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Man of many trades made time for family

| Monday, Dec. 29, 2003

On the only day that he was off from the three jobs he worked to support his young family, Ralph J. Burns liked to round up his wife and eight children and venture into the Laurel Mountains.

"He and my mom would pack the eight of us into the station wagon and enjoy the day swimming, eating ice cream and walking," recalled Diane Robes, of Blawnox, one of Mr. Burn's six daughters.

Ralph J. Burns, of Aspinwall, died of a long illness on Sunday, at Tandem Health Care, in Indiana Township. He was 76.

"He was a wonderful father and a very hard worker," Robes said. "As a result of him working, we never wanted for anything."

In addition to working for more than 20 years as a train hitcher or "hook-up man" at United Engineering in Lawrenceville, Mr. Burns also drove a bus for the Fox Chapel School District and worked at the Sharpsburg Hardware Store, said his daughter Sandy VanTassell, of Aspinwall.

He was born Nov. 30, 1927, in O'Hara Township, the son of the late Howard and Minnie Eibel Burns.

Mr. Burns served in the U.S. Marines in Japan and China from 1946 to 1948. He served as a corporal with a military rifleman's designation.

After serving in the military, Mr. Burns married Elizabeth Rice of Pittsburgh, who died in 1997. He also was preceded in death by a brother, Howard Burns.

In addition to Robes and VanTassell, Mr. Burns is survived by six other children, Gregory Burns, of Springdale, Beverly Bell, of Blawnox, Janice Kohser, of Bakerstown, Sally Occorso, of the South Hills, Ralph J. Burns Jr., of Sharpsburg, and Bonnie Pappas, of Aspinwall; 12 grandchildren; one great-grandson; and a sister, Edna Fitzpatrick.

Friends will be received from 7 to 9 p.m. today and 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Weddell-Ajak Funeral Home, 100 Center Ave., Aspinwall.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Scholastica Roman Catholic Church, Aspinwall, by the Rev. Fr. Robert G. Duch, pastor. Burial will follow at St. Mary Cemetery, O'Hara Township.

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