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Ann (LaPatka) Concilla

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Anna LoPatka (later given as LaPatka) was born in the small village of Chewton, Wayne Township, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, July 26, 1902. She was the second child born to John and Mary (Brinczko) LoPatka, both of whom had immigrated to the United States in the 1890’s from the Hungarian portion of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (an area now in modern day Slovakia). John and Mary had met in the big city of Pittsburgh, had a son named George in May 1901, and then settled up north in Chewton soon after.

The LoPatka family lived on Plum Way just off the ball field in Chewton. Anna was the first of many LoPatka children born in Chewton. While growing up Anna and her brothers and sisters attended the Chewton Public Schools. Sometime during the timeframe 1913-1917 Anna’s parents rented out their house in Chewton and moved the whole family by train to Cleveland, Ohio. After only three months they packed up and moved back to their home on Plum Way in Chewton.

Beginning in 1914 the monumental “Great War” (later known as World War I) raged across Europe, but the isolationist-minded United States managed to remain officially neutral for the time being. The LoPatka’s were potentially in a bad spot as their home country of Austria-Hungary joined ranks with Imperial Germany. Sometime after war broke out the Reverend Frances A. Maloney, the pastor of St. Monica’s Catholic Church in Wampum, apparently convinced John LoPatka to change the spelling of the family surname to the more Americanized form of “LaPatka.” This was probably suggested as a way to distance the family from their native Austro-Hungarian homeland, which was aligned with Imperial Germany during the Great War. All the family members accepted this change except for son Frank, who kept the LoPatka name for the rest of his life.

On June 7, 1917, the LaPatka’s moved to a sixteen-acre farm on the outskirts of Chewton (on Tony Dytko Road). With nine total children including Anna (another two died in infancy) the family had a lot more room to grow out in the countryside. Five more kids would be born out at the farm from 1920-1926. Anna, at age fifteen, probably completed the eighth grade at about the time of the move to the country. Sometime after this she started working at the Crichton Enameling Works in Ellwood City.

Anna used to attend dances at the YMCA in downtown New Castle. During one of those dances she met a man named Frank Concilla, who may have lived in the YMCA as well.

He was born in Pittsburgh on May 1, 1896, the son of Italian immigrants Joseph and Josephine Concilla who began a thriving grape growing business in Oil City, Venango County, Pennsylvania. They were married on her birthday on Monday, July 26, 1926, at St. Monica’s Catholic Church in Wampum. The Reverend Maloney presided over their wedding. Mary (Sobczak) Buchalski, whose family lived on Elizabeth Street in Chewton, served as the Maid of Honor.

They lived in New Castle in a rented house at #603 East Long Avenue. They later bought a house nearby at #1015 Hazen Street, down the street from Benjamin Franklin Junior High School. They would visit her family often by taking the train to Wampum and walking out to the farm in rural Chewton. Anna and Frank had a tumultuous relationship and fought quite a bit. Anna apparently had some serious issues of her own. At one point she had a mental breakdown and was confined for observation in the psychiatric ward at St. Francis Hospital in New Castle.

In March 1943, in the midst of World War II, they moved to the Brushton-West Homewood section of eastern Pittsburgh and lived with Frank’s sister Josephine (Concilla) Tortorete at #6801 Kelly Street. Josephine’s husband had since passed away and she was living with her son Paul Tortorete. The LaPatka family was apparently unaware Anna had even moved away to Pittsburgh.

About three months after the move Anna died of what many called suspicious circumstances. She was supposedly washing windows on Tuesday, June 29, 1943, when she fell or jumped out of the upstairs window at the Tortorete home. She suffered crushing injuries and fractured some of her ribs. One of the broken ribs punctured her lung which would lead to her death. She lingered near death in a local hospital but died the next day at 6:15pm. Her death certificate lists her manner of death as “suicide” and “jumping from a second story window.” Her obituary stated she died after “after a long illness.” There are still whispers that she may have been pushed out of the window.

The John Kekilty Funeral Home in Pittsburgh handled the arrangements. The staff of the Marshall Funeral Home in Wampum drove down to Pittsburgh and brought her remains back to the LaPatka farm in Chewton. Family and friends were received at the farm over the weekend and a service was held at St. Monica’s in Wampum at 9:00am on Monday, July 5. The Reverend Edmund Rowan presided over the mass, and Paul Tortorete, Frank Matyas, Steve Burick, Ray Kosior, Ray Monazesky, and Joe Migut served as pallbearers.

Anna was interred in St. Teresa’s (Hoytdale) Cemetery, alongside the small church where I believe Reverend Maloney (who married Anna back in 1926) was now the pastor. As it turned out she was one of the last handful of people buried at the secluded cemetery, as it was abandoned as a active cemetery a few years after the church burned down in late 1944. Frank Concilla moved up north to the town of North East near Erie, Pennsylvania, where he had family. Frank was rarely heard from again, although several of Anna’s brothers maintained contact with him at least for a while. Frank did not remarry and passed away in the town of North East in January 1970.