As a young man fresh out of the University of Pittsburgh in 1953, Merle L. DeLuca went to work as a salesman at a company that builds furniture and equipment for K-12 schools, and over the course of 60 years he ended up owning the only company he ever worked for.
Mr. DeLuca, chairman of C.M. Eichenlaub Co., based in Forest Hills, died Jan. 2 at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Oakland after suffering multiple health-related complications. He was 87 and lived in Murrysville.
“He had many health problems and he was still going to work every day,” said his daughter Shari Shovel of Murrysville, who has taken over his role as head of the company. “My dad always had a job. He worked in a bowling alley and delivered newspapers when he was a kid. Then he got out of college in 1953 and worked right up until the day he died.”
While Mr. DeLuca owned a successful business that provides jobs for 13 employees, he always had a deep longing to be a football coach.
He graduated from Penn Hills High School, where he played fullback, halfback and guard. He played both offensive and defensive guard on Pitt’s football team from 1950 to 1952. During an 18-month stint in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, he played football and coached the Army team at Fort Knox in Kentucky.
Rather than pursue a coaching career when he left the Army, Mr. DeLuca went back to the job he already had and continued to love — selling furniture and equipment for school auditoriums, gymnasiums and libraries. He became a majority stockholder and chairman of the board of the company in the late 1970s.
Sports remained a lifelong passion.
“He never missed a Pitt or Steelers game for 60 years,” said Cathie DeLuca, his wife of 64 years.
In his own way, Merle DeLuca ran his business as if it were a team competing in a tough marketplace and he was the coach whose job it was to lead the team members to success.
“When he interviewed people, he asked if they ever played football or any other organized sport,” Ms. Shovel said. “If they did, he knew they would understand what it meant to be a team. That’s how he ran his company.
“He never thought work was work. Work was his recreation. Work came easy to him. He didn’t understand why it wasn’t easy to others,” she said. “He was dedicated, committed and disciplined.”
Mr. DeLuca was longtime member and past president of Churchill Valley Country Club and served on the Western Pennsylvania Golf Association. He also was a great card player and a lover of the Jersey Shore.
In addition to his wife and daughter, he is survived by another daughter, Cyndi DeLuca of Des Moines, Iowa; and a sister, Marlene Mincin of Peters.
A memorial service will be held 11 a.m. Saturday at Hebron United Presbyterian Church, 10460 Frankstown Road, Penn Hills. Memorial contributions may be made to Hebron Church. Arrangements by Trenz Funeral Home Inc., Penn Hills.
Tim Grant: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1591.