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Catholic faith, Ukrainian roots were the bedrock of Irwin man’s life

Patrick Varine
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Submitted photo
Merle Morozowich, 89, of Irwin.

Being a Catholic with Ukrainian roots was the bedrock of Merle Morozowich’s life.

It led him to a life of service in the League of Ukrainian Catholics, led his children to fond memories of the Pittsburgh Folk Festival and even led to a meeting with Pope John Paul II.

“Both my parents lived their life around the church,” said his son, Rev. Mark Morozowich, dean of the school of theology at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. “My father was a man of prayer.”

Mr. Merle Morozowich, 89, of Irwin died Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, at home.

Mr. Morozowich was born June 6, 1929, in Irwin, a son of the late Michael and Stella (Bilyj) Morozowich. He grew up on his parents’ dairy farm, which the family eventually developed into the Linmore Acres housing plan in Irwin.

“When he was about 16 years old, his dad died and he took over the farm,” said son Donald Morozowich, 50, of Irwin. “He worked it for a good number of years until his brothers and sisters were out of the house, then he went back to school.”

Mr. Morozowich earned his engineering degree from the University of Pittsburgh and worked for more than three decades as an electrical engineer with Westinghouse, and eventually Powerex, in Youngwood.

“Later in his career, he developed a module product for the Bradley infantry fighter vehicle, the Darlington transistor module, which works with the electronics to control turret rotation and elevation,” Donald said. “That went on to become a module business for Powerex.”

Mr. Morozowich met his wife of 48 years, the late Helen Solomon Morozowich, during his travels with the League of Ukrainian Catholics, which began as a youth league.

“He told us about going all over the place for dances and different events,” Donald said. “My mom was from Youngstown, Ohio, and they met at one of those dances.”

The couple was married on June 13, 1963.

Mark said he has fond memories of traveling to league events with his father.

“He’d take me to Pittsburgh when they’d have the Pittsburgh Folk Festival, and we’d go down early to watch them set up for the Ukrainian section,” he said.

When Mark was studying in Rome, Mr. Morozowich and his wife came to visit, and they ended up attending a private liturgy held by Pope John Paul II.

“Pope John Paul would do that regularly, hold a liturgy for a small group of maybe 10, 15 people,” Mark said. “He even greeted us in Ukrainian, and my parents were very impressed by that.”

Mr. Morozowich also was awarded the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice by Pope John Paul II for his decades of service to the Catholic church.

Outside of work, Mr. Morozowich applied his engineering skills around the house.

“He was always interested in learning how things worked,” Donald said. “I don’t remember a repairman or plumber ever coming around our house. He passed that on to me, and I ended up becoming an engineer as well.”

Mr. Morozowich loved fishing and often took his sons to Donegal Lake and Lake Arthur.

In later years, when he was no longer organizing the Ukrainian portion of the Pittsburgh Folk Festival, he and his wife would bake honey cookies and hand them out to children attending the festival.

“He was a big man and kind of loud,” Donald said. “So when people first met him, they were kind of afraid of him. But once they got to know him, they found out that he was just a really great guy.”

In addition to his two sons, and Donald’s wife, Rose Marie, Mr. Morozowich is survived by three grandchildren and a sister.

Friends will be received from 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday, at Ott Funeral Home, 805 Pennsylvania Ave., in Irwin.

Monday funeral services will begin at 9:30 a.m. at the funeral home, with an 11 a.m. requiem divine liturgy at St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church, 1907 Eden Park Blvd., McKeesport. Interment will follow at the parish cemetery in North Versailles.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.