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Jeannette woman remembered as excellent cook, seamstress and quiet but loving mom

Jeff Himler
| Monday, July 9, 2018, 9:30 a.m.
Colleen Murtaza
Colleen Murtaza

Colleen Murtaza didn't waste words, but her concern for others came through loud and clear in the kitchen.

Carrying forward skills with food learned from older women in her family, she was the natural choice to prepare menu items for holiday gatherings. She also was a mainstay of the Culinary Ministry at First Antioch Baptist Church in Greensburg, involved in such programs as serving dinners to community members in need.

“She was a really good cook,” said her daughter, Aliyya Lee. “People would come from other churches. They loved her food.”

When she made meals for her family, “Anything we would ask for, we would come to the house and she would have it made,” her daughter said. “She was a quiet and loving person.”

Colleen Murtaza, 77, of Jeannette died Monday, July 2, 2018, at UPMC Mercy hospital in Pittsburgh. Born March 27, 1941, in Pearson, Ga., she was a daughter of the late Huerita Lee and Lucille Cooper Guest.

When Mrs. Murtaza was young, her family moved north, settling near relatives in Slickville, Westmoreland County.

A gifted seamstress, she later worked for Annette's Fashions in the east suburbs of Pittsburgh.

“She made wedding gowns, coats and suits, and she did alterations,” said her sister, Connie Craig of Jeannette. “She did anything.”

Family members couldn't wait to savor a fresh batch of Mrs. Murtaza's made-from-scratch rolls.

“My father would sit at the table and get his butter and his jelly ready and eat them as soon as they would come out of the oven,” Lee recalled.

Mrs. Murtaza's macaroni and cheese — heavy on the cheese sauce, featuring a mixture of varieties — tempted kids in to sample it before it went into the oven. Her sour cream pound cake and sweet potato pies earned many compliments.

In her church choir, Mrs. Murtaza was noted for her soprano voice.

“She was very quiet, but she would not be bashful to sing the lead in a song,” her sister said.

Mrs. Murtaza enjoyed participating with family members in a bowling league until her knees failed her.

After she had one knee replaced, in October, she continued to keep busy in the kitchen, with the assistance of a walker.

“She would take a little longer, but she still had her independence,” Lee said.

But Mrs. Murtaza's health declined after surgery in May to replace her other knee.

“She was a quiet, deep soul,” her sister said.

In addition to her parents, Mrs. Murtaza was preceded in death by her husband, Jamal Murtaza, and two brothers.

She is survived by two sons, Alan of Irwin and Dion Amos and his wife, Anja, of Germany; three daughters, Majeeda “Gigi” Murtaza of Richmond, Va., Aliyya Lee, of Braddock and Malika Williams and her husband, Rodney, of Jeannette; 10 grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren; and a sister.

Relatives and friends are invited to celebrate her life from 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday at First Antioch Baptist Church, 726 W. Pittsburgh St., Greensburg, where a funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Monday. Interment will follow in Brush Creek Cemetery, Irwin.

Memorial donations may be made to the Westmoreland County Food Bank, 100 Devonshire Drive, Delmont, PA 15626. Nonperishable items may be donated at the church.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6622, jhimler@tribweb.com or via Twitter @jhimler_news.

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