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Woman performed in family orchestra

Music flowed through Caroline Herak's veins.

As a young girl in Cleveland, Ohio, her family's orchestra performed around the neighborhood, making a few extra pennies during the Great Depression.

"My father taught all of us -- three of us girls and his wife -- he taught all of us music at a very young age," said Herak's sister, Maggie Falcone, of Willoughby, Ohio.

Carolina Hulina Herak, of North Huntingdon, died Friday, Aug. 6, 2004, in Mercy Jeannette Hospital. She was 77.

Mrs. Herak was born in Alverda, Indiana County. Her parents, the late Martin and Theresa (Rost) Hulina, had moved there from Cleveland for work.

But when the mines shut down, the family moved back to Cleveland, said Falcone, Mrs. Herak's older sister.

Mrs. Herak was about six when she began playing with the Hulina Family Orchestra, which was made up of her parents and sisters. They played "mainly in the neighborhood saloons and taverns," Falcone said. "And on the Croatian radio station. We would play many times there too."

The extra money from the performances helped the family get through very tough times.

"When most people were on relief, or charity, they called it, we were just on partial because we were earning money that way," Falcone said.

Mrs. Herak became at expert on the tamburitzas, a family of steel-stringed acoustic instruments used to play the music of southeastern European countries.

The Hulina Family Orchestra continued to play until Mrs. Herak was about 16 years old.

Several years later, in April 1947, she married John Herak Jr., whom she had met through Croatian functions and activities.

"She formed her own family tamburitza orchestra, which consisted of her, her husband and her two sons," Falcone said.

In 1968, the family moved to North Huntingdon. John Herak had got a job as editor of the Croatian Fraternal Union newspaper.

Mrs. Herak was the director of several orchestras in the Pittsburgh area, including Penn Sembles, Penn Volaires and Golden Triangles.

Music and her Croatian heritage were a big part of Mrs. Herak's life. Her sister said she also loved to play bingo and had a very good sense of humor.

"She loved writing letters," Falcone said. "As soon as you answered a letter back, you got one the next day in the mail."

In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by her husband, John Herak Jr.; two sons, Kenneth John Herak and Ronald James Herak; and a sister, Tressa Brajdich.

Mrs. Herak is survived by a sister, Maggie Falcone, of Willoughby, Ohio; several nieces and nephews; and a very special friend, Karl "Brett" Lloyd and his family, of Trafford.

Friends will be received at the Vincent V. Rodgers Funeral Home, 805 Pennsylvania Ave., Irwin, today from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. Services will be held Wednesday at 11 a.m. in the funeral home chapel, with the Rev. Michael Maleto officiating. Interment in St. Joseph Cemetery.

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