Facing life's challenges led to success
Part 1 of 4
It is, as curricula vitae are concerned, standard form detailing the experience and qualifications of John Anthony Maczuzak.
But there is much more to the life of the Ellsworth native, qualities that symbolize a true Renaissance man, an individual with wide-ranging intellect, accomplishments and interests.
“I've always been interested in many things,” said Maczuzak, a resident of Freedom in Beaver County since June. “There is so much in life that stimulates your mind and challenges you to use it creatively. I learned that early on and have tried to apply it throughout my life.”
Indeed Maczuzak, now “fully retired,” has been an outstanding athlete who played professional football, a scholar, a top-level leader in the steel industry, a musician and, most important, a devoted father, grandfather and family man.
“I'm one of 12 children who was blessed with loving and hard-working parents committed to guiding us in the right direction, making sure we made the most of our education and opportunities that came our way,” Maczuzak, 71, said. “My mother and dad were very strict, we knew their limits and never tried to take advantage of them. But they always encouraged us to do our best.”
Maczuzak's father, Peter Maczuzak Sr., was a Ukrainian who immigrated to the United States at age 18 in 1913 and went to work in the coal mines in Westmoreland County. His mother, Catherine Haverlaton Maczuzak, was born in Wilmington, Del., the daughter of Ukrainian immigrants who also settled in Westmoreland County. The elder Maczuzak died in 1974, and his wife passed away in 1981.
“My mother and father met at a church picnic in Slickville,” Maczuzak said. “He was 10 years older than her but it was love at first sight and they were married in 1923. They moved to Ellsworth in 1939 when my father got a job at the Bethlehem Mines there. We lived on Hickory Street, which was designated by the coal company as A-Row. It was a mixed ethnic neighborhood of Polish, Russian, Italian and Slovak families, our own melting pot. We called Ellsworth ‘International City' because of the diversity of the people who lived there. The population was about 1,100, and I believe Bentleyville was nearly twice that number. Times were good, the mines were going strong and businesses in our area were doing well.”
Maczuzak's surviving siblings are Mary Kadash, 88, Hatboro, Pa.; Olga Mikluscak, 84, Venice, Fla.; Michael Maczuzak, 81, Painesville, Ohio; Helen Novince, 77, and Sonia Vernallis, 67, Portage, Ind.; Patricia Petrisek, 73, Port Allegheny, Pa.; Paul Maczuzak, 65, Bentleyville (Somerset Township), and Ted Maczuzak, 61, Canton, Ohio. Their brother Peter Maczuzak and sisters Joanne Maczuzak and Catherine Luketich are deceased.
“All of us graduated from high school, and our parents were very proud of that accomplishment,” Maczuzak said. “Large families were not unusual in Ellsworth when I was growing up, and the parents wanted the best for their children. Like my mother and father, others came there with nothing – to work, raise their families and prepare them for a better future. I'm very proud of our family for succeeding and fulfilling our parents' hopes and dreams.”
Maczuzak carried those home-grown qualities and values to Ellsworth High School, where he graduated in 1959.
He was an outstanding football and basketball player who also served as class president from ninth through 12th grades, graduated with honors and ranked fourth academically in his class.
“We had a small graduating class, only 61 of us,” Maczuzak recalled. “I received a great education there. Lewis Angotti was the supervising principal and he ran a tight ship. He wanted you to learn and was committed to every student. Our teachers were the same way. Sports was part of the mix, but our studies were more important. I focused on mathematics, science and physics but enjoyed all of my classes. I knew they would be helpful along the way later.”
Because of his combined football and academic status, he received 27 college scholarship offers and opted to continue his education and athletic career at the University of Pittsburgh.
“When I went to Pitt, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do in terms of a career,” he said. “I thought about majoring in math but knew I didn't want to be a teacher. It was a great time in history because of Sputnik, the advent of the Space Age. That fascinated me, and I eventually gravitated to electrical engineering. Pitt was a private school at the time and had a solid reputation as one of the best engineering schools in the country. I was confident I would get an excellent education that would prepare me well for whatever path I might choose.”
Maczuzak received his bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from Pitt in 1965 and entered another round of recruiting.
“I had a number of job offers including those from Armco Steel, IBM and U.S. Steel,” he said. “I chose U.S. Steel because it seemed like the best fit for me.”
His career in the steel industry began in 1965 at the National Works of USS in McKeesport.
“The company had just launched a $1.5 billion expansion program and it was an exciting time to be with them,” Maczuzak said. “It was a wonderful experience, and I learned so much about various aspects of producing steel.”
He rose through the corporation gaining increasing responsibility and experience in maintenance, engineering, operations, purchasing and business development. He worked, in addition to other places, in Lorain, Ohio, at the Edgar Thomson Works in Braddock and the Fairless Hills Works in Bucks County.
In 1992 he became vice president of operations for the USS/Kobe Co. joint venture. Kobe is one of the leading manufacturers of steel in Japan.
In December 1995 he was promoted to vice president of business systems, purchasing and production planning for USS/Kobe and then became general manager of the firm's ProTec Coating Co.
Maczuzak moved to National Steel Corp. in May 1996 when he was named vice president and general manager of the company's Granite City Division in Granite City, Ill. He was promoted to president and chief operating officer of National Steel at its headquarters in Mishawaka, Indiana. He held that position when he retired in 2003.
Ron Paglia is a freelance writer.