Former FBI agent, Derry teacher remembered
As a young man, Michael G. Christoff was an FBI special agent in Pensacola, Fla., and Mobile, Ala.
The former South Greensburg and Unity resident had risen from being a personal secretary to one of the FBI assistant directors during the reign of legendary Director J. Edgar Hoover to a special agent, said his son, Michael J. Christoff of Eighty Four, Washington County.
“They worked cases that involved (people) crossing the state lines — like white slavery and AWOL soldiers,” Christoff said. But he found it was a job he did not want to turn into a career, so he came back to Pennsylvania, Christoff said.
Having earned a degree in physical education at Slippery Rock College, he landed a job as a physical education teacher and guidance counselor at Derry Area High School. That he made into a career, working 30 years in the school district before retiring in 1989.
Mr. Christoff, 89, formerly of South Greensburg and Unity Township, died Tuesday, April 23, 2019, in McMurray Hills Manor, McMurray.
He was born May 16, 1929, in South Fork, Cambria County, a son of the late Michael J. and Anna Hovan Christoff.
After graduating from Carroltown High School in northern Cambria County, Mr. Christoff’s father, a supervisor in a local coal mine, made him work a year in the mine. That year in the late 1940s in the mines was enough for young Mr. Christoff, and he headed to Washington, D.C., where he landed that FBI job.
It was while working in Washington, D.C. during the Korean War that Mr. Christoff was drafted into the Army in August 1952. He served as a military advisor in Korea, training South Korean soldiers.
After returning home, he used his GI Bill benefits to go to Slippery Rock. He later earned his master’s degree in guidance from Duquesne University.
It was fortuitous that he landed the job at Derry Area High School because he met his future wife, Gloria Herrington, on a blind date, Christoff said. The couple were married in 1963.
Christoff said his father enjoyed teaching.
“He liked working with the kids and instructing them,” Christoff said.
Mr. Christoff earned the respect of his students.
“He had students come back from Vietnam (War) and would tell him they would not have made it without him,” Christoff said.
He was a devout Catholic. He was an altar boy as a youngster and both his sons were, too, Christoff said. He was a member of St. Bruno Roman Catholic Church in South Greensburg and a former member of St. Vincent Basilica Parish in Unity, where he served as a CCD teacher and an usher.
He was preceded in death by his wife and four sisters.
In addition to his son, Michael J. Christoff, he also is survived by another son, Gregory G. Christoff, of Sewickley; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Friends will be received from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday at Hartman-Graziano Funeral Home Inc., 1500 Ligonier St., Latrobe. Additional visitation will be held from 10 until 11 a.m. Saturday in St. Benedict Roman Catholic Church, 100 S. Main St., Carrolltown, where a Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. with the Rev. Jude Brady, OSB, as celebrant. Interment with full military honors will follow in the church cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to the Parkinson’s Foundation at www.parkinson.org.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, [email protected] or via Twitter .