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Westmoreland YWCA founder Kuyat dedicated life to service, education, family

Mary Pickels
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Kuyat

Aside from her children, Reta Snodgrass Kuyat’s proudest accomplishment was founding the YWCA Westmoreland County.

“Mom started with meetings in our house, and then in a tiny storefront on Main Street across from church,” said her daughter, Karen Nagy of Oakland Park, Fla.

Her mother was ahead of her time, she said.

“Back in the 1960s, women just didn’t start to go to college when they had little kids,” her daughter said.

Mrs. Kuyat did, going on to earn her bachelor’s degree in education, her master’s in reading and reading specialist degrees/certificate. She taught for the Hempfield Area School District until her retirement and later worked as a consultant for Macmillan Publishers, teaching other teachers how to use its reading systems.

“She was a big believer in education,” Nagy said.

“She loved music. She came to a lot of my performances,” added Nagy, a professional musician and college voice instructor.

The YWCA’s charter was signed in 1959, and Mrs. Kuyat attended its 50th anniversary in 2009 as guest of honor.

In a Tribune-Review article at the time, Mrs. Kuyat recalled businesses, including West Penn Power and Westinghouse, were expanding in the area at the time, bringing more families into the city.

Active with the Welcome Wagon, she found many transplanted families were interested in bringing a YWCA to the community.

School classrooms, fire halls and church basements all were used for early classes including foreign language, art and knitting.

“At one time, we had 73 classes. … The YWCA is on the cutting edge. We are innovators. That’s what is so good about the YWCA all over the world,” Mrs. Kuyat said at the time.

Reta Snodgrass Kuyat of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., formerly of Greensburg, died Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019, at Victoria Villa Assisted Living Facility in Davie, Fla. She was 88.

Born Sept. 4, 1930, in Seward, she was the daughter of the late James B. and Florence Wood Snodgrass.

A Johnstown High School graduate, she met her husband, Raymond Kuyat, while both were employed at the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat newspaper.

The couple moved to Greensburg in 1956, became lifelong members of First Presbyterian Church and raised two children.

During her tenure as the YWCA’s executive director, Bonnie Lewis worked closely with Mrs. Kuyat.

“Without Reta Kuyat, the YWCA of Westmoreland County would probably not exist. Reta Kuyat was a visionary for the needs of women in our county. She moved here from the Johnstown area and quickly recognized that she missed the YWCA in Johnstown, where she had been active. Not one afraid to take a challenge, she gathered together a group of women and contacted the YWCA/USA to find out how to go about starting a (local chapter),” Lewis said.

“Reta was untiring in making the YWCA to provide leadership for women,” she added.

The two kept in touch.

”We would talk on the phone or send notes so she could catch up on the latest news about the YW. She was an inspiration to all of the women of the county, and she will be missed,” Lewis said.

In addition to her husband and daughter, Mrs. Kuyat is survived by her son, Kurtis Kuyat of Greensburg, and a grandson, Kyle Kuyat of Franklin, Tenn.

Services will be held at noon Thursday in First Presbyterian Church, 300 S. Main St., Greensburg.

Private interment will be in Westmoreland County Memorial Park.

Arrangements are under the direction of the Kepple-Graft Funeral Home, Greensburg.

Memorial donations may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association at alz.org.

Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-836-5401, [email protected] or via Twitter @MaryPickels.