South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Tom Smith
South Pittsburgh Reporter Editor 

Roberta Stackawitz, long-time community leader


Last updated 5/9/2016 at 5:34pm

Roberta Stackawitz making perogies

A "remarkable wife" is the way Harry Stackawitz would describe his wife, Roberta, Gene Ricciardi recalled.

Mr. Ricciardi said he met Harry Stackawitz in the 70s, a decade before he met Roberta, and in that time Mr. Stackawitz would talk about his wife in glowing terms as a wife and mother of Harry and David.

Looking around South Side, it's hard to imagine what it would look like if Roberta hadn't been involved.

A retired teacher, over the years when she wasn't traveling, Roberta, 88, was involved in making her church and neighborhood better places. She passed away on April 29.

South Side architect Jerry Morosco noted she was involved with preservation efforts including saving the Oliver Bath House, South Side Market House and the South Side Branch of the Carnegie Library.

Concerned about South Side, Roberta served several terms as president of the South Side Community Council and the Friends of the South Side Library. In addition, over the years, she sat on the South Side Planning Forum and its LTV Steering Committee along with the Board of Directors of the South Side Local Development Co.

Mr. Ricciardi said her public record speaks for itself, but her true love was the library. As an English teacher, she was "very well read" and helped raise money to purchase books for the branch. Many of individual books purchased she had recommended.

She was a strong, quiet leader who choose to lead by consensus, he said.

Fr. Mike Harcarik at Prince of Peace Parish concurred, saying Roberta served on "every committee" including the Christian Mothers and the Pastoral Council.

"She was the Gospel in action," he added. "She was always available."

Mr. Ricciardi quoted Virginia Carik, a long-time friend of Roberta's by saying, "The Lord always answered Roberta's prayers."

A well-rounded person, Roberta loved the theatre and loved to travel. Along with Mrs. Carik, she had belonged to a senior theatre group at Robert Morris and traveled with the group.

"We went all over the place," traveling companion Debbie Preklas said. Roberta would often travel with friends to places throughout the country and the world. Her husband would occasionally travel with her, but preferred to stay closer to home.

Some of their exotic destinations included: Istanbul, London, Paris, Venice and Pompeii. Whenever traveling abroad, Roberta loved to visit the local churches and attend mass if possible, Ms. Preklas said. "She loved the church."

Closer to home, a frequent destination was Las Vegas where she like to stay downtown at the Golden Nugget and visit the Freemont Street Experience.

She would also combine her love of theater with her travels and was able to see the Phantom of the Opera from the eighth row on one trip to London.

Ms. Preklas said Roberta wanted to "see it all and taste it all" on their travels. Often they would eat in sidewalk cafes to be able to "people watch" on their trips. They would also visit local markets and grocery stores to see what foods were different from those available at home.

Roberta was an "elegant" traveler who loved to go to High Teas when possible.

Mr. Ricciardi noted Roberta was always a "snappy dresser" and could be counted on to be wearing a "wonderful" hat whenever she went out.

Funeral arrangements were made at the John J. Gmiter Funeral Home in South Side.


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