Obituary: Leo D. Castagnari / Stone mason loved for great heart

March 23, 1925 - Jan. 3, 2014

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A good man is hard to find, some people say. But not if they stopped by St. Clair Hospital, or St. Louise de Marillac Church in Upper St. Clair or the Jugo-Slav Club in Bethel Park, and asked for Leo D. Castagnari.

Whether calling bingo or managing fish-fry fundraisers, installing marble in a new church or chiseling just the right angle into his stonework, telling stories with an old friend or making magic for a toddler, Mr. Castagnari was a natural at being a good man, according to friends and family members.

"My dad was good in every aspect," said his son, Leo M. Castagnari. "He was good to people, he was good at what he did for a living as an artist, he was a good husband and a good father and he was a great son -- he really broke the mold."

Mr. Castagnari died Jan. 3. He was 88.

Born March 23, 1925, Mr. Castagnari was the son of the late Mario and Theresa (Covolo) Castagnari. He grew up in the coal-mining town of Yatesboro in Armstrong County and completed school through eighth grade. After finishing school, he joined the Bricklayers & Allied Craftsmen Local 9 in Pittsburgh and went to work as a brick mason on jobs around the city, including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the North Side, the courtyard waterfall at Heinz Hall and many churches including in his own home parish of St. Louise de Marillac.

"He was a real artist," the younger Mr. Castagnari said. "My father would be called to do what the traditional craftsmen of Europe would do.

In his work on the Heinz Hall fountain, for instance, the elder Mr. Castagnari wore out one chisel after another to give a natural look to what is supposed to visually symbolize a Western Pennsylvanian waterfall.

His work to help build St. Louise, however, was his voluntary contribution to help his church community after parishioners had met for years in the basement of a nearby Catholic girl's school.

"He'd leave home right he'd had dinner, at about 4 o'clock, and go to church and work there a long time," his son said.

Mr. Castagnari also helped call bingo and managed fish fries at the church to raise money for children's athletics and other activities at the church. There, he was a member of the St. Louise Men's Club, and his many contributions prompted his fellow parishioners to create the annual "Leo Castagnari Award for Volunteerism" and make him its first recipient.

He was a frequent volunteer at St. Clair Hospital as well and rarely missed a regular Tuesday morning breakfast with more than a dozen friends at the Jugo-Slav Club in Bethel Park.

"He was a good guy, a real good guy," said his friend and the club's longtime manager, Bobby O. Homitsky. "Everybody loved him."

Most of all, Mr. Castagnari was loved for his great heart, his kindness and his willingness to help anyone who needed it, his son said.

"My dad did not hold high office or have a million dollars in his bank account," the younger Mr. Castagnari said. "But people who did hold high office and who did have a million dollars in their bank accounts, and little toddlers, all respected him."

Mr. Castagnari is survived by his son and his daughter, Deborah Bonanno; and sisters, Emma Garfola, Corrine Moore and Joanne Bucci.

Mass will be celebrated today at 10:30 a.m. in St. Louise de Marillac, with interment to follow in Woodruff Memorial Park. The family suggests that in lieu of flowers, memorial donations be made to St. Louise de Marillac Children's Athletic Fund, 320 McMurray Road, Pittsburgh 15241.


Amy McConnell Schaarsmith: aschaarsmith@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1719.


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