Grocer always stocked goodwill to give out
Whether he was cutting meat in the family market in McKeesport or chauffeuring generals and admirals at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Albert Zoscak's services were appreciated.
"When Gen. George C. Marshall, who came from Uniontown, learned that my uncle was from Western Pennsylvania, he'd ask for him," said a nephew, John Zoscak. "They found a lot to talk about."
Albert F. "Uncle Zoo" Zoscak, 87, of North Huntingdon, formerly of McKeesport, died Friday, May 13, 2005, at The Cedars of Monroeville. He was 87.
The Zoscak Market -- which Mr. Zoscak and his brother, John, established in 1934 at the corner of Ann and Pacific avenues in McKeesport's 10th Ward -- was predominantly a Slovak enclave, said nephew John Zoscak.
"It was here that Uncle Zoo's command of the Slovak language, which he learned at home, and his knowledge as a butcher was sought after," said his nephew.
"Many of the older customers were limited in English and needed to speak Slovak. When a customer would ask for a pound of kishak, you had to know that it was a certain kind of sausage," he explained.
"Very few people could pronounce Dad's name," recalled Mr. Zoscak's daughter, Rae Ann Serenko, a retired school teacher. "So they began calling Dad 'Uncle Zoo,' and the name stuck."
It was the personal attention that the Zoscak brothers extended -- not only to their customers but also to all the people of McKeesport -- that endeared them to their community for more than 53 years. Their tradition continues today at the market with the current Zoscak generation.
Serenko recalled how on bitterly cold mornings, her father would open the door of the market and allow the children who were waiting for their school bus to come in and keep warm.
"Even though the market was closed at that time of the morning, Dad invited them in," she said.
Born and raised in McKeesport, Albert Zoscak was one of four children of Andrew and Lena Pavelko Zoscak. The elder Zoscak was employed at the U.S. Steel plant in Christy Park.
Both Rae Ann Serenko and her cousin, John Zoscak, recalled the market as being a family affair.
"We were nine cousins," said Serenko, "and we were all expected to work in the market -- especially on payday weekends, when almost everyone who worked in McKeesport received their pay. We worked the cash registers, we stocked shelves, we delivered and we cleaned."
With the start of World War II, brothers Albert, John and Joseph were all called into the service. The business was left to a caretaker until the men returned.
Besides chauffeuring the generals and admirals at the Pentagon, Mr. Zoscak saw action in Italy, France and Germany. His brothers both served with the Army in the Pacific.
In 1946, Albert Zoscak married Viola Patch, a resident of Hostetter.
"My parents were an ideal couple," said Serenko. "They enjoyed dancing and, up until the time my mother became ill, they attended ballroom dances, where they loved to jitterbug.
"Mom had an Italian background," said Serenko. "She tried all the fancy Italian dishes on my father. But he wouldn't budge: With the exception of her Italian baking, he enjoyed his Slovak food. My mother died in 1998."
Mr. Zoscak is survived by his daughters, Rae Ann Serenko and her husband, Jack, and Yvonne Skuhrovec and her husband, Ed, all of North Huntingdon; grandchildren, Todd and James Skuhrovec; and great-grandchildren, Alexis and Marlena Skuhrovec.
Visitation will be from 7 to 9 p.m. today and 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. Monday at Daniel F. Bekavac Funeral Home, 4504 Walnut St., Versailles.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Holy Trinity Worship Site, McKeesport. Burial will be at St. Joseph Cemetery, North Versailles.