Kovac family about 1933

My mother was born Betty Kovach on April 7, 1928. Her parents, Michael and Mary (Gurelo), had immigrated from central Europe around 1908. Kovach (Cyrillic: ΠšΠΎΠ²Π°Ρ‡, meaning blacksmith) is a Slavic surname. They were part of a mass migration of Slavic peoples from the Carpathian mountain area to work the coal mines in Pennsylvania. These people, the Rusyns, brought a unique culture and have become known as Rusyn Americans.

St Stephans Byzantine Church in Dunbar Township

They settled on a homestead in Vanderbilt, Pennsylvania. A prominent feature in this area is St. Stephans Byzantine Church. It was built in the 1880s as the dominant religion for the Rusyns was East Orthodox Christianity. Michael and Mary are buried here, as well as the oldest son, Michael, and his brothers and sisters, who never married.

The oldest son stayed behind until his teens before joining them. They had 13 children, including two who died as infants. My Mom was the 12th child. Her mother died after giving birth to their last son, George, in 1929.

After the mother’s death, the older children were responsible for providing for the family. This was during the Depression of the 1930s, and times were tough. The family came close to being broken apart but could stay together as the older children provided for the younger ones.

Click to reveal Kovach Descendants

Kovach Descendants 2024

Descendents of Michael Kovach and Mary Gurelo.
Spring 2024

They lost the homestead at one point, as evidenced by the only picture of the family. Sadly, their father, Michael, abandoned the family after the mother passed. I believe my mother only met her fathers once. He lived into his 80s before dying in an automobile accident in the Connellsville area.

1940 Census

The 1940 census shows all family members except older sisters Helen and Mary living together. Mary would marry Edward Shaw in the 1940s and go on to have a family. When Mom got older, she moved in with Mary and helped raise her cousins. She moved back out for a while before graduating from High School. After that, she moved back in again and began working.

The 1950 Census shows my Mom living with the Shaws and being employed as a Payroll clerk. She also told me she ran the post office in one of the mining camps. At one point, she was dating a sailor named Murphy, and I think he asked her to marry him. Mom told me later in life she was holding out for someone who could provide the life she desired as a young Catholic woman.

Ed Shaw was a superintendent at the mine in Morgantown, West Virginia. One of his engineers was my Grandfather, Edward B. Tubridy. My mother and father met when they were invited to watch a World Series game on my Uncle Ed’s new television. It seems fitting, given my penchant for new technology 😎.

After marriage, they lived briefly in Dayton, Ohio, where Dad worked for Goodyear. He had been stationed at Holloman Air Force base outside of Alamogordo, New Mexico, as a missile test engineer for the Air Force. After leaving the service, he joined Goodyear and worked for several years in Dayton and Alamagordo before moving with Mom in early 1955. I was born there in August of that year.

Around the same time, Dad started working for General Dynamics. They were building the Atlas rocket in San Diego, California. We moved there briefly in 1956, and my brother Rick was born there in March 1957. Shortly after his birth, the family relocated to Cocoa Beach, Florida. It was there that the first launch of the Atlas took place.

Mom was always an avid gardener. I remember going to flower shows where she would show off her arrangements. She was very involved with us as young children, for example, being a den leader when we were in Cub Scouts. I remember she hooked up with one of the neighbors and became involved in campaigning for the Republican party! She worked at the Cape as a secretary in the late 60s. She liked to sail but was never fond of flying in small airplanes when Dad was an active pilot.

She, Dad, and brother Dave lived for several years in California, where Dad was involved with building the first Space Shuttle. When they returned, they lived in a lovely Spanish-style house on the golf course. They eventually returned to the family home on Blakey after Dad retired in 1992.

Mom became very active in the Catholic Church in the mid-1980s. This is where she focused her energy for the rest of her life. She traveled extensively with Dad, including MeΔ‘ugorje in Bosnia, Herzegovina, Egypt, and Russia. They visited me twice when I lived in Germany in the late 1980s.

Shaw Farm, West Virginia

She always stayed in touch with her family. When we were younger, we visited the Shaws almost every summer. They had a farm home in the mountains of West Virginia where her brothers and sisters would bring their families. She regularly talked to her sisters and was close with Mary’s children, Sandra and Pete. Sandra would visit us a lot before she got married and started her own family.

After Dad passed away in 2002, she stayed in Cocoa Beach until 2014. Her home was damaged by a hurricane in 2004. She spent several months visiting her family while Rick oversaw rebuilding her home. In 2014, she relocated to Panama City, where Dave took care of her until her passing in 2019.

The last thing we did as a family was see her Grandson Carl marry in August 2019. She passed after a brief illness a little over a month later on October 11.