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Marathoner didn't stop running until age 69

Joe Napsha
| Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
Paul Butchko, 79, of Crabtree, died Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, in Allegheny General Hospital, Pittsburgh, as a result of complications from surgery.
Paul Butchko, 79, of Crabtree, died Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, in Allegheny General Hospital, Pittsburgh, as a result of complications from surgery.

Paul Butchko loved to run races — 10-kilometers, marathons, ultra-marathons and even 100-milers.

He turned his love of running into Butchko Finish Line Service, a business that was so well-respected he was chosen to time runners for the 1988 Pittsburgh Marathon, the site of the qualifying race for USA Olympic women's marathon team.

“He was pretty famous on the racing circuit in the area. Everyone around Pittsburgh wanted Paul Butchko” to time their races, said his son, George Butchko of Seattle.

Paul Butchko, 79, of Crabtree, died Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, in Allegheny General Hospital, Pittsburgh, as a result of complications from surgery.

He was born Oct. 8, 1938, in Tire Hill, Somerset County, the 15th child of the late George and Mary Havrilak Butchko. His father worked the family farm and in coal mines in the Johnstown area.

Mr. Butchko graduated from Conemaugh Township High School. He later joined the U.S. Navy in the late 1950s and was aboard the USS Galveston during the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba by Cuban exiles in April 1961, George Butchko said.

When he was discharged from the Navy, he took a job as a draftsman for the Elliott Co. of Jeannette. He earned an associate's degree from Penn State.

Unlike most others who would have driven from their home in Crabtree, Mr. Butchko would run 11 miles to work. When he was training for a marathon, he would run a longer distance by following a different route home, George Butchko said.

Not content to just run a 26.2-mile marathon like the Boston Marathon, Mr. Butchko and his brother Joe would run 50-mile races, George Butchko said. The pair in 1976 ran the JFK 50-miler, a race along the Appalachian Trail and C&O Canal in Maryland. That not being long enough, they took on the 70-mile Laurel Highlands hiking trail from Ohiopyle to Seward. They made it a race in 1980.

He did not stop running until age 69, when his last marathon was the Avenue of the Giants through Humboldt Redwood State Park in California, George Butchko said.

Mr. Butchko started timing races in 1980s and continued up until recently, when he would time the Laurel Highlands race and the Mt. Carmel race, George Butchko said. It was not unusual to time three races a weekend, his son said. They were family affairs, with his mother, he and his two siblings helping out.

Mr. Butchko was a faithful parishioner of St. Bartholomew Church in Crabtree. He served as an extraordinary minister, helping with funerals and Masses. He also sang in the choir. He was in charge of the annual 5-kilometer race during the Lady of Mt. Carmel Festival and worked bingos held at Marion Hall.

George Butchko recalled a special vacation in 1983 when they traveled around the United States, visiting all the sites they wanted to see.

Mr. Butchko is survived by his wife of 52 years, Victoria A. Biondo Butchko; two daughters, Michelene Sheppard of Bridgeport, W.Va., and Maryann Riding of Baden; son George Butchko of Seattle; and 10 grandchildren.

Friends will be received from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday in the Clement L. Pantalone Funeral Home Inc., 409 W. Pittsburgh St., Greensburg. The Knights of Columbus will hold services at 7 p.m. Friday in the funeral home. Parting prayers will be held at 9:15 a.m. Saturday in the funeral home followed by a funeral Mass at 10 a.m. in St. Bartholomew Church, Crabtree, with the Rev. Justin Matro, OSB, celebrating. Interment will follow in Mt. Carmel Cemetery, Jennerstown.

Memorial donations may be made to St. Bartholomew Church, P.O. Box A, Crabtree, PA 15624.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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