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North Huntingdon steelworker's garden harked back to farm

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Charles R. Mikach

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Thursday, March 20, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Sixty-four years ago, when Charles Mikach spied a pretty girl outside a movie theater in Trafford, he wasted no time.

“Dad walked directly over to her. He didn't introduce himself; he just said, ‘I'm going to walk you home,' ” said his daughter, Lisa Onderko of North Huntingdon.

The couple was married for 62 years.

When Mr. Mikach's wife, Bernice, fell ill last year, he became her caregiver until her death in December.

Charles R. Mikach of North Huntingdon died on Monday, March 17, 2014, in UPMC Shadyside of pancreatic cancer. He was 84.

His daughters remember enjoying the fruits of Mr. Mikach's labor.

“He had gardened since he was a child. He grew up on a farm. He planted mostly tomatoes, zucchini and peppers. And we ate it,” said Marcy Demek-Battaglini of North Huntingdon.

The sisters recalled their father livening up Saturday “cleaning day” chores by bringing home doughnuts after his U.S. Steel shift and playing tunes from The Four Lads.

An avid coin collector, Mr. Mikach started coin books for the grandchildren he cherished.

“The kids could do no wrong,” Demek-Battaglini said, chuckling.

Mr. Mikach was a Larimer Volunteer Fire Department trustee for 10 years.

“Up until Mom passed away, he worked Thursday morning bingo for the fire hall,” Demek-Battaglini said.

He and other retirees often met in a North Huntingdon grocery store to share coffee and to discuss gardening, politics and sports.

“One of the men printed up little business cards for the ‘Giant Eagle card-carrying Liars Club,' ” Onderko said.

In addition to his daughters and their spouses, Ron Onderko and Frank Battaglini, Mr. Mikach is survived by two sons, Regis and his wife, Mari Ann, of Cambridge Springs, and Russell of North Huntingdon; a sister, Ann Nigro (Louis) of Trafford; seven grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

In addition to his wife, he was preceded in death by four brothers, Wayne, Joe, Steve and John.

Friends will be received from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday in James W. Shirley Funeral Home, 176 Clay Pike, North Huntingdon.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Friday in St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, followed by interment in Penn Lincoln Memorial Park.

Memorials may be made to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, North Huntingdon.

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or

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