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Edgewood official industrious, self-reliant

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By Bill Zlatos
Monday, Dec. 24, 2012, 7:47 p.m.

Joseph Lukinich promised a new house for his wife and their five children, and he delivered.

“We couldn't get enough money from the bank to hire somebody to come in and do the work, so Joe had to do all the work,” said his wife, Norene Lukinich of Wilkins. “He would come home from work, eat his dinner and come down to the house and work. He worked sometimes to 11 or 11:30, and it took him two years to do this.”

Joseph A. Lukinich Sr. of Wilkins died Friday, Dec. 21, 2012, in Cedars of Monroeville. He was 88.

He was born June 10, 1924, in East Pittsburgh to Croatian immigrants Joe and Dora Lukinich. His father was a steelworker at the Edgar Thomson Works of U.S. Steel.

Mr. Lukinich, who grew up in Wilkins, joined the Navy during World War II and was stationed in Southampton, England.

After the war, he worked as a mechanic and opened an automobile garage in Wilkinsburg. He became a laborer in the Edgewood Public Works Department in 1967 and a volunteer firefighter. He was promoted to supervisor of the department in 1977 and retired in 1992. The borough proclaimed May 8, 1992, as Joe Lukinich Day.

He met his future wife when she was 15 years old and walking with her older sister along Penn Avenue in Wilkinsburg. The sister began talking to two young men she recognized. Bored, Norene finally said, “Come on. Let's get going. I'm tired of standing here.”

“ ‘We can fix that,' ” she remembers her future husband saying. He picked her up and set her on the fender of a car.

The two couples began double-dating and Norene Lukinich became engaged when she was a junior in high school. They married when she was 18, despite concern about their eight-year difference in age.

“He was only boyfriend I ever had,” she said. “We've been married 62 years.”

The family built the house in the backyard of an existing home, which they tore down after finishing the new one. Norene Lukinich would sometimes visit her husband and sons while they worked and would alter the blueprint to suit her taste.

Finally, her husband told her: “ ‘Every time you come down here, you change what I'm trying to do. I'll lock you out if you keep coming down.' I guess I stayed away for a while,” she said with a laugh.

Rose Lukinich of Spring Grove remembers her father-in-law frequently working in the yard, or bowling or playing golf. He once shot a hole-in-one.

“He was always busy, always running around the house. I think that's what kept him so young,” she said.

Other survivors include sons Joe Jr. of Las Vegas and Jeffrey of Spring Grove in York County; daughters Joy Humbert of Wilkins and Jill Whitman of Penn Hills; and six grandchildren. A son, James, preceded him in death.

The family will schedule a private memorial service. Patrick T. Lanigan Funeral Home in East Pittsburgh is handling arrangements. The family asks that any memorials be made as contributions to Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force, 5913 Penn Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15206.

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or

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