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Teacher's community involvement guided by faith

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Jerry Vondas
Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012, 8:18 p.m.

Those who knew her considered Virginia Marie Witney a leader in education, community involvement and arts endeavors, who set a similar pace for her children.

“As we were growing up, my mother stressed to my brothers and me to always do our best and to try to make a contribution in helping to improve the lives of others,” said her daughter, Beth Jack of Squirrel Hill.

Virginia Marie Luther Witney, of Lititz, Lancaster County, formerly of Peters, died on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012, in Mt. Joy, Lancaster. She was 78.

Before raising her children, Mrs. Witney taught in the North Hills School District and in Tennessee, where her husband, whom she married in 1957, was employed by Alcoa. She had a degree in education from Duquesne University, where she was president of the Catholic Student Association.

Mrs. Witney was president of the Peters Township School Board and South Hills Area School Districts Association, where she was a strong proponent of the arts in education.

“It was easy for my mother to assume leadership assignments. She was a people person who knew how to work a room of educators,” her daughter added.

“My mother was also an antique dealer, a skill she acquired from my father's mother, who operated an antique store in Zelienople,” Beth Jack said.

Mrs. Witney, raised in Greenfield and Homestead, was one of four children of William E. and Virginia West Luther.

As a devout Catholic, Mrs. Witney attended St. Rosalia grade school in Greenfield. Upon moving to Peters, the Witney family attended St. Benedict the Abbot, where she taught Sunday School and conducted dance classes.

In addition to her daughter, Beth, Mrs. Witney is survived by her husband, Richard P. Witney; sons, Bruce Witney of Pleasanton, Calif., Douglas Witney of Blacksburg, Va., and Brian Witney of Tucson, Ariz.; five grandchildren; and her siblings, June Cardosi of West Chester, Chester County; Ruth Ardinger of McMurray and William Luther of Triangle, Va.

Family and friends will be welcomed from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday in Laughlin Memorial Chapel, 222 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon.

A memorial Mass will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m. Monday in the Duquesne University Chapel in the Administration Buidling-Old Main, 600 Forbes Ave., Uptown.

Jerry Vondas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7823 or

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