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Holiday-loving millwright was ideal Kaufmann’s Santa

Tribune-Review
| Tuesday, November 25, 2014 12:01 a.m
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Millwright and long-time Kaufmann's Santa Claus Earl F. Flaherty pictured with his wife, Frances, on their 25th wedding anniversary. Mr. Flaherty, 66, of McKeesport died Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014.

Earl Flaherty kept his home decor tasteful — a few reindeer, lots of lights.

The former Kaufmann’s department store Santa Claus believed in good cheer, said his wife, Frances.

“I loved to come down and watch him with the kids,” she said Monday. “Earl had a very big heart.”

Earl F. Flaherty of McKeesport died Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, in UPMC McKeesport. He was 66.

A millwright by trade, Mr. Flaherty learned the Santa craft by accident, she said, during one of a handful of U.S. Steel layoffs. Kaufmann’s department store Downtown had high standards, she said. Santas had to be certified.

“He loved kids, and we didn’t have any, so he took a class through Western Temporary Services,” his wife said. “He loved it so much, he became their No. 1 Santa.”

Mr. Flaherty braved big lines and icy traffic for 13 years, picking up shifts from the day after Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve.

He decorated for every holiday, she said. Corn stalks and pumpkins still adorn the outside of their McKeesport home.

He loved Tamburitzan music, a byproduct of marrying a good Croatian, Frances said. The pair traveled often, and he loved to fish at local lakes, in Erie and on the Florida coast.

“He wouldn’t even eat fish unless it was breaded,” she said, laughing. “I think it was just the act of catching the fish he loved. It relaxed him. Earl was so quick and careful; he always threw them right back in.”

He left her “with millions of memories,” she said. “All good ones.”

A 1966 graduate of McKeesport Vocational High School, Mr. Flaherty attended Machine Shop Technologies Center in Pittsburgh during his 38 years with U.S. Steel, primarily at Clairton Works. He was a volunteer at St. Mary’s Byzantine Church in McKeesport and a member of the Croatian Fraternal Union Lodge 3.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Earl F. Flaherty Sr. and Betty (Ensign) Flaherty.

In addition to his wife of 37 years, Frances (Dujmic) Flaherty, he is survived by a sister, Cathy Hayden; brother, Charles Flaherty; and nephews, nieces and godsons.

Friends will be received from 2 to 8 p.m. Tuesday in Daniel F. Bekavac Funeral Home and Crematory, 4504 Walnut St., Versailles, with funeral services to follow at 10 a.m. Wednesday by Fathers Paul Voida and Matthew Elanjalith. Interment will be private.

Megan Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5815 or mharris@tribweb.com.

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