ShareThis Page
Shop owner looked on the bright side |
Obituary Stories

Shop owner looked on the bright side

| Thursday, May 14, 2015 12:01 a.m

John Umek attributed his long life to avoiding rich foods, though he indulged in bourbon on occasion, most recently on his birthday two weeks ago.

But more than that, his daughter said, his long life came from his positive outlook, reflected in his interactions with the Jeannette community as a grocer, banker, violinist, singer and choir director.

“He always looked on the bright side of things. He never let things get him down,” Patricia Erdelsky said.

John W. Umek died Monday, May 11, 2015, of natural causes. He was 101.

Mr. Umek was born in Claridge. The family moved to Jeannette when he was a toddler and lived in a house his father built, Erdelsky said.

He graduated with the Jeannette High School Class of 1931, then owned and operated J&M Market in town until it closed in 1977.

His daughter said there were standing orders for the market’s homemade deli foods such as kielbasa, chipped ham and roast beef.

“Everybody knew the J&M Market and all the special things they would make,” Erdelsky said. “They would take good care of you there.”

He was a founding director of Jeannette Federal Savings and Loan and was their appraiser.

As a singer, Mr. Umek had a “strong, vibrant” tenor voice that he shared in many choirs, including a barbershop quartet that would practice in the family’s home, Erdelsky said.

“I would go to bed listening to ‘There Is Nothin’ Like A Dame,’ ” emanating from the piano to her bedroom, she said.

He was encouraged to pursue a singing career in New York but had just met his future wife, the late Joan Cametti Umek. He continued to sing mostly as a hobby, Erdelsky said.

Mr. Umek sang at countless weddings, including the last about four years ago for his granddaughter, Erdelsky said.

Mr. Umek cherished his wife, who died nine years ago, and kept a sequined top of hers on a pillow as a memory, his granddaughter Chris Hong said.

“Grandpap was more the romantic, Grandma was more the realist,” she said.

Even Mr. Umek’s handshake conveyed his zest for life, Hong said.

“It was important that if you shook hands, you shook hands like you meant it,” she said, relating advice he gave her years ago: “Everything you do can mean something if you do it with a purpose.”

He was preceded in death by a daughter, Joan Dangelo.

He is survived by two daughters, Patricia Erdelsky and her husband, Joe, of Jeannette and Kathy Drylie and her husband, Ron, of Henderson, Nev.; a son-in-law, Chuck Dangelo of Jeannette; six grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren.

Friends will be received from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Friday in Mason-Gelder Funeral Home Inc., 201 N. First St. in Jeannette.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated 10 a.m. Saturday in Sacred Heart Church, 523 Patton Ave. in Jeannette, with entombment in Greensburg Catholic Cemetery.

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.