The Oravetz, Rebar, Prusak, Kuzio, Herpak, and Kovachik Families of Pennsylvania
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 1999  Issue 11 August 1999
Zella Herpak PrusakWelcome to the 18th annual family reunion of descendants of the Oravetz, Oravec, Rebar, Kovachik, Lelak, and Kozak families. In The Family Portrait this year we are featuring two stories about angels, a very interesting piece on the gratification of teaching English as a second language, an inspirational short biography that underscores the value of education, and a short piece on the origins of the Herpaks. Interspersed throughout those articles are a nice assortment of interesting tidbits about family members, from sports activities to the more mundane, such as what many of us do for a living. The Internet email address list has changed somewhat, but it's growing as more and more people get on-line. We hope you enjoy all the contributions this year!

Above: Zella (Herpak) Prusak

You will notice that we are again including a lot of old photographs this year. We would like to thank Norann Lustfield, Euless, Texas, a descendant of Barney and Mary (Kozak) Valco from Barnesboro for being a major source of these photographs. Another major contributor of pictures was Mike Kuzio, son of Veronica ("Verna")(Oravetz) and Michael Kuzio, who sent me two of weddings and two of graduations. Thanks to both Norann and Mike.

1998 Attendance

At the 1998 reunion there were about 68 attendees from 5 states.

Maryland: Joyce Rebar (Baltimore); Jean Hogan (Baltimore), Ed and Mary Rebar (Bowie), Natalie Rebar (Crofton); and Jim and Carolyn Rebar (Columbia).

Michigan: Bill and Donna Breyer and sons, Willie and Tim (Oxford); Karen Semik and daughters, Valerie Ann, Leah Kathleen, and Erica Lynn (Wales); Pat Kus-Curson and children, Cindy, Andy, and Jeff (Lake Orion); and John Rebar and daughters, Heather Ann and Teresa Marie (Clinton Township).

New York: Paul and Alta Johnson; Robert, Amy, Raylene and Phillip Bungo; and Elva Shaffer.

reun98.jpg (56632 bytes)Pennsylvania: Dave and Elsie Rebar (Whitney); Bill Cunningham (Janesville); Sara Mohar (Harrisburg); Laura Kohute (Houtzdale); Marlene and Dave Kohute (Ramey); Milessa Harchak (Osceola Mills); Becky Kohute (Houtzdale); Martha Miller and grandchildren, William and Jessica Dailey; Bob White and his mother, Mary White (Glenshaw); Betty Lechene (Elmora); John and Betty Kuzio and children, Matt, Dana, Melissa, Robert, Maria, and Monica (Barnesboro); Elma and Earl Venerick (Clearfield); Ed Linsenbigler (East McKeesport); Ethel Halligan (Verona); Wayne Rebar and Monica Mulcahy; Mike and Jean Kuzio and grandchildren, Kaitlyn, Zachary, and Brett (Altoona); Dot Polenik (Clymer); Mike Berzonsky; and Tisha Gallaher and son, Zackary. 

Virginia: Tony Pasquale (Centreville).


tishb1.gif (43002 bytes) Tisha Lynn (Baum) Gallaher, daughter of Elizabeth (Kuzio) Lechene and David Baum, married Michael Gomolka (son of Walter and Ann Gomolka) on June 7, 1999, at Ocean City, Maryland. Tisha is the granddaughter of Veronica (Oravetz) and Michael Kuzio, and great-granddaughter of Joseph and Mary (Lelak) Oravetz. 

Tisha's brother, David Michael Baum, married Wendy Marie Mentch (daughter of Kenneth and Marie Mentch of Penn Run, Pennsylvania). The ceremony was held at Grace United Methodist Church, Indiana Pennsylvania. The reception was at the Rustic Lodge in Indiana.

amprusa1.gif (29954 bytes)Anne Marie Prusak and Matthew Alex Hunkele were married on July 10, 1999, at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Roman Catholic Church, Kent State University Parish, in Kent, Ohio. Anne Marie is the daughter of William J. and Mary (Woodley) Prusak, granddaughter of Gizella (Herpak) and John Prusak, and great-granddaughter of Joseph and Josephine (Lelak) Herpak.

Wayne Patrick Rebar and Monica Rose Mulcahy were married on Saturday, May 29, 1999, at Our Lady of Grace Roman Catholic Church in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. The reception was held at the Ligonier Country Inn in Laughlintown. Wayne is the son of David and Elsie (Williams) Rebar, and grandson of John and Margaret (Oravetz) Rebar.

gmoms.jpg (54343 bytes) Mary Renee Pollock and Joel Michael O'Dorisio were 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. Joel is successful glass artist with an MFA from Alfred University (New York); Mary will be returning to school for a second degree in ceramic arts, and she plans to become certified to teach in New York. Joel and Mary have just purchased their first home in Corning, NY, where they own and manage Lost Angel Glass gallery. Joel’s work can be viewed on the Web: ( 

Karen Fleshman, daughter of Kathrine (Rebar) and Duane Fleshman, married Michael Stebner on July 3, 1998. Karen received a Master's degree from the University of Maryland in Baltmore in Genetic Counseling. Karen works for GenCare in Silver Spring, Maryland, and Mike is an engineer.


AnnMarie Nicole Paterno was born July 26, 1999 at North Shore Medical Center, Florida, to Robert James and Linda Kathleen (Kendall) Paterno of Miami Shores, Florida. She joins brothers Matthew and Robert, and sister Amelia. Ann Marie is the granddaughter of Mary Kay (Kovachik) Paterno, great-granddaughter of Matilda (Kovachik)(Burkholtz) Salley, and great-great-granddaughter of Joseph and Margaret (Lelak) Kovachik.


Loriegrad.gif (38252 bytes) Lorie Jane Kuzio, daughter of Michael and Jean (Parrish) Kuzio, graduated from Altoona Area High School, Altoona, Pennsylvania, and will be entering the U.S. Air Force on August 10, 1999. Basic Training will be at Lackland AFB, San Antonio, Texas. Lorie will train in Health Systems Management at Wichita Falls, Texas. 

Dana Kuzio, daughter of John and Betty (Bell) Kuzio, graduated from Northern Cambria High School on June 8, 1999.

General News

Sharon (Kuzio) Berkheimer, daughter of Michael and Jean Kuzio, has accepted a full time position at Pleasant Valley Elementary School in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Sharon goes into this position having been a full-time substitute teacher for 3 years.

Nancy Rebar, daughter of John and Margaret (Oravetz) Rebar, moved from Fairfax, Virginia, to Indiana, Pennsylvania, in August 1998. She is still adjusting to life back in the country.

Andy Polenik, husband of Dorothy (Rebar) Polenik, had a slight stroke in January. He is still recuperating, and is doing fine.

Shelley Cunningham, daughter of Earl ("Tony") and Elma (Rebar) Venerick, while working full time, completed her A.S. Degree in General Studies at Mount Aloysius College, a private Catholic College located in Cresson, PA, in December 1998. Shelley is an adult learner who began her college endeavor after working in clerical and support positions for over 20 years. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with a perfect 4.0 Grade Point Average and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the highest academic honor society for two year colleges. In July 1999 she began pursuing her Baccalaureate degree in Professional Studies in the Behavioral and Social Sciences program at Mount Aloysius. Her academic standing earned her a partial scholarship offer from Mount Aloysius to continue her education. She is now a full time student in addition to working full time in a clerical position at a state correctional institution and her goal is to become a Corrections Counselor. In addition to full time college student and full time employee, Shelley is a Certified Counselor/Advocate for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, volunteering her time to help victims of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault for the Centre County Women's Resource Center. In June she was honored by the Centre County Women's Resource Centre as an extraordinary volunteer. Shelley's message: It's never too late to continue your education. It is a continually rewarding and enlightening experience, and I believe it to be much easier with the benefit of my life experience than when I was younger. Call me if you need help getting started! Shelley Cunningham, 814-378-8335 or 814-943-2548. You can leave a message at either number and I will return your call.

willie.jpg (41896 bytes)Willie Breyer, 10th-grader son of Donna (Rebar) and Bill Breyer, is a high school wrestler. Last season, his team finished 1st in Regionals, District, and Flint (Michigan) Metro League, and placed 4th in State. Willie individually was 1st in District and Regional, 2nd in Flint Metro League, and 4th in State. At the State Tournament, Willie (at 185 lbs.) was pushed up a class to 215 lbs. by his coaches for the experience, and he beat a wrestler who was unbeaten to that point! Willie's football team also played well, finishing 4th in Michigan last year.

Tim Breyer, Donna's and Bill's other son, also shows much promise as a wrestler. Tim, an 8th grader, weighs in at 130. His team took 1st place in one tournament last season. Tim took 1st place in his class at the Lakeville and Goodrich tournaments.

Earl Venerick, son of Elma (Rebar) and Earl (a.k.a. "Tony") Venerick, loves to ski with his wife, Terri. So far, they have skied in France, Austria, British Columbia, Alberta (Canada), Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana.

Alan Rebar, son of Edward V. and Mary (Molnarko) Rebar, has just finished his second year teaching English as a second language to children in the Baltimore City Public School System. Alan lives in Baltimore. I think it's fascinating that someone in the family, whose mother's parents and father's grandparents (all immigrants) barely spoke English at all, is now teaching English as a second language to an entirely new generation of immigrants. See the related story at the end of the newsletter.

Joe and Barbara (Upton) Oravetz, and children Hayley, Nicholas, and Alexandra, were scheduled to move from Norway to Jakarta, Indonesia, in July 1999. Joe worked as Geophysical Advisor for Mobil Exploration Norway, Inc., doing exploration-related jobs in the Barents Sea.

Jean Fleshman, daughter of Kathrine (Rebar) and Duane Fleshman, received her Master's Degree from the University of New England in South Portland, Maine, and is now a social worker with New Pathways, a non-profit organization in Towson, Maryland.


paulalta.jpg (25040 bytes) Paul Johnson, husband of Alta (Bloom)(Bungo) Johnson, died on November 18, 1998. He would have been 78 in December. Paul and Alta were married on February 14, 1988, the second marriage for both of them, and they had 10 happy years together. Paul had gone for surgery for an aneurism, and complications set in. Paul and Alta made many of the family reunions. He will be sorely missed. Our sympathy to Alta and to both their families. Paul was a very sociable and likeable man, and we loved him. 

Althea J. Bianco, 48, Latrobe, sister of Elsie (Williams) Rebar, died January 7, 1999. She was born Nov. 7, 1950, in Altoona, a daughter of the Rev. Alfred B. Williams and Alice M. Irwin Williams. She was preceded in death by her father; and her husband, Staff Sgt. Hyacinth "Pete" Bianco. She is survived by her mother, Clymer; sons Ralph C. and Roy T. Wible, both of Everett; daughters Alethea Coolbaugh, Johnstown, and Danelle L. Bianco, Greensburg; brothers John M. Williams, Candor, N.Y., and Allen Williams, Clymer; and sisters Zoe Irwin, Buffalo, N.Y., Mrs. David (Elsie M.) Rebar, Whitney, Mrs. Barry (Susanna) Long, Penn Run, and Mrs. George (Rhoda) Gillien, Carrolltown; four grandchildren and several nieces and nephews. Friends were received at McCabe Funeral Home, Derry, where a funeral service was conducted Monday, January 11, 1999. Interment followed at Calvary Cemetery, Punxsutawney.

gus.jpg (7063 bytes)Gust J. Burkholtz, 56, of Oakley, California, formerly of Heilwood, Pennsylvania, died Monday, October 19, 1998, at Mt. Diablo Medical Center, Concord, Calif. Born May 26, 1942, he grew up in Heilwood and was a 1960 graduate of Penns Manor High School. Mr. Burkholtz was a U.S. Army veteran and was a manager for the Johns Manville Data Processing Center in Concord and San Mateo, California, for 20 years. He lived in Oakley, California, for the past 10 years where he sold real estate and was in the construction business. He enjoyed panning for gold, hunting and fishing. He is survived by his wife of 34 years, Maryann; a son, Andrew Korch, Dublin, California; two brothers: Michael Burkholtz, Penn Run; and Paul Burkholtz, Heilwood; three sisters: Mary Kay Paterno, Miami, Florida; Pauline Gaston, Clymer; and Marge Cernic, Penn Run. A memorial service was held on Friday, October 23, at Higgins Funeral Chapel in Antioch, California.

Margaret Kozak, about 92, passed away in Binghamton, New York, in January 1999. She was the daughter of George and Annie Kozak of Barnesboro, Pennsylvania. Her father, George, was the nephew of Kathrine (Kozak) Rebar, Anna (Kozak) Herpak, and Mary (Kozak) Valco. Margaret was probably the last living link with our immigrant ancestors, but all attempts to get information from her went unanswered. Her niece, Laureen Wiser, of Port Crane, New York, informed of Margaret's death, but provided no details, and has not answered our request for information.

Agnes Patrick, Brisbin, Pennsylvania, daughter of Elizabeth Jane (Swartz) and Lonnie Greenaway, died March 13, 1999. She was 76 years old. She was preceded in death by her husband in 1991 and son, who died in June 1982 after a year in a coma..We extend our sympathy to all her family.


Continuing with the custom begun in this newsletter about four years ago, I am including a story about my mother. My niece, Natalie, wanted to share a story of faith with you, and her brother, Alan, describes some of his work teaching English to immigrant children.

Angels, Anyone?
Dorothy (Rebar) Polenik

There are many people who believe in Angels. We all have a Guardian Angel. There may be some skeptics, but few, I'm sure. I am a firm believer because of an incident that must be told.

Everytime I took my mother, Margaret Rebar, to the hospital, I pulled into the emergency entrance, where the ambulances came; took her inside to the waiting room, then hurried to move the car and park in the parking garage and return to where Mom waited for me. (It was a long walk from the garage to the hospital and she was just too ill to walk.)

On this particular day it was in the 80's, a very still and quiet day. No one was about except a few people waiting for a bus at the lower end of the building. I opened the door of the car for Mom and she stepped down and then had to step up on the curb. I admit I may have been urging her to move faster, and when she stepped up onto the curb, she lost her balance and fell on both her knees. She was holding onto m y arm so the fall wasn't abrupt, but nevertheless could have been damaging.

Panic arose in my chest. Mom had edema and was dead weight. Could I lift her? At that moment a man appeared, dressed in rather Fall clothes, put his hands under her arms and lifted her upright as if she were light as a feather. I asked Mom if she was allright; she said she was. I turned around to thank the gentleman and he was nowhere in sight. In that second he could not have gone very far. I remember being very puzzled, but as the task remained of having Mom admitted, I let it go. I don't remember exactly when, but it finally occurred to me that the man was "an angel," probably Mom's "Guardian Angel." There was a need and he came to our rescue. I'll never be convinced otherwise. It's an indelible memory of mine.

An Angel Story
Natalie Rebar

My "angel story" is as follows. I have had many unexplainable circumstances happen to me or around me since I was "born again" last September, and I am positive God had/has a hand in them all! This one is perhaps the most dramatic example to date.

I was on my way one Saturday night in February 1999 to a to volleyball game in Annapolis, to play, not spectate. It dawned on me that I had not yet said my prayers for the day; I am in the habit of praying in the car on my way to work at 5 am every day, but on the weekends it's unscheduled. So I said a prayer including that God watch over me and the game so that everything would go smoothly. This was strange because I had never prayed about a volleyball game of all things; usually it's about schoolwork or trouble a friend is having or about Amber, by dog. I had been playing for about 6 months.

Anyway, the game went off without a hitch until about halfway through. I was standing behind the team captain on our side of the net when all of a sudden, he so overzealously hit the ball that he flew backwards into my space on the court, and his fist hit the area between my nose and jaw. VERY HARD. I immediately broke out into tears and the game was stopped. Two nurses who happened to be playing on the other team escorted me to the bathroom with some ice from the church's kitchen (again, my luck was good). They asked me if my nose had made a cracking noise (to indicate a broken nose) to which I responded a firm "no." Any teeth loose? "NO." Then they saw that the area had been made red and I sat out of the game for a while, so they could check it later.

When it happened, I was so calm like it happened to someone else. I did have some tenderness but the nurses said nothing had been broken. Not even a bloody nose or any bruising. This may all sound like no big deal until you consider the following:

1. His fist hit me with such an impact, had we been out on the street this would have been labeled "assault".

2. I have always bruised easily. When I was in grade school, kids joking around would hit each other in the arm as hard as they could. I would always bruise.

3. He could have broken any number of things on my face (teeth, jaw, nose) but the next day when I awoke the only thing different about my face, was that the inside of my nose was sore for a few days when I would blow it.

(Does anyone else have an angel episode? Tell us in the next newsletter.)

Teaching Today's Immigrants
Alan Rebar

I'm an ESL Teacher (English as a Second Language). Pre-K to 5th grade. I like the tiny tots the most because they're the most fun - the only way to teach them is to play games, listen to music, tell faerie tales, jump around... and their cheeks are so chubby... There were about 50 ESL kids at my school last year, and I taught about 35; the other ESL teacher, the rest. Lots of faces changed during the year as students moved out and others moved in. Thanks to mega-overcrowding, I taught all year in a cafeteria. Try that with ESL students. Interesting is the diplomatic way to describe the situation. Next year I may be in a room nearly as big as a shoebox, which could be an improvement. Or a nightmare. Here's the breakdown of languages and countries of origin for last year: Languages: Albanian, Arabic, Laotian, Spanish, a language from Sierra Leone...maybe one or two others that I forgot. Countries: Albania, Algeria, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Laos, Mexico, Peru, Sierra Leone, USA (Puerto Rico, California, NYC), maybe one or two others that I forgot.

Language levels were from no English to almost fluent in all the skills. No Slovaks but I know there have been some in the school system and it's always possible some might turn up. In the fall we may also be receiving rather a lot of refugees from Bosnia, Somalia and maybe Kosovo (Albanians). If everything that is expected happens, I figure we may have 80 to 100 ESL students next year. Things will be very hectic and very fun. Or maybe they don't show up and it's kind of like last year. Or maybe some Koreans, Vietnamese, or Cameroonians show up out of nowhere. Who knows?

Herpak Origins
Jim Rebar

joeherp.jpg (21214 bytes)The Herpak family descended from German farmers who had settled in Slovakia in the valley southeast of Košice sometime probably in the middle or late 1700s. In the earliest records, their name is spelled Herpach, and they are referred to as German, so the nationality is not in doubt. However, what remains to be researched is exactly how they came to settle in that one particular area, and perhaps it will never be fully known. There are three distinct possibilities which I will explore here, though there could be others. I have pretty much ruled out the third, that is, that the Herpaks had lived in the region for centuries, because they probably would not have been referred to as German in the church records from the 1800s if their ancestors had lived in the area for that long a time.

Above: Joe Herpak, Tom Valco (ca. 1909)

Regardless of the exact reason the Herpaks settled near Košice, there is no doubt that a key role was played by the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire, which reached its farthest extent slightly south of this region. During the time of the Turkish presence in Eastern European, the Habsburgs needed soldiers to defend the border areas. They established permanently policed military frontier zones along their southern borders. These areas were settled by agricultural colonists who, in return for land grants, served in the military units headed by their own members. Such frontiersmen were made up primarily of Croats, Serbs, and German colonists. That certainly is a possible explanation. (Extracted from the Historical Atlas of East Central Europe, by Paul Robert Magocsi, University of Washington Press, 1993)

Another possibility, also connected with the Ottoman Empire, concerns its collapse and the Turkish withdrawal from the region by 1700. The lands left by the Turks were completely depopulated. The Hungarians from the north and west and the Romanians from the south quickly moved back into the Hungarian Plain, but the area was still very sparsely populated. The Habsburg authorities encouraged peoples from other parts of their empire to settle as well, which let to a great influx of Germans. The Donauschwaben (Danube-Swabian) Migration refers to large-scale migration of individuals and families from German-speaking states to the areas of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire reconquered from the Ottoman Empire during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Many if not all of these migrants emigrated out of the areas of the ancient Suebi (Swabian) and Alemannic regions centered around Stuttgart and encompassing portions of modern Baden-Württemberg, Alsace, Lorraine, and Switzerland. Others hailed from Austria, other places in the Austro-Hungarian Empire or the Rhineland-Palatinate. These migrants often set out from the cities of Ulm or Günzburg traveling along the Danube River or on it via the famous "Ulmer Schachtel" (Ulm Crates or barges). (For further information see the Danube-Swabians / Donauschwaben Home Page on the Internet.)

Even before the Turkish invasion, there was a large German presence in Slovakia. German speaking people from Saxony, the Rhineland, Flanders, Bavaria, and Austria settled in Slovakia as early the mid-1100s. At that time the area was relatively thinly settled by Slovaks and Rusyn farmers, and Hungarian landowners, and was considered a frontier region by those living in the already-overpopulated lands in Germany and France. The Germans were known for their skills in farming and mining and were invited by a series of Hungarian rulers to settle. At one point during the Middle Ages, the German population may have reached 500,000 in Slovakia, and in many towns only Germans were allowed to own houses and belong to certain trade guilds. When the Turks invaded Hungary in 1526, thousands of Hungarians, peasants and nobility, fled into Slovakia, eventually gaining political importance at the expense of the Germans there. (Extracted from German Towns in Slovakia and Upper Hungary, by Duncan B. Gardiner, Third Edition, Lakewood, Ohio,1991)

Did the Herpaks move to Slovakia to become soldiers to defend the border regions against the Turks? Did they move in behind the retreating Turks to take possession of land at the request of the Habsburg rulers? Or did they migrate to the Košice area from an old homestead elsewhere in Slovakia? The only clue I have to work with as of this writing is that other inhabitants of the Herpak ancestral villages of Niná Myšl'a and Vyšná Myšl'a came there from Alsace. Does that mean the Herpaks were part of the Danube-Schwabian immigration? That is a very good question.

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


Photo Gallery

My family at my mother's funeral, August 1981. Left to right: John, Dave, Dot, Ed, Nancy, Jim, Frank.

Wedding photo of Karen White and Jerry Morgan, with parents, August 1972.

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