Obituary: Patrick Luvara / Gas station owner, coach who cared about children
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Patrick Luvara -- who took care of young people whether they were downed pilots in World War II, teens who worked at his gasoline station, his own children or those he coached at the Church of Our Lady of Grace in Scott -- died Friday.
"If I could describe my dad in one phrase, he was a friend of kids. He just loved kids, young people up through the teenage years. They used to hang around his gas station and work on their cars," said his son, Joseph Luvara of Upper St. Clair.
Mr. Luvara, who was 93 and a resident of Scott, grew up in the Hill District. He began working construction straight out of high school as a member of Ironworkers Local #3.
In World War II, he served as a flight engineer in the Army Air Forces and was assigned to an air-sea rescue squadron in the Pacific. His B-17 carried a life raft instead of bombs.
"They would drop the boat to the downed pilots and send a submarine to rescue them," Joseph Luvara said.
Flying out of Guam, Saipan and Iwo Jima, they rescued many pilots and, on one occasion, spotted a group of Japanese boats and called in American fighters to sink them. The crew conducted 13 missions over Tokyo Bay alone.
Patrick Luvara was discharged in January 1946 and returned to the Hill District, where he met his future wife, Emily. They married on Jan. 14, 1947.
Mr. Luvara continued as an ironworker, and, with one of his six brothers, formed a construction company, Luvara Co.Inc. He moved his young family to Scott, where they became involved with a new Catholic parish, Our Lady of Grace.
"Faith and family were very important to him," his son said.
In the mid-1950s, he and his brother, Victor, opened and ran Luvara Texaco at the intersection of Painters Run and Bower Hill roads.
Ron Palastro of Bethel Park got his first job there in 1956, when he was 15 and continued to work there summers through college.
"He was like a second father to me," Mr. Palastro said. "He was a wonderful person. Anyone who needed anything, he would help them out."
The feeling that employees were treated like family began with the home-cooked hot meals that Mrs. Luvara brought to the station for the night shift.
In prom season, Mr. Luvara advanced the money that his high school employees needed to rent tuxedos and allow them to work it off.
When a mutual friend was in an accident and had large medical bills but no insurance, Mr. Luvara helped to pay them off.
If there was a problem at work, "he wouldn't give you heck or anything. What he would say was, 'This is my business. If this was your business or your dad's business, would you do that?' You just learned from his cool way of handling things," Mr. Palastro said.
When Mr. Palastro played football for Scott Township High School, "he came to every single game," he said, adding that Mr. Luvara did the same for all of his employees.
He would critique their play the next day, but always constructively, Mr. Palastro said.
Mr. Luvara coached for the Bower Hill Baseball Association and built his home behind the field where they played. In the late 1950s, he helped to launch the football program at Our Lady of Grace School. He coached seventh- and eighth-graders there, first as an assistant and for years as the head coach.
He continued to attend the games of his grandchildren and finally games where he didn't know any of the players, just to cheer them on.
In that, as in other aspects of life, he inspired his children, said Joseph Luvara, who volunteers as a football coach at St. Louise de Marillac School in Upper St. Clair.
"He absolutely set the example," he said. "You have to give back a little bit from those who gave to you."
In addition to his son Joseph, he is survived by a son, Angelo of Keyser, W.Va.; two daughters, Patricia Hazel of Matthews, N.C., and Tina Giuntini of Scott; nine grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be from 1 to 9 p.m. Wednesday in the Beinhauer-Fryer Funeral Home, 430 Washington Ave., Bridgeville.
A Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Thursday in Our Lady of Grace, with entombment in Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Peters.
Gifts may be made to Our Lady of Grace Angel Fund, 310 Kane Blvd., Pittsburgh 15243.
First Published December 24, 2012 12:00 am