In 1945, at the young age of 17 Joe Gdovic enlisted in the Maritime Service, United States Coast Guard-Merchant Marines and served overseas in Italy & the Mediterranean Region. Just a year later he entered active service with the United States Army, he made Private and then Sergeant and served in Japan with the Nugata Military Government Team. Between 1947 and 1951 he served at Fort Lawton, Washington and Fort Lee, Virginia. He was granted an Honorable Discharge as Sergeant and awarded the World War II Victory Medal and Army of Occupational Medal, Japan. He received an Honorable Release from Active Duty as a Corporal. His hobbies during his military service included boxing and baseball. He was also quite skilled at the games of pool and cards. He was a 47-year member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, USA.
After his military service Joe went to work for US Steel in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. Upon completing an apprenticeship as a sheet metal worker, he left US Steel to embark on the adventure of owning his own business. A true entrepreneur at heart, he would go on to have several successful businesses starting with McKeesport Roofing Company, a roofing and sheet metal enterprise that he operated out of the building he owned (formerly Famous Garage, now McKeesport Auto Body) at the intersection of Rebecca Street & West Sixth Avenue, near The Elbow Room. This business went on to employ many people and serviced the McKeesport and surrounding areas for many years. While still running McKeesport Roofing Company, Joe Gdovic, “the roofer” then branched out into the business world and represented various US manufacturers as an independent representative and found his calling in the sales arena. He represented Consolidated Chemical, Inc., Bismoline Manufacturing Company (medicated body powder), Sunshine Products, Inc. and Nilodor, Inc. He sold lines of skin care and odor control products to nursing homes, hospitals and a whole host of government agencies and entities, working with many states, counties, municipalities and cities. When the sales operations became more successful, Joe left the roofing world for good and became more involved in both domestic and international sales. Striving for real independence he started his own companies, Joseph Gdovic & Associates (McKeesport, PA) and Perfect Products Company (Plantation, FL) which he ran with his daughter, Dianne. Under the banner of these companies he created his very own private label odor control product line. He operated these companies profitably well into his 80’s.
Although plagued by failing eye sight and succumbing to blindness from a hereditary eye disease, Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP); he was never deterred from pursuing his goals for himself and his family. Fiercely independent, amazingly self-motivated, Joe was ambitious, determined and a forward thinker. Most would say he was ahead of his time. A formal education and college degree eluded him during his lifetime, but he dedicated himself to the education of his children; all who graduated from college and became professionals with successful careers and businesses. And now his legacy is his grandchildren who either graduated from college and have careers or are pursuing their educations at the time of this writing.
Joe Gdovic was a self-made man; he was self-taught in the areas of business, finance and history. He had an amazing intellect for politics, current events and understanding of the culture. He was a masterful debater on all these topics and more. He was a man that had a deep love for his family, respect for his Catholic faith and his Czech upbringing. He understood he was a flawed man at times. He was forever dedicated to the continual improvement of life, not just for himself and his family, but for all he knew, he always encouraged others to strive for something better. His best advice was “keep plugging” and “Keep Common Sense Alive.” He often repeated the motto from his former business mentor, Buck Pennington to family and friends… “always have a plan… and remember, a half-assed plan is better than no plan at all!” Joe was an avid and life-long Pittsburgh Steelers fan and was a season ticket holder for many years. He was also a follower of the Pirates and Penguins. He enjoyed the songs of Andrea Bocelli and Luciano Pavarotti and was a classical music fan. Joe loved his country and was extremely patriotic. He was conservative and traditional in his political beliefs and was a student of politics. He loved to reminisce and tell stories from his past and there was always a moral to every story. He learned something from everything that he did and cherished every memory.
Family and friends will be received on Friday, May 3, 2019 from 4-8 pm at Strifflers of White Oak Cremation and Mortuary Services, Inc., 1100 Lincoln Way, White Oak, PA 15131. (Sue Striffler Galaski, Supervisor, 412-678-6177). A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Saturday, May 4, 2019 at 9:30 a.m. in St. Mark Parish at St. Joseph Worship Site, 1125 Romine Avenue, Port Vue, PA 15133. Burial will follow. To share a memory or condolence visit strifflerfuneralhomes.com.
The family would like to extend sincere gratitude and appreciation to the following people who were a tremendous help to Joe. Your friendship, support, assistance and encouragement did not go unnoticed and our words can never express how grateful we are to you. You were all very important to him and he appreciated each and every one of you: Kandy Frew, Helen Epler, Dick and Dolly (Epler) Kershner, John Tkach, Nick Stanish, George (Gigs) Vinovich, Chucky Peck and his brothers, Mike Kochman; Ladies of Charity at St. Mark’s Parrish, Rose & volunteers, Meals On Wheels of McKeesport, Minerva’s Bakery; Tom Borucki & Staff at McKeesport Auto Body; Doctors Mohammad & Kareem Idrees & Staff, White Oak Medical Center; Chuck Traeger, Carolyn, Mike, Midge, Renee & Vonnie, Ayres Drug Store; Doctors Ihsan H. Awan & Francis L. Ergina,UPMC Heart & Vascular Institute;Dr. M. Nair, Vascular Surgery, UPMC; Dr. P. Dafe´ Ogagan, UPMC Urology; the doctors, nurses and staff at UPMC McKeesport; and, many others as well.
Originally published April 30, 2019.