Obituary: Jack Onorad / Retired head of financial counseling company

Oct. 29, 1927 - June 16, 2013

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Jack Onorad, a respected business executive and former president of a Pittsburgh-based financial counseling organization, died Sunday of congestive heart failure. He was 85.

Mr. Onorad, who lived in Sheraden until moving to an independent living facility in McKees Rocks a few years ago, built a reputation as an effective business manager at PNC Bank and Gimbels department store, climbing into management roles at each organization.

In 1988, he was recruited to lead Consumer Credit Counseling Services (now Advantage Credit Counseling Services), a nonprofit agency that assists Pittsburgh-area residents with financial troubles to keep balanced budgets. Colleagues and family members say that though Mr. Onorad came off as reserved and unassuming, he cared deeply about his family members and employees.

"He was a spectacular person," said Mary Loftus, vice president of Advantage Credit Counseling, who worked with Mr. Onorad during his tenure at the agency and called him her mentor. "If employees were due in at 8 a.m., he would come in at 7:30. He was the first one in and the last one out."

When he assumed the helm of the South Side agency in 1988, he inherited an organization with little structure and significant budgetary problems. Under his leadership, the agency grew from operating two regional offices to 11 by 1999, when he retired.

According to the agency's current president, Stephen Piotrowski, Mr. Onorad also grew the budget so significantly that it "still has a fiscal reserve to carry it into the future."

Another former employee, Helen Kaiser, said Mr. Onorad had an eye for spotting talent, and in many cases he guided employees into managerial roles at the agency as it grew.

He took a personal interest in his staff, taking care to get to know the partners of each of his employees. Each year, he hosted an agency Christmas party at his home, where he and his wife, Mildred, would hire a magician and prepare small holiday gifts for each of their guests.

Mr. and Mrs. Onorad met as children in Elliot, where, according to their son Richard, they both attended Langley High School. They later married at the now-closed St. James Church in the West End and had two children, Richard and James.

"His biggest passion was taking care of his wife," said Richard Onorad, who lives in Green Tree. "They would never be separated. They would go to the grocery store together; they went to the dentist together."

Growing up, Mr. Onorad's children rarely saw their father on weekdays, because he worked long hours to ensure his wife could stay at home with them. For many years, their father commuted on the bus each day. One night, during a particularly heavy snowstorm, Mr. Onorad walked home so as not to trouble his wife to pick him up.

One year after Mr. Onorad's retirement, his elder son, James, died of a brain aneurysm at the age of 47. "That crushed my mom and my dad," Richard Onorad said. It was an event that cast a shadow on the rest of his father's life.

In his final few years, Mr. Onorad knew his heart condition would not allow him to live much longer, and he drew up detailed instructions for his funeral, including the type of casket he wanted. Upon his death, Mr. Onorad's only request was that his son ensure that Mildred continued to live comfortably. "I promised him I would," his son said.

In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Onorad is survived by his sister, Annamae Lawson of Kissimmee, Fla., as well as four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Arrangements were made by the Anthony G. Staab Funeral Home.

obituaries

Michelle Hackman: mhackman@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1969.


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