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Woman enjoyed enriched life as an educator

| Saturday, June 23, 2001, 12:00 p.m.

Celesta Coulter Brandon could have easily qualified as the poster person for those who achieved their 'American dream.'

In 1953, with the help of a scholarship, she began her odyssey of becoming an educator - a journey that culminated in 1988 when she received her doctorate from California Coast University in California.

Dr. Celesta C. Brandon, a resident of North Versailles and a former state president and national treasurer for the PTA, died from complications of cancer on Wednesday in her home. She was 66.

She was raised in Braddock as Celesta Coulter, one of nine children in the family of James W. and Marie Bauer Coulter. Her father was employed for 52 years by the Union Railroad, which serviced the Edgar Thomson Plant of U.S. Steel.

The Coulter family attended St. Brendan's Church in Braddock, where Celesta, along with several members of her family, sang in the church choir.

'Celesta took piano lessons for over 11 years,' said her sister, Yvonnette Henderson. 'She'd often play for us at home. We'd often go dancing and ice skating after school.'

Henderson recalled her sister's determination to obtain a college degree. 'Celesta had taken the commercial course at Braddock High School. She was told she should've taken the academic course if she wanted a scholarship. A commercial course didn't count.

'But that didn't stop my sister. She qualified for a scholarship at Pitt and began her studies.'

Following graduation from Braddock High School, where she played the flute in the high school band, Mrs. Brandon enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh. She received her undergraduate degree in 1957 and her master's degree in 1968 from Pitt.

While studying for her advanced degrees, Mrs. Brandon taught secondary business, including typing, shorthand and business English, at the Sawyer School in Pittsburgh, as well as several branches of the Community College of Allegheny County and East Allegheny High School.

Wade Brandon said his mother was a popular teacher with his friends. 'Many of my friends would tell me how much they loved having my mother as their teacher and why should I ever complain about her.'

In 1958, Celesta Coulter married Michael Brandon, a young man she had known from the neighborhood and their days at Braddock High School. Michael Brandon worked for years as a boilermaker for U.S. Steel.

Danielle Breznak recalled how her parents supported each other. 'My parents showed us by their example how much they loved each other. My parents were challenging. They had high standards and challenged us to have high standards. They worked together as a unit.'

Wade Brandon said his parents would take courses that promoted child safety. 'My parents were registered to teach hunter safety for the Pennsylvania Game Commission,' he said.

Brandon said his parents traveled throughout the state teaching gun control and safety.

'Mom was a former director for the Pennsylvania Rifle and Pistol Association. They both loved children and would do anything to make it safer for young children. Mom was very much involved with the Chemical People, and she and my father often spoke on the misuse of drugs and alcohol.'

Brandon said his parents were inseparable.

'When my mother would travel to PTA conventions, Dad would go with her. Often, they'd load my brothers, sisters and myself in the car and take us with them. Even when my mother went to the West Coast to receive her doctorate, my father went with her.'

Mrs. Brandon's academic achievements included the publications, 'Taxes in the Classroom' and 'Individualized Instructor in the Advanced Accounting Class.'

Mrs. Brandon is survived by her husband, Michael A. Brandon Sr.; daughter, Danielle Breznak of Waterford, N.Y.; sons, Michael A. Jr. of Pitcairn, James W. of Irwin and Wade P. Brandon of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; and his grandchildren, Corey, Shane and Jason Breznak; Ashley, Coulter and Mariah Brandon.

She is also survived by her sisters, Bernadette Herrington and Rosemary Landis, both of Michigan; Electa Coyle of North Versailles, Meldin Nicholas of Plum Borough, and Yvonnette Henderson of West Mifflin. She was also the sister of the late Armella Kirsch, James and Gerald Coulter.

A Mass will be offered at 9:30 a.m. today in St. Robert Bellarmine Church, East McKeesport. Arrangements by the Alfieri Funeral Home Inc., 201 Marguerite Ave., Wilmerding. Rose M. Alfieri Castagnola, funeral director.

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