Obituary: Antoinette Drobycki / Devoted volunteer for the needy

Aug. 23, 1918 - March 4, 2013


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When Antoinette "Toni" Drobycki noticed a prisoner she was working with didn't have shoes, no one was surprised when she offered her own.

"When inmates saw her on the street they would hug her and tell her how she turned their lives around," said Carol Jackson, Ms. Drobycki's niece.

Ms. Drobycki -- known by many as Sister Toni -- had volunteered in prison ministry at Allegheny County Jail since the 1980s.

"She would do prayer meetings with the inmates and give them communion," Ms. Jackson, of Independence, said. "That's what she felt her calling was." She volunteered at the jail into her 90s.

Ms. Drobycki died Monday. She was 94.

She never had a traditional career but made it her life's work to help others in hospitals, jails and soup kitchens.

She was born in McKees Rocks to parents who ran a butcher shop in Glendale, according to her sister, Helen Cridge.

Ms. Cridge said after the shop went bankrupt during the Depression and their father got sick, her sister helped support the family.

With only an eighth-grade education, Ms. Drobycki worked as a caretaker for $5 per week.

She eventually applied for a job at an A&P in Carnegie in the meat department. The male employees said "a woman could never run a meat department," according to Ms. Jackson.

But with a connection to her father's butcher shop, she got the job.

"She would toss half a side of beef over her shoulder and cut it by hand," Ms. Jackson said. "She was a feisty woman."

After Ms. Drobycki's mother got sick, she left her job at the A&P to care for her, and that's when she began volunteering.

She served as a Catholic eucharistic minister at St. Francis Medical Center and helped serve food at Jubilee Kitchen in addition to her work at the jail.

Toward the end of her life, Ms. Drobycki used to joke, " 'People are surprised I'm still alive,' " according to Ms. Jackson. " 'I'm here because I haven't made enough people miserable yet.' "

Ms. Drobycki is survived by her sister, of Hopewell.

Family are invited to a viewing at the Szafranski-Eberlein Funeral Home in Carnegie 11 a.m. Saturday. Mass will be celebrated at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church at noon.

The family suggests donations to the Alzheimer's Association.

obituaries

Alex Zimmerman: azimmerman@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3909.


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