Father, husband looked after his family
By Jerry Vondas
Sunday, December 21, 2003
Although Tom Gersic had the reputation of being a fine baker, it was at Christmas that his baked goods were most in demand. Jann Bernhardt recalled how, as children, she and her sister Jill White, along with a legion of relatives, looked forward to dining on their father'sCroatian nut bread. Tom Gersic's mother had brought the recipe with her when sheemigrated from Croatia, then a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Thomas J. Gersic, of Etna, died on Friday, Dec. 19, 2003, in Concordia Lutheran Home, Cabot, Butler County.
"In those days, our family Christmas dinners were well attended," Bernhardt said. "Dad had nine siblings, and they would take turns holding the Christmas dinners at their homes.
"But no matter where the Christmas dinner was held, Dad always provided the Croatian nut bread," Bernhardt added. "And the recipe is still in our family today."
Mr. Gersic was one of 10 children in the family of Thomas and Anna Petric Gersic. The elder Gersic, like many Croatian men, was recruited to come to the United States and work at the Spang, Chalfant & Co. plant in Etna.
As a youngster, Tom Gersic left school at an early age, enlisted in the Navy and saw action during World War II.
Mr. Gersic remained in the Navy after the end of the war, and after his discharge in 1955, he married Thelma Hahn, a woman from O'Hara.
"Both Mom and Dad said it was love at first sight," Bernhardt recalled, "and they were devoted to each other up until the time Mom died in 1994."
Bernhardt recalled that her father was so devoted to their mother that he opted to work two jobs so she could stay home and raise their daughters.
Mr. Gersic's first job after his discharge and marriage was to dig graves at the old Etna Cemetery, which contains the graves of Civil War veterans. It was a job he kept through the years, even though he was employed for more than 30 years as a food processor for Armour Meat Co. on the North Side.
"Many of the graves Dad dug, he did by hand," his daughter said. "Our father was an easy-going and a pleasant man to know and to talk with, but when it came to work, he was all work.
"Dad wanted us to get a good education, and he was willing to work two jobs," his daughter said. "He worked the night shift at Armour and then dug graves during the daylight hours. He did it for years."
Although Mr. Gersic enjoyed bowling, watching Westerns on TV and socializing with friends at the Sharpsburg Veterans of Foreign Wars post and the Jockey Club of Etna, he spent most of his time at home, where he and his wife continually busied themselves with chores around the house.
"Dad had a garden, and he and Mom would process and can the vegetables that he grew," Bernhardt said.
His daughter also recalled what it was like walking along the streets of Etna with her father. "Dad knew everyone," she said. "It took us a long time to walk along Butler Street. Dad had to stop and talk to almost everyone that went by."
Mr. Gersic is survived by his daughters, Jann Bernhardt of Shaler and Jill White of Oakdale; granddaughters, Tammy Volpatti, Amanda Mennell and Nicole White; a brother, Raymond Gersic of Naperville, Ill.; and sisters Barbara Kiray of Greenfield and Mary Lou Robinson of Indiana Township.
He was predeceased by his wife, Thelma; brothers, Michael and Steven Gersic; and sisters, Katherine Cvetic, Anne Profozich, Margaret Arzberger and Lily Barrett.
Visitation is from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. today and Monday at Worrell Funeral Home Inc., Main and Ninth Streets, Sharpsburg, where services will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday, with the Rev. Herbert L. Schumm officiating.
Interment will follow in Mt. Royal Cemetery, Shaler.
Jerry Vondas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (412) 320-7823.
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