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Woman had enthusiasm for her faith and life

| Tuesday, April 12, 2005

When Margaret Rochek looked back over her life, there were a lot of things she could remember with pride and fondness.

Being a devout Roman Catholic, she was able to visit Rome and the Vatican and even received a special blessing from Pope John Paul II, although she did not meet him. She was a fan of the Pirates and the Steelers and had photos autographed by players as well as some special memories.

Margaret Elizabeth Rochek, a lifelong resident of Scottdale, died Sunday, April 10, 2005, in Jo Ella's Personal Care Home, Scottdale. She was 90 years old.

"She was at the World Series in Pittsburgh when they won the World Series in 1960," nephew John Rochek said. "When Bill Mazeroski hit that home run, she was at that game."

But a major source of pride for her was graduating from a school that vanished more than 70 years ago, according to the Rev. Leonard Stoviak, pastor of her parish, St. John the Baptist Church in Scottdale.

"She took great pride that she attended the school here and I think that she was in the first graduating class of the high school," Stoviak said.

While the elementary school, which was founded in 1889, still exists, Stoviak said the high school closed during the Depression after graduating only three or four classes. In 1994, she received the Distinguished Graduate Award by the National Catholic Educational Association.

"She liked her old school ties from years back," John Rochek said. "She was a very religious person. A very thoughtful person. She was like a second mother to me."

Stoviak, who knew her for 26 years, said Miss Rochek was an active member of the church, serving as a lector at Mass. She was a member of the Catholic Daughters of America, Court Lambing No. 34, serving as regent, vice regent and chairman. She also was a former State Apostolate Chairman of Pennsylvania.

Stoviak said two things would best describe Miss Rochek. "One was her faith, her faith in God, of course, but also her great love and faith in the church; the other thing would be her enthusiasm. Margaret would enter into things with such gusto and such enthusiasm and pride."

He said an example of that was when the church used to hold festivals to raise money.

"In the days when we had festivals here at the parish, the Catholic Daughters would always take charge of the baked goods stand," Stoviak said. "Margaret and a few others who ran it, they took pride in bringing in the most money of all the booths there. It was always a remarkable sum.

"They worked that thing, they had it down to a science. They would always set a goal of raising a thousand dollars, which is a lot of money from volunteered bake goods."

Rochek said his aunt, a clerk at the Scottdale Post Office who retired in 1973, was "a great church member" and was honored to receive a blessing from Pope John Paul II that included a plaque signed by the pontiff.

"She knew a lot of priests who were at the Vatican," he said when asked how the pope singled her out.

He said even as her life was nearing its end, the death of Pope John Paul II touched her.

"She saw that on the TV, when the pope passed away, and she started crying," he said.

Margaret Elizabeth Rochek was born in Scottdale on March 17, 1915, the daughter of the late Andrew and Eva Sestock Rochek. She also was preceded in death by four brothers and a sister.

She is survived by her nephew, John Rochek, of Scottdale; two nieces, Evelyn Zozula, of Las Vegas, and Bernadette Edwards, of Mt. Pleasant; and a number of great-nieces and great-nephews.

Friends are being received from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. today in the Frank Kapr Funeral Home Inc., 417 W. Pittsburgh St., Scottdale, where there will be a blessing service at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, followed by a funeral Mass at 11 a.m. in the Church of St. John the Baptist, Scottdale. Interment will follow in St. John Parish Cemetery, Scottdale.

The Catholic Daughters of America, Court Lambing No. 314 will recite the rosary at the funeral home at 2 p.m. today.

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