Patricia Loretta Young Wallisch rarely knew what it meant to slow down, whether furthering her education, trying new things, assisting her children, staying involved in her grandchildren's lives or anything else that kept her young beyond her years.
The longtime nurse was in her mid-60s when she obtained a bachelor's degree in education from the University of Pittsburgh after traveling the world in the Semester at Sea program with students who were many decades younger.
She was nearly 70 when she performed on stage for the first time, taking the part of the grandmother in the Pittsburgh Youth Ballet's performances of "The Nutcracker" for a 10-year stretch.
The vivacious, communicative Ms. Wallisch died Monday of kidney failure in her Baldwin Borough home. She was 86 and was surrounded by the close family she had nurtured for many years. She gave birth to the last of her six children at age 43 and was an influence on them and on her 10 grandchildren as well.
"There was just such an energy to her, so friendly and making everyone feel welcome," said her daughter, Mary Mandradjieff of Whitehall.
Ms. Wallisch, raised in Patton, Cambria County, entered the nursing profession in Pittsburgh as a young woman. She worked in various places over the years, including Mercy Hospital, the U.S. Steel Corp. Homestead plant, the Steel Valley School District and Eldercrest Nursing Center in Munhall.
With a husband and children who all had gotten or were intent upon getting four-year college degrees, she wanted one herself. She attended Pitt part time for 11 years while raising her youngest children and working outside the home before getting her bachelor's degree in 1991.
In the Semester at Sea program, she traveled to Japan, India and elsewhere, happily exchanging her clothing, jewelry and personal items with people she met to bring home souvenirs. She added to her extensive doll collection, which filled her home with some 150 dolls of all kinds that go back generations.
After retiring from nursing, the diminutive Ms. Wallisch was a Walmart greeter in Bethel Park for several years. She eagerly auditioned for her long-running role in "The Nutcracker" to join two granddaughters in the cast performing at Upper St. Clair High School and elsewhere on an annual basis. Those granddaughters later went on to become professional dancers.
Never shy herself, Ms. Wallisch was a member of The Scarlet Minx, a social group of local women over age 50 who were part of the national Red Hat Society, celebrating their middle-aged femininity with colorful clothing and gatherings.
In addition to her daughter Mary, she is survived by her husband, Fred; three other daughters, Anne Brucker of Bethel Park, Joan Wallisch of Whitehall and Ruth Wallisch of Baldwin Borough; two sons, Mike Wallisch of Scott and Kent Wallisch of Whitehall; three sisters; two brothers; 10 grandchildren; and one great-grandson.
Friends will be received from 5 to 8 p.m. today at Cieslak & Tatko Funeral Home, 2935 Brownsville Road, Brentwood. A Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Saturday in St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Virgin Church, 5302 Greenridge Drive, Whitehall.
Gary Rotstein: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1255.