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Family woman a blend of cheer, determination

| Tuesday, July 9, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Kim Slobodnyak of Wilkins died Saturday, July 6, 2013. She was 59.

When Kim Slobodnyak went out for a drive, she couldn't resist searching for large cardboard boxes piled in someone's trash.

A discarded refrigerator box was a key find, as often she would transform them into a backdrop for the children's plays she directed at the Mifflin Avenue United Methodist Church in Wilkinsburg.

“She was a miracle with cardboard and duct tape,” said her daughter Nicole Slobodnyak of Wilkins.

Kimberly Jean Slobodnyak of Wilkins died Saturday, July 6, 2013, in the Cranberry home of her daughter Bonnie Montalbano, after a long battle with ovarian cancer. She was 59.

Mrs. Slobodnyak grew up in Wilkinsburg and met her husband, Nick, during a kindergarten field trip to the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. They began dating in eighth grade when she asked him to a Sadie Hawkins dance.

“That was our first date, and we haven't been apart since,” Nick Slobodnyak said.

After marrying at 20, the couple raised their three children in Wilkins.

Mrs. Slobodnyak worked as office manager for Forest Hills Dental for 24 years. Tracie Bruno, her co-worker, said Mrs. Slobodnyak had a good rapport with patients.

“She was very spunky, very good with patients and very outgoing,” Bruno said.

Every Thanksgiving, Mrs. Slobodnyak organized dinner for about 60 relatives in Mifflin Avenue United Methodist Church. She would connect dozens of tables to create one large one because she wanted her extended family to share the holiday together.

When she was in her 40s, Mrs. Slobodnyak began to train for long-distance races. She completed eight marathons in her lifetime.

Nicole Slobodnyak said when her mother learned her cancer was terminal, she cashed in her retirement funds and took the family to Disney World.

“She could be so silly and so fun,” Slobodnyak said. “She would lighten any situation with her smile and her goofiness.”

In addition to her husband, Nick, and daughters Nicole and Bonnie, Mrs. Slobodnyak is survived by a son, Scott Slobodnyak of Brooklyn, N.Y.; sister, Denise Weber-Gaiter of Franklin; brothers, Clint Weber of Scranton and Dale Weber of Springdale; and two grandchildren.

Friends will be received from 2 to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday in Patrick T. Lanigan Funeral Home, 1111 Monroeville Ave., Turtle Creek, where a funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday.

Christina Gallagher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5637 or cgallagher@tribweb.com.

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