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Oyler: Pittsburgh's connection to the USS Juneau

| Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, 1:27 a.m.

This week we have a guest columnist — my brother Joe Oyler — reporting on a significant event I was unable to attend. In his words:

Because I have been involved with three Chartiers Valley High School projects honoring casualties from our recent wars, their sponsor, Bob Rodrigues asked for my help on a different kind of project.

This project was led by one of Bob's former students, the Rev. Vincent Kolo, who graduated from Chartiers Valley in 1986. A Roman Catholic priest, he is currently a chaplain at UPMC Passavant.

In recent years Kolo, a fellow history buff, corresponded with Kelly Sullivan, the granddaughter of Albert Leo Sullivan.

Albert was one of the five Sullivan brothers who perished when the USS Juneau was sunk at Guadalcanal on Nov. 13, 1942, by a torpedo fired from a Japanese submarine.

When Kelly agreed to come to Pittsburgh and discuss this tragedy, Kolo made an effort to locate descendants of the 33 Pittsburgh area residents who also perished on the Juneau.

Since Bridgeville's Alexander Asti lost his life in the incident, I was asked to publicize the event in the Bridgeville area.

On Sept. 16 at Peters Place, Kelly was the guest speaker in an event titled “Pittsburgh's Connection to the USS Juneau and the Five Sullivan Brothers.” A program including biographies of the Sullivan brothers and the Pittsburgh sailors was given to each attendee.

Bob Rodrigues discussed events leading up to World War II and Kolo detailed the war in the South Pacific prior to Guadalcanal. After Kelly spoke, a Navy honor guard had a memorial service honoring the men who perished.

Her heartwarming and informative talk showed the closeness of the brothers, which led to their serving on the same ship, the family's response to the tragedy, and her heavy involvement with the U.S. Navy. Her involvement is with the decommissioned USS The Sullivans destroyer — now a museum in Buffalo, N.Y.; the active-duty USS The Sullivans guided-missile destroyer, and the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum.

Kelly teaches third grade in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Each year she shares the story of the Juneau and her connection with her students. Kelly noted how interested the children are in this history.

After the Sullivans perished, their parents embarked on a national speaking tour that inspired workers in hundreds of factories and shipyards, including a stop in Pittsburgh.

The Sullivan family dealt with their loss better than anyone can imagine. After meeting and hearing Kelly Sullivan, that is still evident four generations later.

There were 120 attendees at the event, nine of them from the Bridgeville area, including Alexander Asti's nephew Louis Asti and his wife, Sandi.

… My thanks to Joe for reporting on this event and to Kelly Sullivan, Kolo, and Rodrigues for their roles in making this event happen; we are fortunate to have people like them, committed to keeping our historical heritage alive.

John Oyler is a Tribune-Review contributing writer. Reach him at 412-343-1652 or Read more from him at

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