Thursday, November 29, 2007


I was thinking about my neighbor and dear friend Fritz yesterday when I read this in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Not because Fritz was a coal miner, but because he has been my surrogate grandfather for a number of years. My grandfather was a coal miner.

Anthony "Tony" Petrosky was the only remaining grandfather I had at the age of four, and that's when he died. It is a moment in my life that visits me often, because I was the one who found him. He was napping on the sofa while my grandmother was preparing Sunday dinner and she told me it was time to wake him up. So I started to tug on him, and then I went to tell my Uncle Joe, who was still living at home at the time, that he wouldn't move, and I remember watching as his efforts went from "come on, Dad, get up," to desperation. I didn't know the word for it then, but I understood the emotion on his face. When my mother realized what was happening, she pulled me away.

He was taken to the hospital shortly after and pronounced dead. He died of "black lung." There are few photos of he and I together, but being the first grandchild, I was the recipient of all of his attention for what short time we had together. The thing I remember about him most was that he knew how to have fun.

He certainly didn't have the most glorious of childhoods -- he started working in the mines at 14, lived through the strike, slept in a tent (my grandmother has the photos) and told tales of eating coffee soup, so it took me a while to figure out why he was so happy. But as I would come to learn, the toughest people I know have the most genuine senses of humor and are, above all, able to laugh at their situations and themselves the most.

My favorite photo of him has to be the one where he's dressed up as Little Bo Peep for Halloween. Wig and all. He was a real ham in front of the camera.

Reading the story about the exhibit at the Heinz History Center also reminded me of one of my early (June 2006), mangled attempts at blogging. I left the text exactly in its original, raw form; I only changed the font and color for easier reading (I was using a different background color when I started out, as if that matters in the least ... ).


The photo of Fritz was taken when we were celebrating his 89th birthday the day before Thanksgiving. He lived at own home until October. Now he has a new home, and new neighbors, but his old neighbors still visit him as much as they can.

He is one of the funniest people I have ever met in my life. Sharp as a tack. And "not for his age." For any age.

(Poppyseed roll from Dave's Terrace Bakery, Whitehall. Smoke alarms going off courtesy of Ms. Mon.)

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