Veteran Conrad Slanina went extra mile in every aspect of life
When World War II interrupted his education at the former Carnegie Institute of Technology, Conrad E. Slanina built bridges for the invading army of Gen. George S. Patton in Europe.
"He was one of those World War II, Depression-era guys -- very ethical, very tough," said his daughter, Roberta S. O'Brien of Cocoa Beach, Fla. "He was a strict father, but he was a good father. There was never any doubt that he loved us."
Mr. Slanina of Ben Avon died of kidney failure Friday, March 18, 2011, in Good Samaritan Hospice in Wexford. He was 90.
He was born Oct. 3, 1920, in the North Side to Joseph and Mary Slanina. His father was a barber and his mother a housewife. When he was 16, Mr. Slanina obtained a driver's license and chauffeured his family around.
After leaving Carnegie Tech -- now Carnegie Mellon University -- in 1944, Mr. Slanina served in the Army with the 305th Engineering Battalion in northern France, the Ardennes Forest and the Rhineland.
"They went ahead and built the bridges before the men came," his daughter said. "They were in the line of fire several times."
Mr. Slanina met his future wife in 1943 at a dance in the former Mamie Barth Studio, Downtown.
"He was always a gentleman," Marie Slanina of Ben Avon, recalled. "He was very polite."
Mr. Slanina went crabbing in Delaware for several years before returning to Pittsburgh. He worked for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, where he was in charge of distributing the liquid fuels tax to municipalities. He retired in 1986 with his photo hanging on PennDOT's Wall of Fame for distinguished employees.
"My dad was old school," O'Brien said. "He worked hard, and he didn't believe in carrying debt. He worked two jobs most of his life to give us everything he never had growing up. He paid for my brother and my college education, so we would have no debt when we graduated."
Among those second jobs were bartender and riverboat captain. He tended bar for the Shannopin Country Club in Ben Avon Heights and the Highland Country Club in West View.
Mr. Slanina piloted the 100-passenger Golden Triangle Cruiser that used to be docked Downtown. In those days, a two-hour cruise cost $1.85.
He enjoyed playing poker with friends, planting tomatoes and taking continuing education classes with his wife, especially pottery making, at Community College of Allegheny County.
"He made a lot of interesting plates and bowls," Mrs. Slanina said.
Mr. Slanina was a member of the Pennsylvania Architecture Licensure Board, a volunteer usher for the Benedum Center and an arbiter for the Pittsburgh Better Business Bureau.
In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Slanina is survived by his son, Conrad E. Slanina Jr., of Wheeling, W.Va.; brother, Melvin Slanina of Tucson; sister, Marion Haas of Dover, Del.; and two grandchildren.
The Lawrence T. Miller Funeral Home Inc. in Bellevue is handling arrangements. There will be no visitation. A funeral Mass and interment with military honors at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies will be scheduled.
Memorial donations can be made to the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped at 4724 Baum Blvd., Pittsburgh, PA 15213.