The Amazing Man Behind this Blog

I first want to tell everyone thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the cards and well wishes. Unfortunately, as most of you know, my father, the Duquesne Hunky, passed away Monday, November 9th around 8:10 pm in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

 These are my memories, my stories, my amazing life with The Duquesne Hunky. This post may ramble because I get my talkative nature from my daddy. I first wanted to introduce you to who he was as a father, the most important job he ever had. 

Okay, here goes nothing. I can tell you right now, I won’t be able to come close to my father’s writing, but I want to keep his legacy alive with each and every one of you wonderful people. He was so incredibly proud of his blog. He put so much time and research into each post. While I won’t be focusing on Duquesne and the surrounding area in this particular post, I will be focusing on the creator of this blog, the incredible Jim Volk, my father. My name is Abby, and I am Jim’s youngest daughter of two girls. You can just say my parents stopped having children when they had the perfect child 😉. All jokes aside, my dad and I shared a special bond and so many things in common. I have always shared the same creative side my father had, from drawing, to writing, to decorating. 

Maybe writing a few blogs will help be through the grieving process, who knows, but it is worth a shot. 

My Dad and I in my room in our house and Georgia

The hardest time of my day for me is at night. My dad and I were night owls. I would always text him around 11pm and ask if he was up. Most of the time his response was, “Yes, what’s up baby?” to which I would respond, “Whatcha doing?” Without hesitation, his response would always be that he was coloring. He loved the coloring games on his phone. I want to so badly read our texts back and forth, but I cannot bring myself to do that. There was talk in my family about disconnecting his phone, but I am having a lot of trouble agreeing to that. To me, it seems like the last thing we have. Plus, one day, I  know I will need to call him and hear his voice, even if it is just his voicemail recording.

As I stated before, I inherited my creative nature from my father. Growing up, I loved to draw, color, sculpt, paint, you name it, I enjoyed it. Art class was everything to me. While my career now doesn’t require my creativity, I find myself itching to do something to get my creative juices flowing. One thing I absolutely love doing is interior decorating. My dad and I share that love. In fact, we would butt heads a lot because we would ALWAYS have an opinion about SOMETHING in each other’s house. I know my dad was incredibly proud of me when he would see my house decorated. One thing my dad always let me know was when he was proud of me. That is the best feeling in the world.

They say you are more creative if you are left-handed. My dad was left-handed and was an amazing artist. I wanted to be like him. I would practice and practice to no avail. Unfortunately, your girl is still right-handed. However, me writing with my left hand isn’t THAT horrible. Do you remember back in 2019 when we could go to restaurants? Ah, those were the days. Anyway, no matter what age, if there were crayons on the table and a paper placemat or paper covering the table, my dad would draw on it. Long before the days of iPads to shut kids up, my dad had a great, free way to keep us busy. He would always draw a picture for my sister and I to color while we waited for our food. What makes my heart happy is knowing he still did it for my nephews, his grandson’s, and they remember. Up to his time of death he was working on some decorative rocks for my mom’s garden. Everything is still out on his work bench and it rips my heart out every time I see it because he wasn’t finished this gift for my mom just yet. He also wanted to start to make wreaths and Christmas trees to sell on Facebook Marketplace. So his work bench has a plethora of goodies to decorate with. You better believe I will get working on those for him because there are so many goodies he has collected to use. I can’t wait to get my hands on them. Just another way I feel blessed enough to stay connected to my father.

My Dad’s craft bench

My dad loved to laugh and loved making people laugh. Our household was not a normal one. We were always making jokes about each other and sarcasm was a prominent language in our house. So was pig Latin when we were younger. At the dinner table my parents would speak it so we didn’t know what they were saying. My dad was a WIZ at it, but I digress. One thing I knew before he passed and was reminded of by so many people was how when they were around him, they knew they would laugh. That is how my dad made people feel comfortable, laughter. My dad loved telling stories of how I got in trouble when I was little and not so little. For some reason I think he enjoyed talking about that more than my accomplishments. Let’s just say I kept my parents on their toes growing up. Don’t worry I wear that badge of honor proudly (hehe). I kept them young (or caused many gray hairs).

Dad and I shared a love of cooking… and eating. He loved coming over for dinner at my house when I cooked and would eat everything up. Made me so happy. When anyone is cooking, I feel the need to come look and stir things. Oh, my goodness, a way to tick my dad off would be to do that very thing. He would shoo me out of the kitchen before I could get my hands on the spoon. I am literally smiling as I typed that because it would make me laugh so hard. One rule – stay out of the kitchen when dad was cooking. Hands down one of the best things he made was his Cheddar Broccoli Potato Soup. Unfortunately, I don’t believe he had a recipe for it and would always make it by heart each time. He was such an amazing cook. I will miss it so much.

Weather, we undeniably love weather. What I mean is rain and snow. He and I love it. Now we prefer the snow more than rain but during spring summer and fall, rain is exciting. The moment a flurry would fall, I would be getting a phone call, no matter the time of day or night. Snow is life with Dad and me. It is beautiful, peaceful, magical, and makes the whole world slow down for a moment. Unfortunately, watching the news, we are not going to be getting much this winter. I hope it does, I feel like if it snows, it may be him giving us a little sign from above that he is okay, wherever he may be. 

Going hand-in-hand with snow is our love for Christmas. Growing up, not to toot our family’s horn but, toot, toot, we had a marvelously decorated house at Christmas inside and out. The outside was an overwhelmingly serious job for my dad. The normal color scheme was gold, silver, and some red. There were candles in every window along with a wreath hung with gold ribbon. My dad loved hearing the stories of how much I remember sitting at the window looking out and seeing the snow fall through the gap of the blinds. As weird as it seems, the sound of the wreaths scratching on the window was very comforting to me too. One thing that my dad always said, and I live by this day, no multi-colored lights outside. No offense to anyone that uses them outside, my dad and I just didn’t like it for our houses. In our house in Hagerstown, Maryland, we always had at least 8 trees up in the house. The first tree greeted you in the entryway when you walked into the house. A second one sat on the piano in the living room. The last one on the main floor was the one in our family room. Walking upstairs there was one on our plant shelf above the front door where it sat on a rocking horse we only brought out for Christmas. Of course there was one in my room and one in my sister’s room. In our basement, we had one in our “1950s” room and one in the tv room in the basement. Every single one of the trees was decorated to perfection, with its own theme. The one in our foyer had bells that would chime different songs and my sister and I would dance to them. We also loved rolling up the rug and “skating” to sound of them in our socks on the hardwood like we were at Rockefeller Center. Dad decorated every single one, except the family room tree, which he so lovingly called the “ugly tree”. This was the tree with multi-colored lights and all of the family’s ornaments we gathered throughout the years. It makes me giggle because I know he really didn’t think it was ugly, but he loved how my sister and I reacted when he called it that. Please note, after my sister, mom and I decorated the tree, he would always get his hands on it and “fix it”. He definitely suffered from POPD – Perfect Ornament Placement Disorder. Also, Christmas mornings, my sister and I were NOT, I repeat, WERE NOT allowed downstairs until my dad said it was okay. He had to turn all the Christmas lights on, turn on the Christmas music, and start a fire before we were allowed down. Just thinking about this I can still feel the excitement I felt those mornings screaming from the top of the stairs, “Daaaaaaaaaaaaaad come ooooooooooonnnnnnnn!!” I could go on and on about my memories about Christmas. Unfortunately, it hurts a little right now. I will save that for a later post.

My Dad’s tree pictured on top and my tree pictured below, can’t you see where I get it from?

My Dad’s tree
My Tree

During his hospital stay, my dad listened to Christmas music to feel happy, even if it was summer, and then fall. The days up to his death, it was constantly on. When I knew he was going to leave us soon I had to bend down and tell him I had to turn it off. I didn’t want these songs to remind me of him like this. I know he was okay with that. The last thing he would want to do is to make me not enjoy Christmas. 

My Dad’s tree and birthday balloons at the hospital

I bought my dad a small Christmas tree in October to put up in the hospital. He finally was up to decorating it while my sister was with him. While he wasn’t physically able to do it, he pointed to where they should be for my sister. He was incredibly happy seeing it everyday, something different than the white sterile room he was confined to for 5 months, and it was on until the end. Something that was strange was  that this tree had no timer on the lights, but it still turned on every night at the same time by itself after he passed, even in the bag it was stuffed in. We barely have any Christmas decorations up this year, but that little tree is up and will be up every Christmas until I am not around anymore.

My sister making my Dad pose after they decorated the tree

The next few posts will have little to nothing to do with the history of Duquesne other than it being about an AMAZING man that came from there. I hope I don’t lose any of his followers by speaking about him. I am currently searching through his computer to find his blog he was working on to maybe post it also. I am not sure how far it was on it. If you made it through this far, thank you for letting me share a small bit of my dad’s life and how amazing he was as a father. I hope everyone can gather a better idea of who he was, who he is, and who he is through my thoughts. 

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50 Responses to The Amazing Man Behind this Blog

  1. Kathleen O'Keefe says:

    I’m so sorry to hear of your father’s passing. My parents grew up in Duquesne and I spent many years in the Duquesne area. I enjoyed visiting the site from time to time to read about the city’s history and reminisce about the city when I was a kid. Please continue and good luck with his legacy.

  2. Lizabeth (Beth) Pastrick Keane says:

    Like Alan Belancik, I went to Holy Trinity grade school, so I met your in high school. I went to Divine Redeemer in Elizabeth and I did the trip home from McKeesport with him. We got off at the same bus stop in west mifflin at the annex on Pennsylvania Ave and walked all the way down the hill on Mellon Street to Texas ave and it brought us to his house(Thomas st) and I continued walking for another 20 minutes further down the hill . The winters were brutal and sometimes we would actually wait another 30 minutes for the second bus to take us down Mellon st . Lots of time to talk … and we both had book bags filled with books. My older brother played baseball with your uncle Steve at Serra and probably american legion and maybe for the zemps. So I knew it was “ok” to talk with your dad..and it was a long walk and we were both going in the same direction. Your dad always had a story or something to discuss..the conversations made walking home nicer. He was a lovely person. Thank you for sharing what he was like as your dad…and the things he shared about his grandsons and their pictures..well, just beautiful. I hope this sharing helps a little.

    • Dennis Stanko says:

      If your older brother is Dave Pastrick, I also went to Serra with him and played baseball too. We also road the same bus as I lived on the corner of Kennedy and Dell Street. We also car pooled our senior year. Haven’t seen him in years. How is he?

  3. Bernadette Wood says:

    Abby, I so sorry to hear your dad has passed. I have enjoyed his blog for a few years now. My great grandma was Mary Volk and grew up in Andrian, Pennsylvania near Punxataney. She married Joseph Yambrick and they moved to Flint, Michigan in the late 1920’s. I believe she was your dad’s Aunt.

    You did a wonderful job with your blog. Thank you for letting us get to know your dad!

  4. Tom Lane says:

    A great tribute. I grew up a few blocks from you dad, but never knew him. I was a several years older. Always enjoyed the posts. You have a lot of his writing style of being just who you are and what you recall. A wonderful clarity and I am sure that would be so appreciated by your dad.

  5. Terry Baskot Brooker says:

    Thanks for your heartfelt sharing. So sorry about your dad, he sounds like a real gem and as my late dad would say “one helluva guy.” Both of my parents and grandparents were proud Duquesne Hunkys. I’m sure he is beaming at you from the heavens, and so glad you brought us to him in such a special way. God bless.

  6. Louis J Flohr says:

    we should be as and loved as you and your family
    GOD BLESS
    JIM FLOHR

  7. earlwesterlund says:

    I had not heard of your father’s passing, so thank you for letting us know. I’m so sorry. I always looked forward to his posts of Duquesne memories, and comparing them to mine. And thank you for sharing your memories. I’m looking forward to hearing more about him.

    Prayers to you and your family at Christmas. He will definitely be with you through the holidays — and through your life.

  8. Carole Simmons says:

    Abby, you leave me weak and close to speechless with this incredible tribute to your Dad. He would be so honored. I know I will reread it over and over, as there is too much to digest and appreciate all at once. We’re you able to write this in one sitting, or did you do it in stages? I hope this is a start to your healing.
    I miss him all the time. Whenever I think of one of the four of you, all four of you jump in. It hurts my heart not to see him here. He was far more than an “in-law” to me.
    I’ll talk with your mom about how to “belong” to this blog. I don’t know anything about them.
    Take care of yourself, Sweetheart. Allow yourself to grieve, but also allow yourself to heal. It’s a slow process, but it will happen.
    I love you, Abby. You are without your Dad, but you are not alone. 😘🤗❤️

  9. So very sorry for you and your family, Abby. 😢

    Started following your dad’s blog quite a few years back. Being from Pittsburgh I was struck by how much your dad understood and “knew” a huge part of my own roots and history. His stories brought back memories for me and brought comfort. And the stories you share in this post carry his legacy, and ours. Please write more. It will indeed help you, and honestly, many others. Like you, I had a special bond with my dad… It is so painful to lose them, yet, you never really do. They live through us, and we learn to love them in a different way. It becomes magical in its own way… Keep writing…

  10. Marge Shandor Miles says:

    Sad to hear of your dads death. I loved his blog as it brought me in touch with my Hungarian and Slovak roots in Duquesne. They will be missed. My best to you as you grieve and miss your special dad!

  11. George Simcina says:

    Good luck from a 92 year old Hunky class of 1945 Duquesne..I have 1942 year book..

    Get Outlook for Android

    ________________________________

  12. Deacon John V Sebastian says:

    Thank you for sharing your remembrances of Jim. He was a really good guy and I enjoyed his remembrances of Duquesne. I remember Christmas in downtown Duquesne. It was crowded with people jamming Murphy’s 5 & 10, Adler’s Men’s Store, Sally Fashion, and so many other stores. Bright lights were spread across First Street and Grant Avenue. There was a wonderful Manger scene in the park by City Hall. EVERYBODY went to church on Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day. Duquesne had a Christmas parade every year with Santa on a truck.
    May God bless Jim and grant him eternal life. May perpetual light shine on him through eternity with all of the angels and saints and his loved ones who preceded him to eternal life and those that will follow.
    Deacon John Sebastian
    St. Joseph Grade School Class of 1955
    Duquesne High School Class of 1959 (and interlocuter for the 25th Anniversary show of Mellon’s Minstrel’s) in 1959.

    • Claudia Repko Misage says:

      Oh my John, I was just talking about your mom and what a great person and fantastic dentist she was. I was bragging about my fillings, believe it it not, but I still have all the ones your mom did. They are still perfect and my dentist said they are in great shape. I loved Jim Volk and his blog, he was something else. Oh I wonder if you remember me. Claudia Repko. My Aunt Helen and Uncle Dukes along with Darlene lived back to back yards and across the street from you were my Uncle Joe, and Andrea and family, then my Aunt Annie, and next house cousin Connie and then next to her my Aunt Pauline and Uncle Mickey. You graduated with Andrea and my cousin Jerry who lived at the top of your street. Good golly those were the days my friend. Take care, stay healthy. Love

      • Deacon John V Sebastian says:

        Of course! I remember you and all of your relatives in Duquesne Place. Andrea (Bodnar) lived across the street, was my age, and played together on occasion. Jerry and I were friends. He and I worked together on that big 25th Anniversary of Mellon’s Minstrels. Do you remember our annual minstrel show? Some of the characters’ makeup would be politically incorrect today, of course, but at the time, NOBODY took offense! I wonder if Jerry and Andrea and Darlene and Connie are still alive?
        Thanks for your fond remembrances of my mother. She was an outstanding dentist. She never made more than a few thousand dollars in any one year. She loved her profession and she loved her patients. After she died at age 97, I called the Dean of the Dental School at the University of PIttsburgh and told him about some of the equipment and books that were in her possession. He visited the very next day and was very impressed at the great condition of her equipment and books. They are featured at the Dental Museum at the University of Pittsburgh. The American Dental Association sent me a very nice condolence note after my mother died. To the best of their knowledge no dentist had maintained their membership in the American Dental Association as long as my mother (member for 70, yes 70 years!

  13. Chris Drecnik says:

    Abby wherever your father is right now, rest assured he’s wiping a tear ~ thank you for sharing such wonderfully sentimental memories! I didn’t know he was hospitalized for 5 months!! So not fair…

  14. Eugene Bujdos says:

    Sorry to read about your dad’s passing. Deepest sympathy. Great article. Good luck in keeping this web site going.

  15. Harold West says:

    Sorry for your loss. I never met your dad but through his writing I felt like I knew him. He graduated from DHS about 8 years aheads of me so we shared some of the same experiences. The memories he shared were wonderful. Hang in there. From his writing you could tell how much he loved his family.

  16. Dave Forgash DHS 62 says:

    Abby,
    What a beautiful tribute to your father. His creativity and thoughtfulness energized all of the Hunky followers to remember our roots while helping many rekindle old friendships. Abby, you and your parents are a shining example of the adage/poem, That “Children Learn What They Live”

  17. Barbara Ruhe says:

    So very sorry to hear of your Dad’s passing. When he lived in Bethany and I in Rehoboth we were going to met for coffee somewhere in between. Unfortunately the plans never came to fruition. I was a great fan of ‘the Duquesne Hunky’ and look forward to your keeping it going. Thanks!

  18. Cheryl Oxford says:

    I just want to tell you how sorry I am that your Dad has passed. Everyone could tell what a wonderful man he was through his sensitive words. Thank you for sharing your memories, and I hope you continue writing this blog. I am from Duquesne ( graduate of 1962 class) , but I currently live in Dover, DE. I HOPE YOU HAVE A BLESSED HOLIDAY. Cheryl Oxford
    Sent from my iPhone from Cheryl Oxford
    >

  19. Georgeann Sovak says:

    My sincere condolences. 💜
    From another former Duquesne
    resident who really enjoyed reading
    his blog.
    Take care.

  20. Jennifer Legler says:

    Thank you for sharing your memories

  21. Kathleen Howard Foley says:

    Dear Abby, I didn’t know your Dad but have a lot of the same memories since I’m from Duquesne and went to Holy Name as well as Duquesne HS. I think I was a few years behind him but not positive how many. I so enjoyed reading his posts and it was important to many of us. He will be missed but I’m certain he would feel so proud that you will step in for him. Don’t apologize for sharing your wonderful memories of your Dad. Sounds like he was very blessed to have the family God gave him.

  22. Lea Meyer Chbosky says:

    So sorry for your loss. My husband and I grew up in Duquesne and graduated in 1962. I loved your father’s blog and looked forward to each episode. Your tribute was an excellent one. Please keep up the memories.

  23. Michael Ferchak says:

    Thank you for sharing your special memories

  24. Dennis Kuzma says:

    As a fellow Duquesner all I can say is you did him proud, be looking for future posts.

  25. Stephen Volk says:

    Abby,
    As your Dad would say…”I am so proud of you!” A great job and such wonderful memories.

    Uncle Steve

    • Dennis F Stanko says:

      Hi Steve, can’t believe little brother is gone at 69. Way too young.
      Hang in there as we are too.
      ennyDay ankoStay!

  26. bowlerman1963 says:

    Hello-My name is Marty Kelly. I am so sorry to hear of your dad passing. I was from West Mifflin but grew up in Duquesne.  Went to Duquesne Catholic for 6 years. God Bless you all!Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone

  27. Carl Kavish says:

    I was a classmate of Jim’s at Holy Name. The school never suffered from a lack of choir Boys or Alter Boys. The choir director, Sister Clementine, would have the boys sing in front of her class one at a time, Jim could sing so he was a choir boy. I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, therefor an
    Alter Boy. I was never so terrified when as we were retuning to class, your dad told me I had to learn Latin, I will never forget that,
    Rest in peace Jim. Hunkies forever!

  28. Paula B Todd says:

    Sadly, few “children” love as you do. Beautiful. And, it will be a joy to share in how you keep him alive through your words – I’m reminded of the last words of a beautiful Shakespeare sonnet: “So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, so long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”

  29. RAYMOND Isadore says:

    What a touching tribute to your father–his smile was so contagious. Please keep up the beautiful posts.

  30. Melissa Ramsey says:

    Abby thank you for continuing your dads Duquesne Hunky. I never knew him, however I am from Duquesne and so enjoyed reading your dads words. May you find peace and joy in writing, in creating the crafts dad wanted to start and in Christmas this year!

  31. Lloyd Seager says:

    Thank you for your post. I am sorry for your loss. All that followed his blog feel this loss also. It was said that you can take the kid out of Duquesne, but you can’t take Duquesne out of the kid…

  32. Peggy Redfern says:

    Dear Abby,
    I am so sorry to hear of your father’s passing. although I never met him or knew him personally, I have followed his blog for years. He certainly was a treasure, and helped me stay tied to my Slovak heritage and roots.
    I read your first blog with both sadness for your loss, as well as interest in knowing your dad even better now. thank you for sharing your memories, pain, sorrows, and joy. I look forward to you carrying on in his footsteps to keep his blog alive. My condolences to you as well as my gratitude.
    Praying for you and your family to have comfort and peace in the months to come.

  33. Jeff Helen Volk says:

    Hey Abby, you made your father very proud. We are sure he is so thankful that you are carrying on something he was so passionate about. Picking up and making something of his a passion of yours we hope it will help you express and to show others how amazing of a man, who was the man behind the scene of the Duquesne Hunky blog. You and your family will be in our thoughts this holiday season. We know his spirit is shining bright all around you. We can’t wait to continue to read your next one. Love ya! Helen, Jeff, Jen, Tony and family

  34. Denise Hudak-Ventuta says:

    I am so sorry for your loss Abby. I was your dad’s friend from the 1960’s in Duquesne. We all were a special group of friends that grew up in the wonder years of Duquesne. And yes you are definitely his daughter with the same talents. Thank you so much for writing this blog. Your dad would be and is so proud of you and I am too even though we haven’t met. I enjoyed the blog very much. Please keep it going. ❤️😊

  35. Denise Hudak-Ventuta says:

    I am so sorry for your loss Abby. I was your dad’s friend from the 1960’s in Duquesne. We all were a special group of friends that grew up in the wonder years of Duquesne. And yes you are definitely his daughter with the same talents. Thank you so much for writing this blog. Your dad would be and is so proud of you and I am too even though we haven’t met. I enjoyed the blog very much. Please keep it going. ❤️😊

  36. Lolly Volk says:

    Such a beautiful tribute to your beloved dad. I miss him so very much. I know he would be proud of you for writing this blog, dear Abby. We were all so blessed to have him in our lives. Not sure why, but I keep coloring on my phone/IPad!

  37. Ashley Lemak Melfi says:

    I never met your Dad, but follow this blog because both of my parents are from Duquesne. I lost my Mom, Virginia Chonko Lemak, in March 2018. Reading your post brought back so many memories of my Christmases growing up. I’m so sorry for your loss. I can’t say it gets better but you do learn how to live with the loss and find ways to keep their memory alive. You did a beautiful job doing that with this post. Your Dad was part of an amazing group of people- “Duquesne hunkies,” (even second, third, fourth generation ones) who mourn with you and your family. Beautiful post! I look forward to reading more!

  38. Pam Cook says:

    Thank you for a lovely post. Your Dad would be so proud of you. My father was from Duquesne (1923) and he loved it. I found your dad’s posts and felt my dad was still with me. Take care!!!

  39. Rick Burton says:

    Fantastic fantastic story I enjoyed every bit of it

  40. Sally Corso says:

    I am so deeply sorry for your loss. I did not know he was ill. Thank you for sharing his story.
    Sally Corso

  41. Fred Fraikor says:

    What a wonderful, thoughtful memorial to your father, The Duquesne Hunky. You are a gifted writer and I hope you enjoy continuing his legacy on the blog and creating your own (right handed) style.
    He had a special attachment to that old steel town, Duquesne where I was born 83 years ago. I don’t know where you call home now but I know you will carry the same fond memories to those of us who can truly call ourselves “Duquesne Hunkys.” I’m sure all of his readers will say a prayer for him and his loving family.
    Fred Fraikor, PhD

  42. Dave Grayson says:

    I think your Dad would’ve enjoyed this . Thanks for sharing him with us …

  43. Megan Schuster says:

    Dad is so proud of you and so am I. This post had me smiling and crying all at the same time. I know you miss him so incredibly much, as do I. He was the best person I have ever met and I love him so much. I am glad you are going to be blogging for him. I think it will bring your heart some much needed healing.

  44. What a lovely post about your amazing father. He was among my inspirations for keeping the history of Duquesne alive on my page Duquesne/Mifflin Township History & Family Genealogy. Everyone that belongs to the page loved your father greatly and looked forward to his posts. We were so lucky to have him around to remind us of all the good of Duquesne that still lives on in so many hearts. Our hearts are with you and all your family this Christmas.

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