Philip J. Kraus, 85, of Canadohta Lake, Pa., died on Thursday, March 13, 2014.
Philip was born in Erie on June 16, 1928, the son of Sicilian immigrants Filippo Pirrello of San Cataldo, Sicily, and Domenica Bruno of Montaperto, Sicily.
His early life was demanding, spanning the years of the Great Depression. He worked hard to help support his family - difficult, hot, callus-building work with the Wurst Brothers landscaping business. In 1944, he joined the United States Navy
, and proudly served as a Seaman 1c during World War II
, deploying to the Southwest Pacific. His white sailor's hat and USN-stamped fork and knife were prized possessions quarreled over by his children. He introduced them, also, to the wonder of eating with chopsticks, a skill he acquired in the Philippines.
Upon his honorable discharge from the Navy, he used the G.I. Bill to become the first member of his family to attend and graduate from college in 1958, with a B.A. in Physics from Gannon University. Thus began a lifelong journey as a scientist, engineer, and educator, that last calling, one that bettered the lives of all he encountered. Early in his career, he taught high school physics and chemistry in Dunkirk, N.Y. His children were thrilled to be the subjects of practice lab experiments. He never stopped teaching and was always a reliable source of advice, although his practice was to lead one to an answer, not to gift it.
Phil's career progressed to civil engineering with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and later, the Federal Department of Transportation. He earned his Professional Engineer (PE) certification and contributed to many important infrastructures, such as the nuclear power reactor in Midland, Michigan, Interstate 79 in Pennsylvania, and the Suitland Parkway between Andrews Air Force Base and Washington, D.C.
But this does not capture his essence. Phil was a highly capable farmer, raising livestock and feeding his large family from a huge truck garden, with the able assistance of his wife, Mary Alice. He was a skilled carpenter, logger, electrician, plumber, automobile mechanic, dietitian, cook, and more. In the summers between high school semesters, he worked variously as an engineer at Welch's Grape Products, in Westfield, N.Y., and an Able Seaman on Great Lakes freighters, plying cargo from Duluth, Minn. to the Atlantic Ocean. It seemed there was absolutely nothing he could not do.
Perhaps foundational to his role as a great, lifelong teacher, he was also a lifelong student. Philip became a certified gunsmith from an accredited North Carolina program and studied black smithy at Drakes' Well in Titusville, Pa. He took coursework as a suicide prevention counselor, and later served as a volunteer in Erie County. He was a supporter of his community, giving of his time and energy. He was instrumental in obtaining a warning siren for the Elgin-Beaverdam Volunteer Fire Department, and later served as the organization's president.
He was preceded in death by his brothers, Alphonse Pirello and Giuseppe "Joseph" Pirello.
On April 2, 1948, he married the love of his life, Mary Alice Walters, who preceded him in death on May 18, 2007, a loss from which he never truly recovered. Together, they raised a large, wonderful family.
Philip is survived by four daughters and five sons: Irwin Kraus (Catherine McGuinness) of Attleboro, Mass., Karen Pirello of Greensboro, N.C., Phyllis Welden (Mark) of Corry, David Kraus of Franklinton, N.C., Eric Kraus (Laura) of Elizabethton, Tenn., Margaret Kraus-Baccus of E. Springfield, Pa., Rebecca Mroczkowski (John) of Douglasville, Ga., Philip L. Kraus of Elizabethton, Tenn., and Peter Kraus (Pauline) of Edinboro. He is further survived by his beloved sister Grazia "Grace" Pirrello Cox of Corpus Christi, Texas, and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
He was truly a member of the Greatest Generation. His family and many admirers will miss his sustaining confidence, love, and support.
Friends are invited to attend a celebration of Phil and Mary Alice's lives on Saturday, July 5, 2014 at Evergreen Cemetery, Concord Road, Union City at 10:00 a.m. Burial together will follow the service.
The C. S. Warthman Funeral Home, Inc., 69 North Main Street, Union City, is in charge of arrangements.
Published in the Erie Times-News on July 3, 2014