WWII crash survivor was diligent self-starter
By Rossilynne Skena Culgan
Published: Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
After a fiery plane crash during a World War II Army Air Corps training mission, a doctor thought he knew the fate of young Mark Karas of Export.
“The doctor said to the nurse, ‘I wouldn't worry too much about this one; he won't be here by morning,'” said his daughter, Kathy Christy.
Her father, who slipped “in and out of consciousness,” heard that, and he fought back.
“This nurse realized ... he was a fighter,” Christy said. “With the determination of my dad and the nurse and, naturally, the hospital ... he fought his way back.”
Mark Karas of Export died on Monday, Nov. 4, 2013, of complications from a stroke. He was 94.
A military radioman, Mr. Karas was training that day in Texas with eight other servicemen before heading to the Philippines. The day was gray and foggy, and the pilot crashed into a mountain. Only Mr. Karas and another man survived.
Mr. Karas managed to open a hatch to escape the burning plane. The hot metal seared his skin, necessitating skin grafts.
Just nine months later, he was deployed on active duty to the Philippines.
Mr. Karas returned home and outlived the doctor's prediction by many decades. Only days before his death, he chopped wood and tended to his garden, preparing cabbage to make sauerkraut, his daughter said.
With an eighth-grade education, Mr. Karas worked in Pittsburgh stockyards to help his parents support the family. He taught himself algebra and worked in construction for various companies, specializing in turnpike road work, bridges and water drainage. He retired as a supervisor.
Mr. Karas loved to oil paint, particularly wildlife images, and to do taxidermy. He was a member of St. John Baptist de la Salle Catholic Church in Delmont and VFW Post 33 in Greensburg.
“He had good judgment. He was a very fair and kind-minded (person),” Christy said. “He was very generous. To the day he died, he was still donating to the March of Dimes.”
Mr. Karas was predeceased by his wife, Kathryn E. (Simons) Karas; a son, Luke S. Karas; and son-in-law, Mel Christy.
He is survived by his daughters, Kathy Christy, and Helen Smith and husband, Mike; sons Mark Z. Karas, and wife Susan, Jonathan Karas and wife Sherry, and Matthew Karas and wife Beth; daughter-in-law, Deanna Karas; 12 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements and burial in Twin Valley Memorial Park, Delmont, will be private. Contributions in his memory may be made to a charity of one's choice.
Rossilynne Skena is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6646 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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