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Valley News Dispatch

West Deer woman who loves family, hard work marks 100th birthday

Matthew Medsger
| Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, 8:39 p.m.
Verna Pernick, of West Deer, turns 100 years old on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018..
Courtesy of Elaine Hickok
Verna Pernick, of West Deer, turns 100 years old on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018..
Verna Pernick and her husband, John Kelly Pernick, on the day of their wedding in 1942.
Courtesy of Elaine Hickok
Verna Pernick and her husband, John Kelly Pernick, on the day of their wedding in 1942.

Over the course of her 100-year life, Verna Pernick of West Deer has been defined by an indispensable trait: hard work.

Pernick's daughter Elaine Hickok described her mother, who turns 100 on Valentine's Day, as the original Rosie the Riveter.

“She's always been a very hardworking woman,” Hickok, of West Deer, said. “She was a worker, an unbelievable worker.”

According to Pernick, the secret to her longevity is that she was able to “stay young at heart.”

She was born Verna Shupek to Austrian immigrant parents in 1918, and her education ended early, Hickok said. She said her mother had to leave school in the fourth grade to help on the family farm in Tarentum.

From there, she would make her way to the shipyards in Ambridge, where she met her future husband, John Kelly Pernick. They married in 1942.

At the time, the shipyards were working nonstop to fill the needs of a nation at war. The job of building ships that the military required could have been enough for most people, but not Pernick.

The couple started their family during those years and eventually raised five children.

Hickok said her mom took to the role of motherhood like a duck to water.

“She was such a devoted mother to her children. She would work shift work — get in at midnight or 1 and get up and get us ready to go to school, all while baking fresh homemade rolls and taking care of her elderly parents and her three siblings,” Hickok said.

Pernick held many jobs over the years and belonged to several unions, including the United Steelworkers and the Glass Bottle Blowers' Association of the United States in Glenshaw.

Pernick was self-taught, according to her daughter, who said her mother always wanted to drive, but her dad didn't want to show her how.

“So she saved up her own money and bought herself a car and taught herself to drive,” Hickok said. “She has always been just so determined. A real strong-willed, hard-working, loving woman.”

John Pernick Sr. of Buffalo Township, the eldest of the five children, said his mother's secret to a long life is rooted in her hardworking lifestyle.

“Back when she was young, food quality was better — she had a farm life. A lot of hard work,” he said. “She was always sacrificing on her part to take care of her family.”

Pernick will have a small celebration with her family for her birthday, but there are plans for a larger party in the spring, according to Hickok.

John Kelly Pernick passed away in 1990.

One of the couple's five children, Daniel Pernick, died in March of last year. Patrick Pernick is living in Tennessee, and his sister Patricia Lotti lives in West Deer.

Matthew Medsger is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4675, mmedsger@tribweb.com or via Twitter @matthew_medsger.

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