Cresson TB Sanatorium Remembered
Stephen Francis Dusza
 
In November 2010, I received the following story about Steve Dusza from his daughter Denise Weber and the photos from his daughter Diane Dusza. 
 
Denise's email address is papessimist@hotmail.com
 _____________________________________________________________________________________________
 

STEPHEN FRANCIS DUSZA

September 7, 1913-September 27, 2005

Home: Vintondale, PA  15701 

Steve Dusza was born in Onnalinda, PA (near Beaverdale) on September 7, 1913 to Rudolph and Helen Dusza, immigrants from Hungary.  His parents divorced in 1923, and Steve found himself “batching” with his father in the coal town of Windber, briefly residing with an uncle in the village of Cardiff, and living with a cousin on a farm near Somerset.  In 1925, his mother made arrangement for Steve to be sent to the Bethlen Home, the Hungarian Reformed Church’s orphanage in Ligonier, PA.   He arrived at the home on Sunday, February 6, 1926.

Considered one of the “Big Boys” at the orphanage, he did farm chores before and after attending school in Ligonier.  Steve finished his freshman year at Ligonier High School, and Rev. Kalassy wanted to send Steve to St. Vincent’s Seminary to study for the priesthood.   But, in 1928, his stepfather wanted him to come back to tend the cows.  Steve returned home, graduated from Vintondale High School in 1931 and worked in the mines as a “road cleaner.”  He enlisted in the Navy in May, 1932 even though he only weighed 131 pounds, and served on the USS Pennsylvania, the flagship of the Pacific fleet.  While patrolling Los Angeles after the 1933 earthquake, he developed pleurisy and spent a month on the hospital ship, USS Relief.  Upon his discharge in 1936, his stepfather bought him a new International 1 ton dump truck.  Steve went to work at the mines, hauling refuse to the rock dump (boney pile) and hauling ash from  the coke ovens.  During the winter, he also had a contract to ash a stretch of Route 22 on Chickaree Mountain.

On June 11, 1938, Steve married Agnes Huth at Immaculate Conception Church in Vintondale.  Agnes was the daughter of the company engineer and assistant superintendent of the Vinton Colliery Company.  After returning from a honeymoon trip through New England, Steve and Agnes set up housekeeping in an apartment above the post office.  The building was owned by his stepfather.  They bought brand new furniture, including a dining room set that is still used in the family home.

By early August, 1939 Steve was bedridden.  His weight had dropped from 160 to 120.  Agnes’ sister, Carol, said that a politician was able to get Steve into the Cresson Sanatorium.  He was admitted on August 4, 1939.  On August 19th, Agnes gave birth to a son, Stephen David, the first of seven.  Agnes moved back in with her parents, John and Mable Huth.  Jack Huth bought Agnes an old Ford so she could go to work at a mine office in nearby Twin Rocks.  In the afternoons, her sister Carol would put Dave into a stroller and walk to meet Agnes when she came home.

Part of Steve’s treatment was the thoracoplasty surgery.  In May, 1940, he was sent to Hamburg State Hospital where three operations were performed.  Each time, three ribs were removed and the affected parts of the lung were collapsed.  Agnes made several trips to Hamburg to visit Steve.  On one occasion, she took her youngest sister, Carol, with her.  Carol stayed in Frackville with her father’s sister while Agnes visited Steve.  Some of Steve’s friends visited in Hamburg and also went together to buy David some Christmas toys, including a sandbox.

Steve was sent back to Cresson for recuperation.  Agnes visited on Sundays and often took Mrs. Frank Sebulsky along with her.  Mrs. Sebulsky visited with her sister while Agnes was at the sanatorium.  Agnes took David with her one time, which angered Steve.  He did not want Dave exposed to the TB germs.   Steve was permitted occasionally to go home for Sunday dinner.  An aide from Cresson would accompany him.  Steve said the sanatorium declared him healed after he sneaked out and took Dave to a circus in Johnstown in May, 1941.

Steve rarely talked about his life at Cresson, but he did mention that the chief radiology technician, Joseph Hadju, was a Hungarian.  He and Steve would converse in Hungarian. 

When Steve returned to Vintondale, he went to work in the coal company office earning 41 cents an hour.  After his stepfather died in 1943, Steve took over management of the hotel for his mother. In 1945, Steve and Aggie bought a company house on Third Street for $800. There they raised their seven children:  David, Daniel, Diane, Denise, Deborah, Dennis, and Donald.   

After the hotel closed in the early 1960s, Steve went on Social Security disability and became the unofficial taxi driver of Vintondale, taking residents to the airport or to doctors’ appointments.  He also served on the school board and as borough secretary.  In addition to fishing, one of Steve’s greatest pleasures was attending Bishop Carroll High School sporting events.  His grandson, Jeffrey Dusza and grandnephew, Eric Lasinsky, both played on BC championship teams, one in 1990 and the other in the first decade of the 21st Century.

On June 11, 1988, Steve and Aggie observed their 50th wedding anniversary with a Mass celebrated by their youngest son, Fr. Donald Dusza.  The Mass, which was attended by all seven children, was held in the same parish where Agnes was baptized in 1913 and where they were married in 1938.    Agnes died unexpectedly on October 17, 1990 in the Chicago Amtrak station.  She and Steve were on a train trip to visit Fr. Don who was stationed on an Air Force base in Wyoming at the time.  Steve died fifteen years later on September 27, 2005 at the age of 92.  He was survived by his seven children, twelve grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

 

weber0001.jpg
1.  Steve and his ward mates taken in 1939, the year he entered the san at age 26.  Steve is in the front row center, to the left of the man holding the cane.  The ward patients all appear to be wearing heavy winter robes.  Several of the men are wearing street clothes indicating they are on meals.
 
 
 
 
weberweba3.jpg
3.  Steve out in the cold winter air in 1941 while on meals.  Note the icicles hanging from the eaves of the building in the background.
 
 
 
weberweba5.jpg
5.  Wedding photo of Steve and Agnes (Huth) Dusza on June 11, 1938.  Steve entered the san on August 4, 1939, just 15 days before the birth of their first child Stephen David, the first of seven. 
weberweb20002.jpg
2. The official photo of Steve's ward decorated for Christmas, 1939. The beds are all made, chairs aligned  and not a patient in sight.  Even in the san each ward had a decorated Christmas tree, garlands and presents under the tree.  There are pine branches hung in every window.   
 
 
 
weberweba4.jpg
4.  Rev. Father Thomas O'Donnell, who served as chaplain at Cresson san for over a quarter-century. 
 
 
 
 
weberweb20006.jpg
6.  Family photo taken at the 50th Wedding Anniversary of Steve and Agnes.  The children are as follows:  
Back Row (L to R)  Donald & Dennis
Middle Row (L to R)  Deb McHugh, Daniel, David, Diane Dusza, Denise Weber