McCullough Elementary School community mourns loss of Ms. Joschak
One of the biggest surprises of Nick Popovich's 16th birthday last November happened because of his old first-grade teacher at McCullough Elementary School.
Intimately aware of Nick's love of Pitt athletics, Marilyn Joschak and her fiancé, Ray Mlinarich, bombarded the Popoviches' front yard with Panthers balloons and streamers and other basketball decorations.
The episode is one of the many reasons Nick, his younger sister Natasha and his parents remained so close to Joschak years after he was a special-needs student in her class.
It's also why Nick's mother, Lisa, said she wanted to be the one who gave Nick and Natasha the shocking news that their vibrant, popular former teacher abruptly died on Aug. 28, two days after turning 57.
“Our family lost a special link, and I keep telling my kids, ‘Boy, are we lucky to have this beautiful angel who is on our side,'” Lisa Popovich said.
Joschak, of Manor, had just started her 20th year at McCullough on Aug. 22. She died from symptoms related to previously undetected heart disease, said Jessica Joschak, 24, the youngest of her three children.
Jessica Joschak said her brother, Ryan, reasoned in an online message to friends and family that their mother's heart had worn out from caring too much for others.
In recent weeks, Joschak had been busy prepping for her July 5 wedding at Greendance Winery in Mt. Pleasant, which was to be followed by a honeymoon in Italy, her daughter said.
The mother who once made wreaths for the front door of their home for every season had been perusing Pinterest, a social-media website, for various ideas for the nuptials, Jessica Joschak said. Her plan was to include a wine bottle and purple flowers among the centerpiece arrangement on each table.
Joschak's death hit some McCullough parents hard last week, especially because it happened just hours after parents and students welcomed the teachers back for the new school year with a cake.
“You couldn't not love her because she was just so personable, and she was a wonderful teacher,” said Susie Perrin, whose son had Joschak in class.
Teachers at McCullough also were coping with the sudden loss. Some called her “the queen of first grade” because she referred to her students as “little princes and princesses.”
District support staff was scheduled to help out at the school today, Thursday, so some McCullough faculty members could attend the funeral at Sacred Heart Church of Good Shepherd Parish in Braddock Hills.
Third-grade teacher Scott Mickey remembered the joy Joschak had for volunteering to help to teach the outdoor-life lessons each year during the annual fifth-grade trip to Deer Valley YMCA Family Camp in Somerset County.
Joschak also taught both of Mickey's sons.
“She made a difference in every student's life that she taught,” Mickey said. “When you were in her presence, her smile and her love for life were contagious.”
Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8671, or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins pushing to sell playoff tickets
- Missing Sewickley teen found safe
- Sanchez odd man out with Pirates recalling Stewart
- Penguins stars Crosby, Malkin enduring playoff slump
- Marte’s bat, Worley’s arm show improvement in Pirates win
- Steelers visit with Arizona State receiver Strong, claim long snapper
- Highmark asks patients to ‘Meet Dr. Right’
- 2 from Carrick charged in connection with rash of heroin overdoses
- Stakes raised for Pitt spring game
- Charges mount for rowdy Monongahela drug suspect
- Top 30 guard shooting Heron decommits from Pitt