Saint Vincent monk was skilled mechanic, leading firefighter
Equipment breakdowns weren’t a problem for Brother Stephen Nazaruk.
The Benedictine monk took charge in 1981 of the machine shop serving his community at Saint Vincent Archabbey and Saint Vincent College, and he continued to be involved at the shop on the Unity campus well into his 80s.
“He had the talent to fix about anything that was broken,” Saint Vincent Archabbot Douglas Nowicki said. “He worked with a great zeal, whether he was repairing a lawn mower or fixing an appliance in the kitchen.
“He could fix tractors and trucks. He was a mechanic par excellence.”
Brother Stephen Nazaruk, O.S.B., died peacefully in the Saint Vincent monastic infirmary Thursday, July 25, 2019. He was 92.
Born Feb. 9, 1927, in West Leechburg, he was a son of the late Thomas and Tekla (Giworonik) Nazaruk.
Brother Stephen grew up in a close-knit community, with neighbors who, like his parents, had all emigrated from the same village in Ukraine. A 1945 graduate of Leechburg High School, he served as an Army aircraft mechanic in Trieste, Italy, during the Korean War.
Following his discharge from the Army in 1952, he pursued a monastic vocation with a Trappist community at Our Lady of Guadalupe in New Mexico. He came to Saint Vincent in 1954 and made his profession of monastic vows Nov. 17, 1956.
Brother Stephen transferred the skills he’d learned in the Army to the Saint Vincent machine shop, where he began working in 1954.
“He was accomplished in welding,” said Nowicki. “Over the years, he trained a lot of younger people.”
Brother Stephen crafted sturdy pots and pans for the Saint Vincent kitchen. He also worked on equipment for local fire departments and for the Pittsburgh Steelers, while they were in residence for their annual summer training camp, Nowicki said.
“He was a hard worker,” Nowicki said. “His day never ended. You would see him, in the evening, down in the shop tinkering.”
Brother Stephen was a leading member of the former Saint Vincent Fire Department. It was organized after a fire Jan. 28, 1963, destroyed several campus buildings, causing about $2 million in damage. He served as the department’s assistant chief from 1967 to 2001.
In addition to monitoring fire alarms on campus, Brother Stephen served as an instructor for the annual Westmoreland County Fire School that was held for local volunteer firefighters for many years at Saint Vincent.
He was a member of the Westmoreland County Fire Chiefs Association, chairing its education program, as well as firemen’s associations for the county, Western Pennsylvania and the state.
People were drawn to Brother Stephen by his simple, humble manner, Nowicki said, noting, “He was always very friendly, always willing to help. He didn’t put on any airs.”
During the final years of his life, when he struggled with health issues, Brother Stephen checked in at the machine shop as long as he was able.
“It was his sacred space where he found a great peace,” Nowicki said.
In addition to his parents, Brother Stephen was preceded in death by five siblings. He is survived by four nieces.
Viewing will be from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday in the parlor of the Elizabeth Roderick Center at Saint Vincent Seminary. A Vigil Service will take place at 7:15 p.m. Sunday in the Archabbey Basilica, where a Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m. Monday. The Rite of Committal will follow in the Mary, Mother of Mercy Chapel at Saint Vincent Cemetery.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Benedictine Health and Welfare Fund, Saint Vincent Archabbey, 300 Fraser Purchase Road, Latrobe, PA 15650.
Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter .