Obituary: Jocqueline DeStefano / Creator of first hospital-based Meals on Wheels program in Western Pa.
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It isn't unusual for people to deliver more hot, home-cooked meals to friends grieving the loss of a loved one than they can possibly eat.
But it does feel especially fitting when the loved one is Jocqueline DeStefano, the woman who created the first hospital-based Meals on Wheels program in Western Pennsylvania.
"Meals just appear at the door," said JulieHera DeStefano, whose mother died Monday at age 79. "Pittsburgh really knows how to wrap their arms around people."
Likewise, Jocqueline DeStefano spent most of her adult life supporting the community.
The Richland resident began her nursing career providing door-to-door care in the Hill District for a decade with the Visiting Nurse Association.
She was recruited by Sewickley Valley Hospital in 1966 to establish and head its home care department. Years later she became the hospital's health education coordinator and legislative liaison to Harrisburg.
It was during her hiatus from the hospital, to raise her two children and attain a bachelor's degree in psychology at La Roche College, that she began to delve into her true passion: education.
She served 16 years as a member of Pine-Richland School Board and 12 years on the Allegheny Intermediate Unit board.
Mrs. DeStefano didn't sway toward any political party. As Bob Wiskemann, a former president of the Pine-Richland teachers union, puts it, "she was always about the kids."
Remembered as a forward thinker, her career is marked with numerous distinctions and awards for her service.
Mike Novak, a former board member and now owner of the Pines Tavern in Pine, said she showed him the ropes when he joined the board as a green 28-year-old. Later he asked her to be his daughter's godmother.
"We had a slogan, that we had to make decisions based on kids first, and Jockey held us to the fire on that one," he said.
Her passion was what he admired most, and the fact that fellow board members respected her, even if they didn't always agree.
"I will miss her humor," Mr. Novak said. "She was a real classy person, but she was the kind of person I could tell an off-colored joke to and she'd say it was terrible, and that she couldn't wait to tell somebody else."
"It was that Irish wit," her daughter said. "She could zing you with a one-liner that no one ever saw coming."
Ms. DeStefano said she's preparing a eulogy for her mother's funeral on Saturday and can't find enough words to describe her loving parent and role model.
"She chose to be a nurse because that resonated with who she was as a human being and she took that caring loving attitude to everyone," she said.
Mrs. DeStefano is survived by husband Ralph T. DeStefano of Richland; son Ralph M. DeStefano of Gibsonia; daughter Ms. DeStefano of New York; and sister Maureen Hamilton of Canonsburg.
Friends are welcome today and Friday from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. at Schellhaas Funeral Home LTD., 5864 Heckert Road, Bakerstown 15007. A burial Mass will be held 9:30 a.m. Saturday in St. Catherine of Sweden Church with the Rev. Michael McDermott as celebrant.
Interment will follow in Mount Royal Cemetery, Glenshaw. Donations may be made to the not-for-profit Journey to Normal Inc., 420 Duke Ct., Gibsonia, PA 15044; or journeytonormal.org.
First Published September 20, 2012 12:00 am