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John's Story

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John E. Samsa, 96, of Bessemer passed away at his home on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017.
Devoted husband of 64 years to Leona "Honey" Samsa (deceased 2016) and father of Craig (Rose) Moore, Ph.D., Geneva, Ill.; Mary Samsa, Cranberry Township, Pa.; Jeannie (Steve) Hervatine, Mount Jackson, Pa.; Dr. John A. (Dr. Pam) Samsa, Kirtland, Ohio; and Richard (Becky) Samsa, Grove City, Pa.
Grandfather of Christie Driftmier, Kelly Driftmier, Stevie Hervatine, Joey Hervatine, Brandon Samsa and Zachary Samsa.
Preceded in death by wife Leona, mother Mary, father Anton, brother Vlad and sisters Sauvi Bartley and Annie Longo.
He was a graduate of Bessemer High School and received his Bachelor's Degree from Slippery Rock University and Master's from Westminster College.
He was a U.S. Army Captain and pilot in World War II in the Thirrd Infantry Division's Scout Observation Squadron attached to various field artillery battalions. He saw action in all fronts of the Western European Theater.
A devout Catholic, he would attend Mass on the battlefield whenever the Mass was offered. When stationed in the French Alps, he was able to ski to Midnight Mass on one Christmas.
After World War II, he attended college on the GI Bill. He was a teacher at Bessemer High School and teacher and guidance counselor at Mohawk High School. He was the head basketball coach at Mohawk High School from 1952 until1986, and considered by many as a basketball coaching legend.
During his teaching years, he was also head baseball coach, head golf coach, assistant football coach and basketball clinician at the University of Pittsburgh and Clarion State College. His basketball successes include the WPIAL championship in 1970; runner-up state championship in 1970; one PIAA Western Regional championship; one Tri-County championship; and six section championships.
He was voted Coach of the Year numerous times, Mr. Basketball in 1970, Dapper Dan Classic Coach in 1970, and was inducted into the Lawrence County Sports Hall of Fame in 1989 and again with his 1969-1970 team in 2015.
He had the privilege of coaching his sons John and Rich during their high school years.
He was a strong believer in God and a very disciplined man of high integrity, humility and compassion who valued education and sports. He was respected by many and was often visited by former students in later years.
He made his mark on many people and remembered and appreciated every friend, colleague, coach, student, player, and manager, and the people who supported his teams in the stands.
He recently was honored by the Mohawk Area School District with a plaque to be posted by the boy's gym as one of the founding fathers of Mohawk sports.
Family will welcome friends Tuesday, Sept. 19, from 2 to 4 and 6 to 9 p.m. and Wednesday, 9 to 10 a.m. at Terry A. Cunningham's Funeral Home, 203 Oak St., Bessemer, Pa., and a Mass of Christian burial will be Wednesday, Sept. 20, at 10:30 a.m. at Christ the King Parish, St. Anthony in Bessemer, Pa.
Published on September 17, 2017
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