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Veteran's life highlighted value of faith, family

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Tuesday, April 2, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

In its heyday, John Gruber's Monday night prayer group could attract 250 people.

“We would have other denominations ... and this was in a Catholic church,” said Dom Toretti, 83, of West Mifflin, who began attending the prayer group Gruber founded in St. Agnes Church about 40 years ago. “He was low-key, but he always had a good message.”

John P. Gruber Sr., formerly of West Mifflin, died on Friday, March 29, 2013, in Vincentian Home in McCandless. He was 84.

A retired electrical contractor, Mr. Gruber owned and operated Gruber and Denne Electric with his cousin, Bill Denne, for 40 years.

They'd go near and far for work, Toretti said. “They'd travel everywhere, even Harrisburg.”

Mr. Gruber and his wife of 62 years, the late Mary Martha Crawford Gruber, were the parents of nine children.

“My mother always wanted a large family, and my dad was a good provider,” said his daughter, Marcy Earl of West Mifflin. “Because we had a happy childhood, I had seven (children), my brother (Tom) had 14, and (my brother) Jack has five.”

Her father enjoyed bowling and woodworking, Earl said.

Mr. Gruber, who served in the Army's 82nd Airborne Division between World War II and the Korean War, was a former volunteer for Meals on Wheels and past president of the St. Agnes Parish Council.

In addition to his daughter, Marcy, he is survived by daughters Elaine Hrinda of McKeesport, Laura Loranger of Belle Vernon and Joy Foster of McCandless; sons, John P. Gruber Jr. of Belle Vernon, Thomas Gruber of Baldwin, the Rev. Mark Gruber of Latrobe, Matthew Gruber of Belle Vernon and Luke Gruber of McCandless.

He is survived by two sisters, Barbara Thomas of West Mifflin and Catherine Williams of Jefferson Hills; 44 grandchildren; and 23 great-grandchildren.

A blessing service will be held at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in Maloy-Schleifer Funeral Home, 915 Kennedy Ave. in Duquesne, followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 10 a.m. in St. Agnes Church, with the Rev. Joseph Grosko officiating. Burial with military honors will be in St. Joseph Cemetery, West Mifflin.

Craig Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5646 or

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