John and Josephine McCloskey Memorial Scholarship








In memory of John and Josephine McCloskey


From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Saturday, October 10, 2009

John McCloskey

(October 20, 1916 – October 7, 2009)

Superintendent who nearly didn’t go to school

By Eleanor Chute, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Former Allegheny Valley School District Superintendent John McCloskey learned the value of an education the hard way.

Growing up in a coal miner’s family in Washington County, Mr. McCloskey was tired of high school and decided to drop out to work in the mine and make some money.

His father, John Sr., a coal miner who had emigrated from Lithuania and could speak four languages, was heart-broken, but agreed, arranging for a friend to help keep his son safe.

“The work was so backbreaking.  He just lasted a month or two,” said his son, John, of New York City.  “He said, ‘There’s got to be a better way and I think I need an education.’”

He returned to school, graduating from California High School in 1934 and earning a bachelor’s degree from what is now California University of Pennsylvania, where he studied to become a teacher in 1939.  He earned a master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1948.

Mr. McCloskey died Wednesday at Presbyterian Senior Care in Oakmont.  He was 93.

Mr. McCloskey lived for more than 50 years in Springdale, which is part of the Allegheny Valley School District.

He and his late wife, Josephine “Jay,” who also grew up in a coal-mining family, liked the blue-collar makeup and strong work ethic of the community, said their son.

He and Josephine met as children but moved apart.  He later saw her at a funeral, got her address and began writing her as he left for Europe to serve in the Army’s 34th Infantry Division in North Africa.  He proposed by mail.

He was wounded and awarded the Purple Heart in 1943.  The couple were married from 1944 until her death in 2004.

Mr. McCloskey began teaching in Allegheny Valley in 1947.  He was certified to teach math, industrial arts and social studies, his son said.  He later became junior high school principal, senior high principal and supervising principal.  He became superintendent in 1970 and retired in 1977.

“He always enjoyed teaching, and he always enjoyed interaction with young people,” said his son.

Gabriel Ziccarelli, who retired as Allegheny Valley superintendent this year, was hired as a teacher by Mr. McCloskey in 1967.

“I think he was a real proponent of students.  He did what was best to provide students in a small district the best opportunities possible with limited resources compared with some of the larger districts,” Dr. Ziccarelli said.

In the late 1950’s, Mr. McCloskey helped supervise the construction of the high school still in use today.

Dr. Ziccarelli said Mr. McCloskey had an open-door policy.

“He would always take the time, no matter how busy he was.  He used to tell me if you want to be successful, you have to be a good listener.  John was a good listener,” Dr. Ziccarelli said.

Even after Mr. McCloskey retired, Dr. Ziccarelli would see him jogging and walking the track at the high school.

Mr. McCloskey was active in the Lithuanian Citizens Society on the South Side, the Springdale United Presbyterian Church where he was an elder and the committee of the Lithuanian Nationality Room at the University of Pittsburgh.

He and his wife traveled to Lithuania several times while it was a Soviet republic, loading up their suitcases with jeans and dresses to give to relatives.

The son described his dad as devoted to his family and generous.  “If someone showed up at the front door banging, saying they needed $5, he’d give them $10.  That’s the kind of man he was.  He would do it quietly,” he said.

In addition to his son, Mr. McCloskey is survived by a daughter, Janet Carlisle of Cheswick; two sisters, Connie Fitzsimmons of Euclid, Ohio, and Tessie Lincavage of Willowick, Ohio; two granddaughters, Emily Lorini of Cincinnati, Ohio and Eva Lorini of Pittsburgh; four step-grandchildren, and seven step-great-grandchildren. 

McCloskeys 1944

McCloskeys 1999