Fr. Nicholas Pesanka
Father Pesanka died in Arden Courts hospice in Ross from complications of Alzheimer's disease. He was 61.Growing up in Brookline, he set local home run records as a youth baseball player and knocked two grand slams in a single game, family members said. He earned his nickname for being "a chip off the old block," since their father, also named Nicholas, had been signed to a New York Yankees farm team just weeks before being drafted into World War II.But Father Pesanka's religious calling was so strong that he moved to Saint Meinrad Seminary in St. Meinrad, Ind., for ninth and 10th grades, returning in the summers to work and spend time with his family, said younger brother Mark Pesanka of Baldwin.He would take us all to Forbes Field as soon as he could drive, and we'd sit in the 50-cent bleachers," Mark Pesanka said. Father Pesanka transferred back to Pittsburgh and graduated from South Hills Catholic High School (now Seton-LaSalle) in 1967. He earned a Master of Divinity degree from St. Paul Seminary in East Carnegie, where he was classmates with David A. Zubik, now bishop of the Pittsburgh diocese, Mark Pesanka said.He was ordained in 1975 and served in St. Margaret of Scotland Parish in Green Tree, Our Lady of Fatima in Hopewell, St. Wendelin in Carrick and St. Germaine in Bethel Park.After earning a master's degree in counseling from Duquesne University, he also worked as a counselor for Catholic Charities.Throughout his working life, Father Pesanka remained a devoted sports fan, holding season tickets to the Pirates and the Penguins, in addition to golfing and playing in informal games among family and friends that remained intensely competitive until the last years of his life, Mark Pesanka said.He jogged, exercised and even tanned regularly, sporting six-pack abs up until the onset of Alzheimer's slowed his exercise regimen.I had friends who called him 'Father What-a-Waste,' because ladies would say, 'Oh, he's a priest? What a waste,' " Mark Pesanka said.Before Sunday night's AFC title game, the Father Pesanka probably put in a few good words for the Steelers with the God he served all his life, family members said.From a young age, he arbored dual devotions, practicing sports as if they were a religion and collecting religious icons as if they were sports memorabilia.I can remember he was 3 years old, and he said he wanted to be either a priest or a baseball player," said his sister, June Braunstein of Prospect, Butler County. "As a child, he collected holy statues and baseball cards.In addition to his sister and brother, he survived by brothers Kenneth Pesanka of Bethel Park and Ronald Pesanka of Munhall, along with seven nieces and nephews and nine great-nieces and great-nephews.The family asked that memorials be in the form of contributions to the Alzheimer's Association, 1100 Liberty Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 1522 or Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, 212 Ninth St., Pittsburgh, PA 15222.In accordance with what family members believed Father Pesanka's wishes would have been, there was no visitation last night. Instead, the family gathered to cheer the Steelers, as they knew "Chip" would have.Published in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review at www.pittsburghlive.com"