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Obit for a Proud Slovak from Pittsburgh, PA

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  • BobHORGOS@aol.com
    Heinz worker was proud of his Slovak heritage By Jerry Vondas Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW Newspaper Saturday, April 13, 2002 It s only a small clubhouse on Jane
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 12, 2002
      Heinz worker was proud of his Slovak heritage

      By Jerry Vondas
      Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW Newspaper
      Saturday, April 13, 2002

      It's only a small clubhouse on Jane Street in the city's South Side, but for
      hundreds of immigrants from Eastern Europe, the John Kollar Slovak Society
      had been a beacon to guide them as they made their way in Pittsburgh.

      Today, the descendants of the founders of the John Kollar Slovak Society,
      like John Milanak, who died on Tuesday, April 9, 2002, are instilling Slovak
      pride in new generations.

      "The society acquaints men and women who have Slovak backgrounds with their
      rich heritage," said his wife, Susan Milanak. "They provide literature. And
      an interested person can also learn to speak the language.

      "John was also proud of his American heritage and the opportunity to serve
      his country. During World War II, John was wounded in the days following the
      Battle of the Bulge and received the Purple Heart."
      Mr. Milanak, who was 78, died from cardiac vascular problems. He was a
      resident of Lincoln Place, and a 41-year employee of the H.J. Heinz Co.

      Born and raised on the South Side, Mr. Milanak was one of five children in
      the family of Andrew and Anna Rose Gronsky Milanak, who emigrated from the
      Austro-Hungarian Empire.

      Andrew Milanak was employed at the South Side Works of the J&L Steel Corp.
      Like many of the young men who grew up during the Great Depression, John
      Milanak, like his older brother, Andy, dropped out of school to help the
      family after their father's death.

      In 1942, Mr. Milanak, after working at a variety of jobs, began his lengthy
      career with Heinz as a checker in the inspection department, where it was his
      job, said Mrs. Milanak, to inspect the cans for dents or the bottled
      condiments to see if the labels were properly placed.

      A year later, Mr. Milanak was inducted into the Army Air Corps. When it
      became apparent during the Battle of the Bulge that more infantrymen would be
      needed to stem the German tide, he was taken out of the Army Air Corps and
      placed in an infantry outfit that was sent to bolster the American troops in

      Following his discharge in 1945, Mr. Milanak returned to the Heinz Company.
      In 1947, he arranged to meet Susan Cerda, a West Homestead resident who was
      working in Heinz's condiment department. "When the time clock in our
      department broke down," Mrs. Milanak said, "we were asked to use the time
      clock in John's department. He asked one of my girlfriends to wait with him
      at the time clock when I went to punch out.

      "I was pleased. I liked him. John was a good dresser, polite, respectful and
      handsome. I found out later that he had been watching me as I waited for the
      streetcar after work, and had been looking for a way to meet me. We were
      married on June 12, 1948."

      The Milanaks eventually made their home in Lincoln Place, where they raised
      their three sons. Mr. Milanak was promoted to the position of superintendent
      of the Heinz Company store, where employees could buy products that weren't
      packaged correctly at a discount.

      His sons, Richard, Thomas and Alan, recalled the numerous times that their
      father, who was an ardent sports fan, would take them to Pirates games. "If
      Dad could get extra tickets, our friends were also welcomed to join us,"
      Richard Milanak said.

      Mr. Milanak is survived by his wife, Susan Cerda Milanak; sons, Thomas of
      Ross Township, Alan of South Park and Richard of Willow Street, Lancaster
      County; and grandchildren, Kimberly, Timothy, Emily, Katelyn and Luke. He was
      also the brother of Joseph Milanak of Bellevue, Anna Tatka of Carrick, and
      the late Mary Kedzuf and Andrew Milanak. A grandson, Mark Milanak, is also

      A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 9:30 a.m. today in St. Therese
      Church, Munhall. Memorial donations may be made to St. Paul's Monastery, 148
      Monastery Way, Pittsburgh, PA 15203. Arrangements by George Irvin Green
      Funeral Home Inc., 3511 Main St., Munhall.
      Jerry Vondas can be reached at jvondas@... or (412) 320-7823.
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