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Seamstress energetically served church, veterans

| Monday, Dec. 31, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Liz Yanni arrived two hours early to prepare St. Alphonsus Church in Springdale for Mass and volunteered more than 8,000 hours in 20 years for the Ladies Auxiliary of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

“An aunt once joked, ‘If she didn't do so much, there would be more room for someone else to volunteer,'” said son Jim Yanni of Wexford.

Elizabeth “Liz” A. Yanni of Springdale died Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, in Harmar Village in Harmar from a heart attack. She was 93.

She was born Jan. 4, 1919, in Springdale to Edward and Hilda Prohaska. Her father was an organizer for the United Mine Workers, and her mother was a homemaker. She waited tables at age 10 in Power City Restaurant and worked in Winchelle's five-and-dime store after graduating from high school.

She married her high school sweetheart, Salvatore “Jim” Yanni, on July 28, 1939. To make ends meet, she sewed drapes in the basement of their home for Altmeyer's Fabrics. She was so good at sewing that she designed and sewed the costume for Reddy Kilowatt, a light bulb with antennas that was the mascot for the Springdale High School Dynamos.

An active member of St. Alphonsus, Mrs. Yanni would unlock the church in the morning, wash priests' vestments, usher people to their seats, collect donations and dispense Holy Communion. She performed similar duties at the VA Center in Aspinwall and wheeled patients to its chapel for Mass. She also coordinated poppy sales for the VFW.

“She loved — loved — doing stuff for the vets,” said son Jack Yanni of Palmyra in Lebanon County. “My Dad was a Seabee. She got involved in that through him.”

Mrs. Yanni volunteered so much that the state House of Representatives cited her in 2006 “for her exemplary citizenship and working with the community.” The Cheswick-Springdale Lions Club named its Distinguished Service Award for her to honor her many years of service.

“She taught us to think about others,” Jack Yanni said. “My career was in law enforcement, and that's what I love to do — help others. That's the way my mother was — do things and not brag about it.”

In addition to her husband, she was preceded in death by half brothers, Richard and Charles; a half sister, Julia; sisters, Virginia and Dolores; and a brother, Edward. Survivors include a sister, Theresa Prohaska, now Sister Hilda of Allison Park.

The family will hold a private interment on Thursday in Greenwood Memorial Park with a memorial Mass to be celebrated at a date to be determined in St. Alphonsus Catholic Church and the Sisters of Divine Providence Mother House in Allison Park. Charles B. Jarvie Funeral Home Inc. in Springdale/Cheswick is handling the arrangements.

The family asks that memorials be in the form of donations to the Elizabeth Prohaska Yanni Community Service Award at the Cheswick-Springdale Lions Club, P.O. Box 164, Springdale, PA 15144.

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

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