102-year-old retired teacher started in one-room Derry Twp. schoolhouse
Thelma Kosmach started her teaching career in a one-room schoolhouse in the Village of Gray Station in Derry Township in the mid 1940s.
She was paid $7 a month to teach first through eighth grades all subjects, including music and art. In addition to teaching, she scrubbed floors, filled the stove with coal for heat and shoveled snow from the walk.
None of that mattered to Mrs. Kosmach because “she loved teaching,” said her daughter, Beverly Kosmach-Park of Allison Park, with whom she resided.
Mrs. Kosmach, 102, died Saturday, March 9, 2019, surrounded by her family in Kosmach-Park’s home.
She was born Sept. 6, 1916, in Superior, Derry Township, the oldest daughter of the late John P. and Ida Panizzi Fiorina.
Mrs. Kosmach attributed her longevity to a dish of oatmeal in the morning and taking her vitamin, which was the same formula her aunt followed and she lived until 106, Kosmach-Park said.
Growing up during the Depression, Mrs. Kosmach’s family struggled. She recalled how her mother made polenta out of cornmeal. They ate it with milk and sugar for breakfast and spaghetti sauce for dinner, Kosmach-Park said.
Mrs. Kosmach graduated in 1934 at the top of her class of 124 students at Derry Township High School. She took a job at a Latrobe bakery for several years until the Derry Township school superintendent told her father she should go to college.
She landed a scholarship to Indiana State Teachers College to help pay the $60 a semester tuition and was a research assistant for an education professor. Going to school part-time, Mrs. Kosmach graduated in 1944 and was hired to work at the Gray Station School. She taught for a few years but had to quit because she met and married Paul Kosmach.
The couple lived in McChesneytown. She returned to teaching in the mid 1960s, and taught for 31 years in the Derry Area schools, retiring in 1982 from the modern Grandview Elementary School.
“She liked to see the kids improve … and loved to teach cursive handwriting,” Kosmach-Park said.
In addition to her daughter, Beverly Kosmach-Park, she also is survived by daughter, Idamarie Kosmach Combs of Villa Hills, Ky.; and one son, Paul Robert Kosmach of Austin, Texas; and three grandchildren.
Friends were received at the Hartman-Graziano Funeral Home Inc., 1500 Ligonier St., Latrobe. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday in Holy Family Church, 1200 Ligonier St., Latrobe, with the Very Rev. Daniel C. Mahoney as celebrant. Interment will follow in St. Mary’s Cemetery.
Memorial contributions may be made to Camp Chihopi/ Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, c/o the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation, One Children’s Hospital Drive, Central Plant, Floor 3, 4401 Penn Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15224, or online at www.givetochildrens.org/tributedonate and designate Camp Chihopi.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, [email protected] or via Twitter .