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Athlete faced illness with selfless courage

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Alexander J. 'Alex' Zuzak, 23, of Wexford, died Monday, March 11, 2013, after a courageous seven-year battle with leukemia.

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By Jerry Vondas
Friday, March 15, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

Alex Zuzak never looked at his 2006 leukemia diagnosis as something that had to define his life.

“When the doctors at Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville told Alex of their find, he said, ‘Let's get over this and let me get on with my life,' ” said his mother, Cindy Zuzak. “And for the next seven years, our son continued to live life to the fullest in spite of his illness.”

Alexander J. Zuzak of Franklin Park died on Monday, March 11, 2013, in Children's Hospital. He was 23.

“Alex was attending Shady Side Academy when he was first diagnosed. But he managed to graduate and entered the University of Pittsburgh, where he majored in biology with the hopes of entering the medical profession,” his mother said. “He would've made a good doctor. He had a great bedside manner.”

During his freshman year at Pitt, Mr. Zuzak would undergo chemotherapy in the morning before going to his classes. During the last two months of his life, Mr. Zuzak made rounds in the hospital, visiting children who were confined to their beds and giving them words of encouragement, his mother said.

Growing up in Franklin Park, Mr. Zuzak was one of three sons of Chuck and Cindy Zuzak.

Sports were always an important part of her son's life, Cindy Zuzak said.

“He played baseball for Shady Side Academy, where he was a pitcher and a center fielder, and for five years, he played for the Pittsburgh Predators Softball League in Lower Burrell.”

He also was a big fan of the Steelers and Penguins.

In addition to his mother, Cindy, Mr. Zuzak is survived by his father, Chuck Zuzak, and his brothers, Chuck and Jonathan Zuzak, both of Franklin Park.

He was preceded in death by his grandparents, Charles and Wanda Zuzak and Alex and Dolores Chrzanowski.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Saturday in St. Alphonsus Church, 201 Church Road, Pine.

Arrangements are being handled by George A. Thoma Funeral Home Inc., 10418 Perry Highway, McCandless.

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

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