The Oravetz, Rebar, Prusak, Kuzio, Herpak, and Kovachik Families of Pennsylvania
Weddings Births Graduations Obituaries General News Home

 1998 Issue 10 August 1998
Aunt Verna 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 newsletter. Coincidence?

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 Newsletter.

1997 Attendance

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.).


Verna, George, MaryGeorge 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 (Kozak) Rebar.

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 Cemetery, Bakerton.


Mary Renee 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.

way_mon.jpg (9108 bytes)Wayne 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 of 1999.


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) Rebar.

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.

General News

Bill, Mary PrusakBill 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 recovering nicely.

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 OravetzMaria (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 the couch.

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 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.

maruve1.gif (12448 bytes) 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 child.

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 moving story:

Nizna Mysla Church 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.

Nizna Mysla ChurchThree 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 Ward also.

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

margar2.gif (42510 bytes)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 city blocks from the Oravetzes and Kovachiks. Josephine died during child birth in 1931, leaving Steve and Zella without a mother.

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
Norann Lustfield

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 endeavor.

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.

Photo Gallery

Children of Alex and Elizabeth Javorszky Oravec

Zella Herpak Prusak and Verna Keblesh Oravetz.

©2006 James Rebar HomeBack to TopNewsletters