North Huntingdon ironworker was drawn to high places, humor and music
Jerry Conrad wasn’t afraid of hard work or high places.
A former ironworker with 30 years of experience, he used to ride up on a wrecking ball instead of an elevator to begin his shift on the upper levels of tall buildings.
“He was just one of those guys; he liked that work,” said his wife, Lorraine. “He was not afraid, and he didn’t use a safety harness.
“He just enjoyed being up on these big buildings. He liked to be challenged.”
Jerome F. “Jerry” Conrad, 80, of North Huntingdon, died Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019, at home. Born June 11, 1939, in Larimer, he was a son of the late Jerome and Bertha (Dirling) Conrad.
Before he transferred to Ironworkers Local No. 3 in Pittsburgh, Mr. Conrad traveled around the country to work on structures including a ballistic missile site in Texas.
On Nov. 22, 1963, he was helping to construct the 52-story First National Bank Tower in Dallas when his crew learned that President John F. Kennedy had been shot and mortally wounded several blocks away.
“The foreman told them about it and told them to come down off the building and take the day off,” his wife said.
Closer to home, he worked on projects including the Rankin Bridge, built across the Monongahela River in 1951. When he retired, he shifted to a second career — as a regional sales manager for 17 years for Schwaab Inc., a Wisconsin-based maker of rubber stamps.
Mr. Conrad had plenty to keep him busy when he wasn’t on the job. His daughter, Stephanie Conrad, recalled how he and his brother, Edward, helped a neighbor install new French drains.
“He was a real motivator,” she said. “He’d say, ‘If you cut yourself, put some duct tape on it and keep going.’”
As a Eucharistic minister at St. Agnes Church in North Huntingdon, Mr. Conrad would “go Sundays after church and bring Communion to the shut-ins,” his wife said. “If something needed done, and he was there, he would help them,” including repairing a blind woman’s walker.
A gifted baritone, Mr. Conrad sang with his church choir and with the Irwin Male Chorus, at one point serving as vice president during three decades with the latter group. He enjoyed making people laugh when he dressed as a nun or a “Conehead” for chorus skits.
He accompanied himself on guitar while leading local Scouting groups in Christmas carols. “Almost every single one of his grandchildren wanted to play the guitar because of him,” his wife said.
Mr. Conrad was a member of the Westmoreland County Youth Commission, beginning in 1994, and served as a mentor for juvenile offenders who were recommended for community service through the program, she said. He was a member of the Irwin Lions for 21 years, selected as its president three times, was a local judge of elections for 10 years and was a frequent blood donor.
“He enjoyed being around people and making them happy,” his wife said.
Mr. Conrad was preceded in death by his first wife, the former Brenda Kolesar.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by five children, Jerry and Stephanie, both of Herminie, Adam MacPherson of Port Vue, Aaron (Linda) MacPherson of Manor, and Joy (Todd) Montgomery of Hempfield; 12 grandchildren; six great-grandchilden; three siblings.
Friends will be received from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday and 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Ott Funeral Home, 805 Pennsylvania Ave., Irwin, where a service will be held at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
Interment will follow in Irwin Union Cemetery, North Huntingdon.
Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter .