Live, love and laughter keys to happiness for Monessen native Andy Dzurinko
Stay positive and stay active.
Those aren't just the parting words from Andy Dzurinko, but the life philosophy for the 69-year-old Monessen native.
“This all sounds so easy, but it's not,” Dzurinko said. “You have to be positive, you have to be active, and you have to have a sense of humor.
“And the best part? It doesn't cost you a penny to do any of this,” Dzurinko said.
A 1961 graduate of Monessen High School, Dzurinko has lived in Tempe, Ariz., since 1989.
In addition to his insurance business, he has co-authored two books: “The Power of Optimism, Insights to Personal and Professional Growth” and “LOL, Laugh Out Loud, Feel Good and Live Longer.”
Dzurinko often traveled the country as a motivational speaker. His message, though, hasn't changed.
“It's important, especially as you get older, that you are active mentally and physically,” he said. “And when I speak, I talk about that balance.”
Dzurinko doesn't just give advice – he lives it. This is a man who ran his first marathon at the age of 56.
But he's not asking others to exert themselves, but incorporate some kind of physical activity into their daily grind. Ten-minute walks scattered over the period of a work day make all the difference, he preaches. Don't have the time? Find some, he contends.
“I used to work in a corporate office and I was on the seventh floor,” he said.” I used to walk up and down those stairs just to do something or walk around the building at lunch.
“I know the corporate environment. It can drive you crazy, but little things you do everyday add up – and that's been proven.”
Dzurinko's parents are both deceased, but as he took care of his ailing mother, Anne Simon Dzurinko, he always made enough time for rest and exercise.
“My mom lived with me for seven years,” he said. “You have to take care of yourself first if you're going to be able to take care of your family and take care of others.”
He also insists on a maintaining a positive social environment – and that mostly includes avoiding negative people. It can be done, and in a mannerly fashion, he says.
“The question I get all the time is: ‘I know this person and they're the most negative person in the world. 'What can you do with this person?” Dzurinko said. “Some people are never, ever going to be positive. On that situation, I just say, ‘Be nice and move on'. You have to be around the right people.”
Sometimes, Dzurinko advises people to eliminate personal patterns that add unnecessary stress.
“I've got guys who say ‘Andy, I need an attitude change,' but they're waking up in the morning watching Fox News or reading the front page at night and getting all up in arms,” said Dzurinko, who swears he neither reads the front page nor watches any newscasts before bedtime.
“You have people thinking about all this turmoil when they should be trying to go to bed and rest. If you don't have enough sleep, that only compounds things.”
Another Dzurinko rule is moderation.
“I think that's where people fall down,” Dzurinko said. “I have guys in my gym saying, ‘Andy, I can't lose this weight'. You can come in here all day and do all this exercise, but if you're not watching what you're eating and drinking, it's not going to happen.”
Dzurinko put his fitness level to the test in September. He and good friend, Corwin Miller of Scottsdale, Ariz., climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
At 19,341 feet in altitude, it's the highest mountain on the African continent and the highest free-standing mountain in the world.
‘It's a six-and-a-half day journey. You start out in the tropical rainforest then you move up and stop at 10, 12, 14, and 15,000 feet to get acclimated to the elevation,” Dzurinko said. “Some have done it in a shorter period of time, but the success rate for people who take this slower pace is 98 percent.”
The challenge was two-fold.
“A lot of it is mental. You're walking in molasses, that's how slow you're going, and it's volcanic rock, so you have to stay focused on what your doing,” he said. “From a physical standpoint, it helps if you're in good shape.”
Dzurinko and Miller have also scaled Mt. Whitney in California as well as other mountains in the Rockies. They've never succumbed to the altitude sickness that claims many climbers around 12,000 feet up.
“To be honest, we didn't feel it and we've done (14,000 feet) on occasion, and never had any problems,” he said. “Some people just can't handle it whereas he and I never had any problems. We were fortunate.”
Dzurinko and Miller are planning another quest in June. This time, it's off to Peru to take on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Located in the Andes mountain range, the trail passes through Incan ruins.
“It's like a three-day, four-night trek up the mountain to the trail and it's fascinating,” Dzurinko said. “It's absolutely stunning and it's obviously historic because there are ruins from so many centuries ago.”
In his younger days, Dzurinko reserved his physical exertions for the gridiron.
A standout at offensive guard and defensive end, Dzurinko in 1961 was the first Greyhound to ever play in the prestigious Big 33 all-star game. In Dzurinko's senior year, Monessen went 9-1 under rookie coach Joe Gladys.
Dzurinko then continued his football career at Bucknell University.
He recalls those days with pride and revelry. For his accomplishments, Dzurinko was inducted into the Mid-Mon Valley All Sports Hall of Fame in 2009.
“To me, if it wasn't for growing up in that environment – it was like the United Nations when I grew up – I wouldn't be who I am now,” Dzurinko said.
“We played both ways in those days. Playing football was a way for me to get an education, but I was fortunate enough to play on winning teams at Monessen and Bucknell.”
After college, Dzurinko served two years of active duty with the U.S. Army, including a tour in Vietnam. He then returned home to earn his Masters degree from Pitt, before entering the insurance industry in 1978.
He worked for nearly 10 years in Indianapolis until permanently relocating to Arizona.
Dzurinko came home to Monessen twice in October to attend a dinner/roast for Gladys and to witness former Monessen and Bucknell standout Sam Havrilak's induction into the Pennsylvania State Sports Hall of Fame.
“I always talk about your roots and I'm proud of the fact I came from Monessen and never forgot where I came from,” he said.
“It's weird out here (in Arizona) because everyone has walls around their house. Being home brought back all the good memories: Porky Chedwick, Kennywood Park and all the good experiences living there in those days.”
Nowadays, Dzurinko finds camaraderie with The Pittsburgh Liars Club, a group of Western Pennsylvania natives who settled in the Grand Canyon State.
“We get together once a month and it's the greatest thing,” he said. “We have fun, tell stories, and embellish things People need to do that.
Socialization is so important and there's like a gazillion guys out here from the Pittsburgh area and we all connected through our interest in sports.”
Dzurinko lives near the Arizona State University and often frequents campus to soak in the educational setting.
“If you want to hike, ski, fish, hunt, it's all here,” he added. “The state of Arizona is not just a desert. You can go up to Flagstaff or down to Tucson, you have big-time college sports, theatres, metropolitan areas, and if you blindfolded someone and took them to Flagstaff, they would never believe they were still in Arizona.”
Now single after an “amicable parting” with his wife, Dzurinko has a son and daughter — and three grandchildren he often visits in Colorado.
The insurance business, just down the street, keeps him busy between adventures.
“I tell people I've never made a million dollars, but I feel like I'm successful,” he said. “It's all about the question ‘What kind of quality of life do you want to have as you get older?'” “I've been very fortunate up to this point with my health – and you can't buy health,” Dzurinko added. “Anything can happen any day, but as part of balance in my life, I try to do those things I preach.”
Anyone interested in Dzurinko's books can visit the website: www.thepowerofoptimism.com.
Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2635 or firstname.lastname@example.org