Korean War vet was a successful salesman
Thomas Rutkauskas didn’t talk much about his experiences during the Korean War in the early 1950s.
“He only said it was scary,” said his wife, Ruth Rutkauskas.
As a 22-year-old soldier in the Army, his job was to transport military communications in a time long before the advent of fax machines — carrying sensitive wartime messages aboard small airplanes known as “puddle jumpers.”
Mr. Rutkauskas, of Carnegie, died of cancer at UPMC Shadyside on Sunday, Aug. 22, 2004. He was 74.
Mr. Rutkauskas, who returned from the war to become a successful salesman and sales manager in Pittsburgh’s steel industry — did share stories about being shipped to Korea across choppy seas.
“He hung over the ship’s rail for 15 days going over. That’s why he never wanted to take a cruise,” Mrs. Rutkauskas said.
Mr. Rutkauskas was born Dec. 29, 1929, in Brownsville, Fayette County, a son of the late Carl and Helen Rutkauskas. His parents, who had emigrated from Lithuania, moved to Carnegie when Thomas was a child.
He was an outstanding linebacker for his high school football team in Carnegie in the late 1940s, becoming known as “Minus 6 Rutkauskas” because opposing teams frequently lost yardage on his side of the field, said a long-time friend, Dan Davis, of Cranberry.
Davis said Mr. Rutkauskas became his mentor when they worked for Ryerson Steel in Carnegie.
“He was a very street-smart salesman,” Davis said. “He was successful through hard work and wearing out a lot of shoe leather.”
“He loved his job and he loved to work,” said his daughter, Margaret “Peggy” Rutkauskas, of Imperial.
Mr. Rutkauskas, who also used the shortened name “Rutkus” with colleagues in the steel industry, started with Ryerson Steel as a mail clerk. He became a salesman and eventually rose to sales manager during 45 years with the company.
After retiring from Ryerson, he worked in sales for J. Allan Steel in Pittsburgh until shortly before his death.
“He could sell any metal product,” Davis said. “He also was a very likeable guy. He would give you the shirt off his back.”
In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Rutkauskas is survived by a brother and two sisters.
Friends will be received from 7 to 9 p.m. today and 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the William Slater II Funeral Service, 1650 Greentree Road, Scott. A funeral Mass is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday in St. Simon and Jude Catholic Church, 1607 Greentree Road, Scott. Entombment will be in Mt. Lebanon Mausoleum.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in Mr. Rutkauskas’ memory to Andrew Carnegie Free Library Building Fund, 300 Beechwood Ave., Carnegie, PA 15106, or to a charity of choice.