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Judge, member of Pitt's '37 footbal champs Narick dies at 90

| Monday, March 5, 2007

When Emil Narick gave up a football career to study law, his Croatian immigrant parents were pleased, even if Art Rooney Sr. wasn't.

The Upper St. Clair resident and former senior Commonwealth Court and Allegheny County Common Pleas judge, who died Saturday at the age of 90, was a member of the University of Pittsburgh's 1937 championship team.

But Rooney couldn't persuade the athlete to join his Pittsburgh Steelers, said Narick's son, D. Kirk Narick, of Downingtown, Chester County.

"There were three honorable professions for men to go into in the old country: the law, the military and the priesthood. And my father had no interest in the priesthood," he said.

The judge loved to tell stories, his son said. A favorite concerned flying to a game at the University of Washington in a marathon journey that lasted two days -- the grueling nature of which was mitigated by a stopover in Los Angeles for a public relations shoot with pinup girl Rita Hayworth.

Enamored with airplanes, Narick enlisted in the Army Air Corps during World War II and was a flight instructor at a Nevada air base commanded by future Pennsylvania Gov. William Scranton, his son said.

His father claimed that he and his wife, the former Rebecca Nay, had a running battle for supremacy at the base's weekly polka contest with Scranton and his wife.

After the war, Emil Narick worked for the National Labor Relations Board, then became assistant general counsel for the United Steelworkers of America. He ran unsuccessfully for the union's presidency in 1969.

Elected to the county bench in 1977, Narick eventually found himself involved again in the world of the mills.

In 1985, the judge jailed the Rev. D. Douglas Roth, a militant activist protesting steel mill closures who barricaded himself in his Clairton church and refused to heed a bishop's order to leave.

A year later, Narick was forced by his age to retire from the county bench. He was named a senior judge in Commonwealth Court, where he served until retiring in 2002.

"He was always just a gentleman," said Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini, who as Pittsburgh solicitor argued cases before Narick, and credits the man with urging him to run for statewide office.

"No matter how heated things were, he managed to calm things down and bring both sides together," Pellegrini said.

That quality served Narick as a college football official, a calling that provided the judge's only child with a wealth of memories of weekend road trips with his father.

Narick was preceded in death by his wife. In addition to his son, he is survived by two grandchildren and a brother, George, of St. Clairsville, Ohio.

A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Upper St. Clair.

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