Hometown treasure: Springdale’s Elizabeth Yanni
Elizabeth Yanni’s life has been dedicated to helping others.
And Yanni, a lifelong resident of Springdale who just celebrated her 90th birthday, has no plans to slow down.
“I just love doing it,” said Yanni, who during a surprise birthday party Jan. 3 was presented with a citation from state Rep. Frank Dermody’s office recognizing her decades of volunteer work.
For more than 20 years, Yanni has volunteered at the Sen. John Heinz Veterans Administration Center in O’Hara. Two to three days a week, she drives to the VA hospital, where she is in charge of the chapel, to set up the altar for Mass and direct visitors at the front desk.
Yanni said her commitment, in part, stems from her unfulfilled desire to become a nurse.
“When I graduated from (Springdale) high school, there was no money for me to go to school,” Yanni said.
So instead, she went to work at Altmeyer’s in New Kensington, making draperies.
Elizabeth Prohaska married James Yanni, whom she knew from school, in 1939, and they had two sons, James of McCandless and Jack of Williamsport. Yanni, whose husband died in 1986, also has three grandchildren and three great-granddaughters.
Her volunteer work extends beyond the VA hospital. She also serves as secretary of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Springdale Veterans Association, where she is in charge of the annual poppy sale each spring.
And she is a Eucharistic minister, member of the choir and serves on the parish council at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in Springdale.
James Yanni said his mother’s positive attitude and active schedule keep her going.
“She is a totally upbeat person,” said James Yanni, 65. “She has severe arthritis in her right leg. But she ignores the pain. She wakes up every day thankful she has another day on this Earth.”
In addition to her volunteering, Elizabeth Yanni enjoys making fudge and crocheting Pittsburgh Steelers, Penguins and Pirates pennants.
Yanni said the Saturday afternoon birthday party — held at Ladles restaurant in Springdale — came as a real surprise.
“It was such a shock,” Yanni said. “I thought my sons and I were going out to dinner, and there were 55 people there.”
Family: Husband, the late James Yanni; two sons, James and Jack; three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Favorite thing about the Valley: ‘My church. I love my church. I was baptized there in 1919.’