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Obituary Stories

Turtle Creek police officer made mark with kindness, humor

| Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016, 5:33 p.m.
Al Culotta
Al Culotta

When Al Culotta's police motorcycle rumbled down the streets of Turtle Creek, children would chase the patrolman to ask for a ride to the next intersection or to request one of the candies he carried for them.

“These were poor kids — we grew up in Turtle Creek — and every time he'd see them, he'd have a pocket full of Tootsie Rolls,” said Mr. Culotta's niece, Cheryl Hunsberger. “Everybody's been calling me up and saying he used to give them candy.”

Alexander “Al” Culotta, a Turtle Creek police officer for 30 years, died Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016, in Senior Care Plaza in McKeesport. He was 87.

Loved ones recalled the officer as a veteran, dancer and practical joker.

Born to Phillip and Stephanie Culotta and raised in Turtle Creek, Mr. Culotta served in the Air Force during the Korean War as an airframe repairman. He held jobs with Westinghouse and the Postal Service before joining the police force in 1964.

There, his love of practical jokes expressed itself in gags like hiding Monopoly money in the toilet paper rolls of the station bathroom, or sneaking a “Honk if you love Jesus” bumper sticker onto the patrol car of a fellow officer who became perplexed by all the honking, said Hunsberger, of Wilkins.

Through his service with the police until 1994, and later as a private security guard, Mr. Culotta became well-known to Turtle Creek residents, said Cathy Farrell, his longtime companion and caregiver in his later years.

“I couldn't go anywhere without someone coming up and knowing him,” Farrell said. “He wasn't a socialite. ... But everywhere we went, people knew him and liked him.”

Hunsberger said her uncle also enjoyed country-western dancing and was very proud of his Italian heritage. One of his great loves was his car, a Plymouth Valiant he'd kept polished to a shine, she said.

“Once, when he was at work, my cousin took me out in it to teach me how to drive. I nearly totaled the car,” Hunsberger said. “I told (Mr. Culotta) that when he wasn't feeling too well, and his eyes went (wide) — he said, ‘You did what?' ”

Mr. Culotta was predeceased by his parents, his son, Michael, and his sons' mother, Jackie. He is survived by his son Barry, of Las Vegas; three nieces including Hunsberger; a nephew; and two great-nieces.

Jobe Funeral Home in Turtle Creek will hold a blessing service at 11 a.m. Monday, Sept. 26, with a military interment to follow at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies.

Matthew Santoni is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412 391 0927 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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