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'Santa' kept Christmas spirit all year round

| Saturday, June 11, 2005

For half a century, Jack Fagan donned a beard and red suit to boost the spirit of Christmas.

Mr. Fagan portrayed Santa Claus to entertain children at his union's Christmas party in the auditorium of Rankin High School.

"And then Dad and his buddy, Ernie Gola -- who was Dad's elf -- would buy gifts and visit the homes of children who were ill, disabled or underprivileged," said his son, Robert Fagan.

John E. "Jack" Fagan, of Turtle Creek, died on Friday, June 10, 2005, at Forbes Road Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, East End. He was 80.

Born and raised in the Turtle Creek Valley, Mr. Fagan was one of five children of Clyde and Edna Dean Fagan. The elder Fagan was employed at U.S. Steel's Edgar Thomson Works in Braddock.

In 1942, following graduation from East Pittsburgh High School, Mr. Fagan entered the Army in World War II and saw combat in North Africa and Sicily for three years as a member of an artillery unit.

Upon his discharge, Mr. Fagan worked for the Union Railroad before joining the crew at Edgar Thomson.

He married Josephine Czekaj, a resident of Wilmerding, whom he met at a dance at Booster's on Electric Avenue in East Pittsburgh. "Mom and Dad could do a mean polka," said Robert Fagan.

"My mother was one of Dad's staunchest supporters. She never complained about the hours that Dad spent away from home doing volunteer work or helping others.

"In fact, Mom was a big help to Dad when he was president of the East Pittsburgh AARP."

Robert Fagan said his father was handy with tools.

"When Dad heard that an elderly person or someone that was ailing or bedfast needed some electrical or plumbing work or handiwork around their homes, he'd pack his tools and head over to their homes."

He said his parents were pleased that many young members of their families are involved in their communities and churches.

"When you combine both my parents' families, it adds up to about 50 of all ages. The younger ones, like myself, grew up with great role models. We had moms and dads and aunts and uncles who enjoyed life, worked hard and were willing to give back and then some," said Fagan, who is a volunteer with the Hampton Junior Football Association and is active with St. Ursula Church in Hampton.

Mr. Fagan is survived by his wife, Josephine M. Czekaj Fagan; a son, Robert C. Fagan, of Hampton; a grandson, Michael Fagan; and two sisters, Jean Brunner, of Forest Hills, and Dolly Van Den Brand, of Jim Thorpe, Carbon County.

He was predeceased by a son, John J. Fagan, and two brothers, Charles and Patrick Fagan.

Friends will be received from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. Sunday and Monday at the Patrick T. Lanigan Funeral Home, Turtle Creek/Monroeville Chapel, 1111 Monroeville Ave., Turtle Creek.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Tuesday in St. Colman Catholic Church, Turtle Creek. Burial with military honors will follow in St. Joseph Cemetery, North Versailles.

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