A few days ago, I received the sad news my Uncle Lou (Goldman) had passed away. That brings to a close, a rather large chapter in my life and the end of an era. Uncle Lou died just 13 days after his 90th birthday. Affectionately known as “Goldie” among his Duquesne buddies, he was a native son of our hometown.
Uncle Lou was my last living relative from my parent’s generation. A family of 9 children from 307 Hamilton Ave. in Duquesne had blossomed into 17 aunts and uncles by the time I was born. That era has now ended with Uncle Lou’s death.
His obituary was published in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review and read:
”Louis A. Goldman, 90, of West Mifflin, died Thursday, June 16, 2011. He was born June 3, 1921, in Duquesne, and was the son of the late Louis and Paulina (Gasparik) Goldman. He was the husband of the late Mary M. (Puskaric) Goldman, who died Dec. 4, 2000. He was a member of Christ the Light of the World Catholic Church, Duquesne, and was a retired ingot shipper for the former US Steel Duquesne Works. Louis was a sergeant in the Army and served in World War II. He is survived by a son, Louis M. Goldman, of West Mifflin; daughters, Paula Smith and Karla Goldman, of Vienna, Va.; grandchildren, Kelly and Jodi Goldman; and nieces and nephews. Private graveside service took place Saturday, June 18, 2011, in Holy Name Cemetery, West Mifflin. The Rev. Dennis Colamarino officiated. Arrangements are by the GILBERT FUNERAL HOME AND CREMATORY INC., 6028 Smithfield St., Boston, Elizabeth Township”
A few pieces of information about Uncle Lou that were not included in his obituary are:
Preceded in death by sisters –
Irene Carroll (died at age 90)
Valeria Andrews (died at age 94)
Margaret Lovas (died at age 91)
(Uncle Lou, along with his three sisters all lived past their 90th birthday!)
• Married the former Mary Martha Puskaric (DHS Class of 1940) on October 19, 1942
• His parents were both born in Austro-Hungarian Empire an immigrated to America. As noted in his obituary, his mother’s maiden name was Gasparik and was born in 1881. His father was born as Ludwig Aloysius Goltmann in 1878 in Vienna Austria-Hungary. Upon immigration to the United States, his name was changed to Louis Goldman. (According to my Aunt Mary, Uncle Lou’s wife, his name was changed by his own hands due to the strong resentment American’s had to those bearing obvious German names.)
Obituaries only provide a short biography of the person who has died. They normally close the book on a person’s life, and their legacy becomes one of fading memories among family members and friends. An obituary however does not define lives, but only recaps them. For that reason, I think it’s important to try to note your recollections rather than just discuss them while trying to make small talk at a memorial service or at a funeral repast.
There are so many words that come to mind when I think of Uncle Lou. Crusty, surly, brusque, grumpy and bad-tempered could be used to describe his exterior persona. However, it truly was all an act, for underneath all of the growls and “humpfs” was a very gentle and caring man. He actually loved being grumpy just for the fun of it. If you would confront him about it, he’d just laugh. He used to look at my brother Steve and I each year at Easter time and tell us he had shot the Easter Bunny to have for dinner AND of course used to chuckle as he told us Santa Clause died during the depression. He used to tease mercilessly and I never knew if he was serious or not, that is until I realized that he just liked to shock people.
I think that Uncle Lou might have had OCD. That of course is my uneducated guess. We used to tease HIM about his neatness compulsions. He might have been a closeted OCDer since there were only tale-tale signs. For instance, Uncle Lou used to keep some shelves he had in the basement neatly stocked with enough canned and packaged food to survive dozens of nuclear wars! His shelves were better organized than any grocery store, and each item was perfectly aligned with labels forward on every can. New stock would go to the back of the row and he would be sure the older items would be the first to be used.
As particular as he was about the pantry shelves, triple that concern when it came to one of his personal passions, being an entrepreneur. Uncle Lou tapped into the coffee drinkers market long before it came into vogue. In retrospect, he was like Duquesne’s own Hunky Starbucks! You see, Uncle Lou set up a coffee business in the area he worked in the mill. He would brew and sell coffee to his co-workers during whichever shift he happened to be working. No matter the season, no matter the shift, he had his business set-up and running each day that he worked. The foreman and supervision never minded the fact that he spent so much time tending to the coffee since they enjoyed it themselves. His basement pantry, as a result of the business, would be continually stocked with boxes of cups and lids, rows and rows of Maxwell House coffee in the 3 lb. cans, coffee creamer and sugar. He’d tote his supplies into the mill each day and open for business as soon as his shift began. As his obituary states, he worked as an ingot shipper, so there may even be some of you out there that remember Goldie’s coffee business.
Since he loved to grocery shop so much, he became an expert at strategizing his approach to finding bargains. In meticulous detail, every shopping trip was outlined, with coupons attached and expectations clearly defined. We all came to learn NEVER to tell him that you enjoyed eating a particular item. If you slipped and mentioned you enjoyed a particular type of lunchmeat, you would have and endless supply to consume, only to be stopped by mentioning a new item that you enjoyed.
I would like to share one last Uncle Louism… if I live to be 90 (won’t happen since I’m not a Goldman), I will never again meet a person so adept at preserving the life of a canvas awing! Just live a surgeon performing a difficult operation, Uncle Lou would remove and store the canvas awnings that adorned each window with meticulous care. Every fold, every crease, every pipe, every rope would be exactly the same from year to year. I am sure that he personally set the canvas industry back financially with his ability to make them last as long as they did.
Truly, Lou Goldman was as typical of a Duquesne steel worker as they come. No frills, just a man who clearly understood his responsibilities, loved his family and lived the American dream. Nothing pretentious, but a man who believed in God, country and American made goods! He loved his boilermakers, western movies, the Three Stooges, bowling, golfing and playing cards. He was a good man, and I know I will miss knowing that he was still keeping the legacy alive. God bless you Uncle Lou!