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Obituary Stories

Former Penn-Trafford teacher made impact on students, friends

Patrick Varine
| Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018, 11:00 p.m.

Sandra Laughlin was humble to a fault, according to close friends.

“You didn't always recognize her strength and intelligence, but once she spoke up, it was easy to see why she was one of the best leaders I ever worked with,” said Lori Stripay of Greensburg, who knew Laughlin for more than two decades.

Sandra E. Laughlin of Murrysville, formerly of Latrobe, died Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018, of salivary gland cancer. She was 74.

Ms. Laughlin was born Dec. 9, 1943, in Pittsburgh, a daughter of the late Roland Edward and Florence Rose (Lauer) Laughlin. She grew up in the Pittsburgh and Penn Hills areas and graduated from Penn Hills High School.

She worked for 38 years as a math teacher, first at Trafford High School and then at Penn-Trafford High following a merger in 1972.

She served as president of the Penn-Trafford Education Association and the Westmore­land Education Council.

“She had a way about her where she wasn't just teaching the material,” said Deborah Leighty, who knew Ms. Laughlin for 45 years and taught alongside her at Penn-Trafford. “She was relating personally with her students.”

The two loved to travel: In the mid-1970s, Ms. Laughlin and Leighty took a month's vacation and camped across the United States.

“We did the southern route, through Texas and Arizona, and then up the coast of California and across the northern tier,” Leighty said. “We saw every touristy thing you could see.”

In addition to traveling long distances, Ms. Laughlin enjoyed shorter trips by bicycle along the region's converted rail trails.

Stripay said that through their mutual work at the Pennsylvania State Education Association teachers union, Ms. Laughlin became a close personal friend.

“Anyone who knew her will have a hole in their heart forever because she was an extraordinary friend on many levels,” Stripay said.

Leighty said that feeling will likely extend to many of her former students.

“There are lots of (students) who came back and said that ‘Because of Ms. Laughlin, I became an engineer,' or ‘I became a doctor,' ” she said. “A lot of students really appreciated what she did for them.”

Ms. Laughlin is survived by her sister, Pat Plucinski of Murrysville; nephew, James Plucinski (Lesley); nieces, Susan Rupert (Eddie) and Lisa Wissinger (Kevin); and great-nieces and great-nephews, Madison Plucinski, Logan Rupert, Owen Wissinger and Dylan Wissinger.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday at St. John Baptist de la Salle Church, 497 Athena Drive, Delmont.

Memorial contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society, 320 Bilmar Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15205, or Action for Animals Humane Society, P.O. Box 814, Latrobe, PA 15650.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862, pvarine@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.

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