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North Huntingdon counselor shared wisdom with students, peers

It was hard for Dominic Pecora to comprehend that his father, whom he considered a man's man, could not survive his struggle with melanoma.

"My father was such a tough guy that I thought he'd make it," said his son, a resident of North Versailles. "Dad and I enjoyed watching John Wayne movies, and I compared my father to John Wayne, who never died at the end of the movie."

Ernest D. "Ernie" Pecora of North Huntingdon, an elementary guidance counselor with the Penn-Trafford School District, died of cancer on Monday, Jan. 2, 2012, in UPMC Shadyside. He was 64.

"But Dad's years of hard work as a teacher and a counselor is his legacy to those who follow him, " his son added.

Thomas Monzo, a fifth-grade elementary teacher at Penn-Trafford's Sunrise Elementary, recalled Mr. Pecora's career as a guidance counselor and a "go-to guy" whom the staff could rely on for a friendly chat or professional advice.

"It was Ernie's casual yet professional manner that led me to believe that I could trust him with any problem that I encountered," said Monzo, of Harrison City.

Born and raised in Turtle Creek, Ernie Pecora was an only child of barber Richard "Dick" Pecora and his wife, Rose Cortazzo Pecora.

After graduating from Serra Catholic High School in McKeesport in 1965, where he played football and baseball, Mr. Pecora enrolled in Slippery Rock College, where he received his degree in education four years later.

In 1975, after a short stint as an elementary teacher in St. Aloysius Elementary in Wilmerding and in the Gateway School District, Mr. Pecora was hired as an elementary guidance counselor for Penn-Trafford.

"My father understood the importance of his position," said his son. "And that's one of the reasons he enjoyed his 36 years at Penn-Trafford.

"I own a pizza shop, and I have customers that my father counseled years ago. One of my customers, who struggled with reading when he was a pupil, credits my father's efforts in helping him overcome his reading difficulties.

"But that was typical of my father, who at one time was the head football coach at Southmoreland High School (in Alverton in Westmoreland County), who expected the best from his players," his son said.

In addition to his son, and his wife, Andrea Menas Pecora, whom he married in 1980, Mr. Pecora is survived by three grandchildren and his siblings, Antoinette McNamara of Florida, Richard "Rich" Pecora of Harrison City, Pat Pecora of Johnstown and Janice Dowd of Monroeville.

Friends will be received from 1 to 8 p.m. today in Alfieri Funeral Home Inc., 201 Marguerite Ave., Wilmerding.

A service will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday in the funeral home followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 11 a.m. in St. Jude the Apostle Church. Interment will be in Good Shepherd Cemetery, Monroeville.

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