Celebrating the life of Edward Wayne Mandity
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Ed was born in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, on March 11, 1948 and grew up in nearby West Aliquippa, at that time home to the Jones and Laughlin Steel Company. “West” was a hard scrabble, ethnically diverse steel town. Very little was taken for granted as kids studied hard and despite it being the chief distraction, played sports to win. He grew up loving football. It was a point of pride that he played in the same high school league, at roughly the same time, as figures such as Mike Ditka, Joe Willie Namath, and Tony Dorsett, and was part of the WPIAA State Championship Team of 1965.
His upbringing in this area of the country was a source of strength. Raised by a father working as an electrical foreman in the J&L steel mill in West Aliquippa, he experienced firsthand the rewards as well as challenges of living in a semi-rural area valuing hard work and quiet persistence. The opportunity provided for his family by the steel mill was at his doorstep, but the peaceful beauty of the forested Western Pennsylvania landscape was his backyard. The values and lessons he gained from both uniquely shaped the well balanced life he carved for himself.
It was in Aliquippa where he learned a sense of toughness and resilience. A medium sized kid of stocky build, that Ed was able to compete on athletic teams noted for grooming such legendary figures as Ditka and Dorsett is an incredible achievement. Suffering ailments as a broken ankle on the playing field prepared him for undertaking the pain he would face at the end of his life. He had a remarkably high tolerance for pain and rarely expressed discomfort, lest it upset Mom and me. One memory that stands out was his ruggedness at an evening soccer practice many years ago; not satisfied with the effort the team gave at running wind-sprints, he jumped into line and ran beside the players, loudly motivating them to pick up the effort (he wasn’t even a coach). After several sprints, his knee suddenly buckled and he fell with a noticeable grimace. Refusing to acknowledge that something was wrong, he took a few moments to catch his breath and drive himself home. It was later determined that he blew out his knee requiring arthroscopic surgery (which he insisted on watching the doctors perform, out of scientific curiosity), but not before he casually drove himself to an emergency clinic for the diagnosis. Before his death my dad was suffering from numerous ailments (including neurological, respiratory, lymphatic, circulatory), rarely complaining of his pain. If he provided any details, he would usually talk more in scientific terms, noting his symptoms with detachment from any discomfort. His tolerance of pain was strong despite his suffering. His grit was an attribute that Mom and I came to rely upon.
Dad was raised with the Catholic faith and often reminisced fondly of it in his later years; he took pride in his memories of Mass being recited in Latin, and the closeness it brought him with his mother Anna and sister Sandra. While I did have the privilege of attending institutions of Catholic education throughout my youth never once did Dad force or pressure me to ascribe to faith of any kind. That he allowed me to explore spirituality or faith beliefs (or none at all) on my own terms is something that I will forever deeply respect.
At the advice (or perhaps insistence) of his father, working in the steel mills during summer taught him enough to know his working class upbringing could and should be applied to his education. Dad left Pennsylvania to attend college at Indiana University, Bloomington, where he studied anthropology and met my mom, Kathy. Upon graduation they married and moved to Seattle, Washington, for graduate school. Ed got his Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of Washington in 1980. That he was able to be the first in his family to receive a college education but also continue his pursuits was the most understated yet important accomplishment of his life. He never spoke about it, but I know it was a source of pride for him and his family in particular.
I’ll be forever grateful for his supportive nature in my pursuits. I have vivid memories of Dad being an active participant in my activities. Starting with sport, I cannot count the times he was unavailable to pick me up or take me to practice or games, simply because it didn’t happen. He worked the flags along the sidelines in soccer, and in football he would often volunteer for the yard marker crew; in each sport he would run up and down the field, often matching the player intensity with the flow of the game. In baseball he would sit in the stands serving as scorekeeper; usually at the request of my coaches, as they had come to rely on his accuracy and consistency. This was a hallmark of his character, his attention to detail and thoroughness resonated in everything he did.
And he was vocal. Always positive with words of encouragement, he could usually be heard in the stands bellowing praise or encouragement not to just me but to my teammates as well. There were times when it was grating, and while it could be a source of embarrassment or consternation (typical of the teenager, expecting praise and avoiding criticism), looking back it makes me think it was his way of providing focus and support for directly facing adversity. At home after such events, he never harshly criticized my play or pointed out my faults.
Beyond athletics he was adamant for me to have knowledge in music. He suffered through years of my saxophone and clarinet practice, and after we both realized my talents were elsewhere, it was a source of amusement to him that I would constantly be returning to and listening to his music collection. Of all the things he introduced me to, the appreciation or even the simple act of listening to music of all genres (classical, folk, blues, jazz, and bluegrass) is one of the most cherished gifts I ever received from him.
I’ve always appreciated his treatment of me as an adult with respect to his social circles. Whether speaking with his longtime friends back in Pennsylvania or at gatherings with his Seattle area colleagues, I was always included in conversations and my thoughts were taken seriously, even when they probably shouldn’t have been. He had and more importantly maintained strong friendships throughout his life. Being a Mandity, that is not an easy task given the strong-willed nature of the men on our side of the family. That he treated me as an equal is something that I realize and appreciate more with each passing day.
Much of Dad’s time in Seattle was spent providing for our family, and apart from his dedication to be available for my school and extracurricular events, he was often busy with work, and family time was most often experienced around meals. Toward the end of my family’s time in Seattle, when city life had become more taxing than my parents were willing to endure, Dad was beginning to branch out into pursuing interests he now had time for. It was here where he pored over the details of his family’s heritage and both the distinctions and eccentricities of his Central European culture. Dad’s intensity was transferred from his work to things like home renovation, stamp collecting, wine tasting (as well as a brief but hard won foray into the complex arena of importing), ancestral documentation, and even language learning and translation. The latter was a common interest we shared and we would often speak Hungarian to each other as well as we could, each learning new details from the other’s study. Occasionally I would wonder whether his intensity in such endeavors was a source of competition with his son, but really it was a way to stay in touch. I want to believe that this was his attempt at developing and maintaining a bond that was at times hard to strengthen in our younger years.
But in Montana, our closeness grew as he awarded more time and rest for himself. Books were always trusted companions, and there was never a time when he wasn’t intently flipping through pages or actively reading the latest political biography or travel memoir. That I am now a librarian is likely attributable to the extensive bookshelves he filled within our home. He also spent hours gazing over maps, plotting the best (not necessarily the quickest) directions for his upcoming day trips. When not silently, intently watching the various species of birds and other wildlife from his porch (he was an avid yet quiet conservationist), he spent time about town, going to film screenings (my favorite was on a cold and rainy night watching Rashomon at the local theater with friends and neighbors), and frequenting The Grand, his favorite establishment. He made a point to support their business and always sang praises of the meals and welcoming environment he experienced there.
It was then too where he really devoted time to cooking, a diversion which began in Seattle but really blossomed in retirement. Historically the Mandity men’s strength was not in this activity, but dad broke the mould. I have fond memories of him frying potato pancakes, sausage, and various other fish and meats with a delicate yet delicious flair.
His adventurous spirit was enviable. He always had time for long drives, whether ferrying me to and from my numerous athletic events amid awful Seattle traffic to family trips spanning numerous states in pursuit of things like visiting national parks, horse riding excursions, sightseeing in Europe, driving to visit family across the country, or even seeing Death Valley in summer. He was fearless, braving one-lane roads up mountain sides and treacherous passes, if only to provide us with the most stunning views that many will not see nor dare to see. He had a passion for regional geography, but I think he really felt an obligation to show me places beyond the scope of my imagination.
Travel seemed a near obsession. Upon visiting it was always his wish to spend a few days on the road taking in the sights across the land of “big sky”. Annual visits to or through places like Paradise Valley, Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Tetons, or even the eerie stillness of the Little Bighorn Battlefield were assumed, as they were not just a few of his favorite places for spending time, but important and powerful places of historical curiosity always just within reach. But it wasn’t solely the mainstays of national parks that attracted him as it was the open road. Driving to places like Cody, Wyoming, South Dakota, New Mexico, or even through the backyard plains of central Montana were a strong source of quietude and freedom he relished in his later years.
Travel wasn’t limited locally. Apart from his expansive backyard, his Montana years gave him and Mom time for planning their overseas excursions. When he wasn’t on the road, he was reading about it. With the time to go wherever they pleased, he accomplished much. He took Mom to experience the architectural grandeur of Rome, the majestic fjords and unique cuisine of Scandinavia, as well as the precisely curated beauty of Japan’s historic centers like Kyoto and Hiroshima. I suspect these were highlights in his life of travel. He loved the world and experienced as much of its diversity as he was able. Sadly, his anticipated return trips to Japan and his wish to see the grandness of Paris and Monaco will be left unfulfilled.
So these are a few details about my Dad that I would like to share. He was strong and passionate in character, both inwardly and outwardly, defending his beliefs and actions with deliberate thought and attention to detail. But he was also quiet, and always made time to find and embrace quietude. He worked and provided generously for his family, and let ourselves be ourselves. Despite his constant striving and pursuit in all endeavors, he forged for himself a distinctive and fulfilling life.
Ed was preceded in death by his parents (Anna and Edward). Survivors include his wife Kathryn (Kathy); me (son Edward Arthur) and spouse Bianca in Indianapolis; his sister Sandra Cook (Chuck), his niece Kathleen Cook Mollenauer, her daughters Aubrey and Keara, and son Austin -- all of whom reside in Western Pennsylvania.
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