West Newton man enjoyed sharing his passions

41 minutes ago

Although Stephen Fanala worked for 45 years in the steel industry, it was his avocations that defined him.

Mr. Fanala loved to fly, and he loved to teach others about hunting and trapping.

“These were not just hobbies for him – these were lifelong passions of his,” said his daughter, Maribeth Izzo.

Mr. Fanala volunteered as a hunter-trapper education instructor for the Pennsylvania Game Commission for 45 years – from 1971 to 2016. His interest in aviation started as a toddler with his father’s Luscombe airplane and continued throughout his life.

Stephen G. Fanala Jr. of West Newton died Monday, March 11, 2019. He was 68.

Born in McKeesport on July 17, 1950, he was a son of Theresa (Barcarolo) Fanala and the late Stephen G. Fanala Sr. He grew up in Sutersville and worked for 45 years as an overhead crane operator at the U.S. Steel Irvin Works in West Mifflin.

Mr. Fanala’s interest in aviation began as a young boy, and by the time he was in high school, he had a pilot’s license. He flew a Piper J-3 Cub and a Cessna 172, mostly out of Rostraver Airport, his daughter said.

He served as a staff sergeant in the Pennsylvania Air National Guard, 112th Air Refueling Group, and as a lieutenant in the Civil Air Patrol.

“When he was young and had the time, he had his (pilot’s) license, but then life took over and he got out of it,” said his son, Stephen E. Fanala.

In the last three years, Mr. Fanala sought to renew his license and took instruction at Rostraver Airport. One of his goals was to fly over his hometown of Sutersville, Izzo said.

“Nothing brought him as much joy as being in that plane and being in the air. He would talk about it for days after being up in the air,” she said.

Mr. Fanala taught hunter-trapper courses at the Sutersville Sportsmens Club, where he was a longtime member, and brought in experts to help him teach the class. The course is required to obtain a Pennsylvania hunting license.

“He was the lead instructor for many years and was so proud of that,” his son said. “He had a policy – if you fail my class, you’re a buffoon and you don’t belong in the woods with a gun.”

Mr. Fanala also was known for his random acts of kindness, his children said.

Once, while hunting black bear near Ligonier, he came across another hunter who had just shot a bear. The hunter didn’t have a camera, so Mr. Fanala offered to take a picture of him and send him the picture, his son said.

Mr. Fanala not only sent the picture, he had 8-by-10 enlargements made and had them framed. “That was my dad, that was something he would do out of the ordinary for a stranger,” his son said. “His acts of kindness never seemed to end.”

Although he didn’t expect anything in return, Mr. Fanala soon received in the mail a coffee mug with a black bear on it and a $20 gift card. He never used the mug, but instead displayed it in his kitchen, his son said.

Mr. Fanala is survived by his wife, Betsy (Angelcyk) Fanala; a daughter, Maribeth Izzo and her husband, Dr. Louis Izzo; a son, Stephen E. Fanala and his wife, Brenda; and six grandchildren.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Edward Church, Herminie. Interment will follow at West Newton Cemetery.

J. William McCauley Jr. Funeral Home in West Newton is in charge of arrangements.

Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Stephen at 724-850-1280, shuba@tribweb.com or via Twitter .