WWII veteran set example of self-reliance
Bert Bertonaschi made a living as the Maytag repairman in a Westinghouse town.
“He had his shop on Cavitt Avenue (Trafford) from 1954 until about 1968,” said his son Fran, of Hazelwood, who used to be his dad’s “helper” when he was a kid. Many of his father’s customers worked in the Westinghouse plant just down the street.
Tulio “Bert” Bertonaschi of Trafford died of congestive heart failure on Monday, Jan. 6, 2014. He was 92.
Mr. Bertonaschi, who was born in Solignano, Italy, became a master gardener when he retired and until last year was still working the 30-by-60-foot plot in his backyard.
“He was 91 and still out there growing tons of tomatoes, garlic, broccoli, Italian beans,” said his daughter, Susan Bertonaschi, of Atlanta. Her father liked to can some of his tomatoes.
Mr. Bertonaschi migrated to Blairsville via Ellis Island in 1927, graduating from Blairsville High School in 1940, where he was an undefeated wrestler in his senior year. He was in the Army during World War II, earning a Bronze Star in the Pacific.
He married his wife of 60 years, the late Catherine Banko, in 1949, and they moved to Trafford in 1953.
“They did everything together,” his daughter said. “They traveled a lot, they loved the beach.”
She died in 2009 of pancreatic cancer.
When his wife died, Mr. Bertonaschi put on the apron and did his own cooking, said his son, Michael, of Trafford.
“He was pretty self-sufficient. He used to make dinner for me and my two sons a couple of times a week,” he said. His specialty — a chocolate cake with white icing and cherries on top — may be lost to the family.
“No one got the recipe … we won’t be able to replicate it,” Michael Bertonaschi said. “He got it from his mother, who couldn’t speak English.”
When he closed his shop, Mr. Bertonaschi worked in maintenance at U.S. Steel’s Research Center in Monroeville.
In addition to his children, Fran, Susan and Michael, he is survived by another daughter, Karen Bertonaschi, of Houston, Texas; two grandchildren: Adam and Ryan Bertonaschi, of Oakland; and a brother, Pete Bertonaschi, 94, of Alabama.
Family and friends will be received from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. Friday in John M. Dobrinick Funeral Home Inc., 702 Seventh St., Trafford, Parting prayers will be at 9 a.m. Saturday in the funeral home, followed by a funeral Mass at 9:30 a.m. in St. Regis Church, Trafford. Interment will follow in SS. Simon and Jude Cemetery, Blairsville.
Memorial contributions may be made to Forbes Hospice, 4800 Friendship Ave., Pittsburgh, Pa., 15224.
Craig Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5646 or [email protected].