Monessen woman, 96, honored on Mother’s Day with high school diploma from 1941
Ethel Safo Peshok always encouraged her children to pursue education.
On Sunday, her friends and family joined to honor the lessons the 96-year-old Monessen woman imparted to them. As a special Mother’s Day surprise, they arranged for her to receive the high school diploma she sacrificed 78 years earlier when she was forced to leave Monessen High School to care for her younger siblings.
Peshok knew something was up when her daughters insisted she follow them to the church social hall following the 10:30 a.m. Mass at Epiphany of Our Lord Church in Monessen.
The petite, neatly coiffed woman sat smiling as her granddaughter, Beth Sands, explained that the family wanted to do something for her. Peshok began to blink back tears as Monessen Board School Board President Roberta Roberta Bergstedt spoke of Peshok’s contributions to the community over the last nine decades.
“So, today, in honoring her for her years of commitment to her family, her faith and to our community, we are happy to present Ethel Peshok with her high school diploma. Congratulations, Ethel,” Bergstedt said, proclaiming Peshok forever a member of the Monessen High School Class of 1941.
“I don’t know what to say,” Peshok said as she opened the white, leather folder that carried her diploma. “This is very unexpected and very meaningful. Thank you so much.”
The lifelong Monessen resident, who left high school to help care for two younger siblings, said she was later called to work at Monessen Laundry, which was short of workers during the World War II.
She married her late husband William Peshok on Sept. 26, 1943 and never managed to collect the diploma she so wanted until her family put together their Mother’s Day surprise.
Peshok’s grandson, Lowber Fire Chief Matthew Geis and Sands, who is his cousin, put their heads together to plan the event to honor their grandmother.
Her daughter, Debbie Genemore, said Peshok was adamant that her three daughters claim the education she lacked.
All three of them are college graduates, and several of her grandchildren hold multiple college degrees and graduate degrees.
“It was her inspiration,” Genemore said.
Genemore, a widow who lives with her mother, said the spry elder woman still insists on taking care of her. A lifetime of caring for others isn’t something she’s willing to give up anytime soon.
“Every morning she still fixes my breakfast before I got to work,” Genemore said.
Once a mother….
Deb Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Deb at 724-850-1209, [email protected] or via Twitter .