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Ligonier Township teen treated others to cooking, love of life

| Thursday, July 31, 2008

Whether it was any Sunday of the year or at Christmas, Carlie Kerklo shone in the kitchen.

"She loved cooking. It was her No. 1 hobby," said her mother, Darlene Halaszynski Kerklo. "Instead of novels, she would read cookbooks. She had all different kinds that people gave her."

Carlie Elizabeth Kerklo of Darlington, Ligonier Township, died Monday, July 28, 2008, after a lifetime battle with multiple heart defects. She was 14.

A concocter of many soups and pasta dishes with a taste for spicy cuisine, Carlie often would devise menus for her family's Sunday dinners, then go with her mom to the store to pick up ingredients.

Carlie formed a holiday partnership with her aunt and uncle, Denise and Larry Jablonski, in preparing Christmas feasts inspired by her family's Slovak heritage.

"They would work together to make things like pagach, mushroom soup, pierogies and babalki," Darlene Kerklo said.

Carlie was scheduled in November to be the maid of honor for Marnie Johns of Derry, a friend of the family.

"We've rescheduled the wedding," Johns said. "I'm not going to have a maid of honor. There are people who can never be replaced, and Carlie was one of those people.

"I admired her for the way she viewed life," Johns said. "Carlie had an infectious and intoxicating smile. She loved life, and shared her love of life with others."

Carlie also liked to travel. In October in Cancun, Mexico, she fulfilled a dream when she got to swim with dolphins. She also went on several cruises and visited Canada, Walt Disney World and Ocean City, Md.

"It was hard for her to travel with all of her cardiac medicines, but we did it," Darlene Kerklo said.

In 1999, Carlie's father, Dean A. Kerklo, a Pennsylvania state trooper based at Greensburg, was shot while responding to a domestic incident. While in rehab, he got unwavering support from Carlie, who at that point was herself in the midst of several heart surgeries.

Carlie was a recipient and benefactor of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and a five-year participant of the Dr. Bill Neches Heart Camp for Kids.

She loved to paint and spent summers creating acrylic paintings alongside David Steimer, principal of Ligonier Valley Middle School, where she would have been an eighth-grader this fall.

In 2001, Carlie's aunt, Diane Couch, organized an annual golf tournament called "Carlie's Golf Outing," which benefits Make-A-Wish and the Dr. Bill Neches Heart Camp for Kids. The eighth tournament will be held Aug. 10 at Madison Golf Club in South Huntingdon.

"We've always had to turn down golfers for that because so many wanted to be involved," Darlene Kerklo said.

"What comforts me is that people will remember Carlie forever."

In addition to her parents, Carlie is survived by her maternal grandfather, Dennis R. Halaszynski Sr. of McKeesport; paternal grandmother, Lavina F. Kerklo of Liberty Borough; and several aunts and uncles.

Friends will be received from 2 to 5 and 6 to 8 p.m. today at the J. Paul McCracken Funeral Chapel and Crematory, 144 E. Main St., Ligonier.

A blessing service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Friday in the funeral chapel followed by a Mass at 11 a.m. at Holy Trinity Catholic Church. Private interment will be Saturday at Calvary Cemetery in Port Vue.

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