeth (Javorsky) Oravec, is his grandmother.
Children of Alex and Elizabeth Javorszky Oravec
Zella Herpak Prusak and Verna Keblesh Oravetz.