Obituary: Gloria Calabria / Tireless booster for North Braddock

Jan. 10, 1942 - Dec. 1, 2012

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The late Edward "Gooch" Calabria may have been North Braddock's longtime borough manager, but his wife, Gloria Jean Zilko Calabria, had an important role as a borough booster and fundraiser.

Mrs. Calabria who worked tirelessly to help a declining steel town put its best foot forward, died at home Dec. 1 of liver disease. She was 70. Among many other contributions, she helped to organize the borough's centennial celebration in 1997 and the annual community day celebrations that followed. "Anything that bettered the community, Jean would go all out and put 150 percent of herself into it," longtime friend Marsha Friez said.

For Mrs. Calabria, North Braddock meant "family and neighbors and friendships," her niece, Deborah Duch of North Versailles, said. An excellent cook, she often invited extended family to dinners, and other guests were always welcome.

"Their home was really full of laughter and of love," Ms. Duch said of Mrs. Calabria and her husband, who died in 2001.

Mrs. Calabria was born Jan. 10, 1942, in North Braddock, a daughter of Stephen and Gabriella Zilko. She graduated from Scott High School in 1959 and worked at Saks Fifth Avenue in Braddock, an experience that gave her a lifelong sense of style, said Ms. Duch.

Mrs. Calabria was a founder of North Braddock Community Day and Civic Association, which organized the centennial and later annual celebrations. She also was involved in holiday light-up nights, a scholarship fund for local high school students, fire department fish fries and clean-up days. She helped to erect welcome signs at borough entrances and to plant flowers around them.

"I think she saw the decline and it bothered her, so she tried to keep the name as good as possible," Mrs. Friez said. Mrs. Calabria also was a member of Wilkinsburg-Penn Joint Water Authority and chairwoman of North Braddock's Democratic Committee.

Mrs. Calabria enjoyed bus trips to Atlantic City casinos with Mrs. Friez and other friends -- excursions that included strawberry daiquiris each day.

Surviving are sisters Julie Duch of North Versailles and Gabriella "Gubs" Nigro of North Braddock, and brothers Francis "Butch" Zilko and Stephen "Snuffy" Zilko, both of North Braddock.

A Mass was celebrated Wednesday.


Joe Smydo: or 412-263-1548.


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