October 8, 1939 - August 30, 2021
Those dates, yet significant, are just two days in the vibrant life of Robert Mrdjenovich.
The dash between those dates doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
The dash is where all the good stuff is; the peanut butter and jelly, the turkey, swiss, and mayo, the ham and cheese. Without the “good stuff” all you’ve got are two pieces of dry bread.
What we do with our dash is entirely up to us. We can squander, be wasteful, and we can choose to ignore all the beautiful things this world has to offer. My dad did none of those things. In fact, he didn’t just live life to its fullest; he seized life and his cup spilled over ten-fold.
I’d like to talk for a moment about the radiant, significant, and beautiful life of Robert Mrdjenovich.
Born of first-generation Serbian parents, he and his brother, Mel, were the second generation to be born in the United States. He had a happy childhood, but it didn’t come without its challenges. His parents were hard-working people however sometimes money was tight. That being said, he never felt like he was “poor” because he was richly loved and adored by his family. In fact, he treasured his relationship with his parents until they took their last breath, and he and his brother Mel remained the greatest of friends until his passing.
He married his high school sweetheart, and they went on to have six wonderful children together. Robyn, Daniel, Wayne, Nancy, Janice, and Adam.
Now…some of you might be confused wondering where my name is on that list. You may be asking yourself “why is she referring to Robert as “dad” when she didn’t mention herself, or her brother, Michael, in the list of names mentioned above. Please let me explain
The word “father” has three definitions according to the dictionary. The first is “a man in relation to his child or children, the second definition is a title or form of addressing a priest, and the third, “a man who causes a pregnancy resulting in the birth of a child.”
Although Robert was not definition two and three to me, he was every part of definition one: “A man in a relationship with his child.”
You see…somewhere in Robert’s dash, he met my mom, and on January 3, 1998 he received a second chance at love when he married her. From that very day and onward, he was always there to support me the way a father does and should.
He acknowledged and joyfully claimed my son, Gabriel, as his very own, and he took him on adventures he will never forget. The two of them were the best of fishing pals. They went to Alaska, Colorado and Florida together chasing the big catch, and those were just the big moments. There were countless little moments in-between, like fishing on “Pleasant Lake” or cruising to up north to fish in the big waters of Lake Michigan as well as the rivers and inland lakes.
The two of them were like peas and carrots…and not even once did my son consider him to be his step-grandpa. Robert was his beloved Pap Pap.
The image of him joyfully walking up to my front porch to get Gabriel to go fishing is forever branded into my mind. He was the strong male figure in Gabriel’s life when he didn’t have one. He stood by my son in his proudest and happiest moments, and he held him up in his saddest. Robert represented my son with love, pride, and dignity and he truly was his pillar. His rock.
As for me, he was the father that I never had growing up. He didn’t create me biologically, but to the outsider, you’d never know that. Because he always introduced me as his daughter … and he meant it.
He showed my mom the world…quite literally, taking her on adventures from one corner of the planet to the other. They visited all 50 states, 6 continents, and over 30 countries. He was passionate about travel and he left no stone unturned when it came to his explorations and adventures.
He loved and respected my mother and I’ll always be grateful to him for that.
He lived a selfless life, volunteering his precious time to help others in need. Love In the name of Christ recognized Robert as a blessing to their volunteer staff.
In 23 years of knowing him, I never heard him gossip or say an unkind word about a single soul, not even once.
He cultivated lasting friendships, he savored moments, he compromised, apologized, and accepted responsibility when he knew he was in the wrong. He was constantly working on making himself a better man by learning and growing from his mistakes.
He savored life, and he cultivated his passions and hobbies.
He never forgot a birthday or anniversary. As a matter of fact, a card with a thoughtful and loving hand-written message arrived days before without fail.
He left a legacy at Ford Motor Company for his hard work, intelligence, and dedication.
He sacrificed. He loved. He smiled. He was humble. He was kind. He was considerate. He was loving, generous, and selfless. He was brilliant. He was encouraging….and he was an inspiration.
Now…I’ve saved the very best for last. I saved it for last because it’s the most important part of Robert’s “dash”.
Robert Mrdjenovich lived his life as a shining example of what it is to be Christ-like. He dedicated every single morning, without fail, to prayer and devotion to show his respect to our creator. He was a true servant to the Lord and a warrior for Christ.
It was extremely difficult to watch him weaken over the past months. In my mind, he will always be the unusually strong man pulling paddle boats into the water, carrying tackle boxes, walking strongly and proudly, fishing until the sun went down, playing pickleball, riding bikes, joyfully showing up to every single party, birthday, and celebration, big and small.
Often, I had trouble keeping up with him so to see him weak and frail was heart wrenching. But I won’t remember him that way…instead, I will remember him joyfully twirling my mother around dancefloors in his cute cowboy hat and western boots. I will remember him strong, healthy, and full-of-life.
I know for absolute certainty that he is walking with Jesus at this very moment. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s been assigned a very important task, like organizing the angel’s daily schedule or helping Jesus in some way or another. Or perhaps instead Jesus knows that it’s time for Robert to rest. So maybe he’s peacefully floating on Pleasant Lake, enjoying his favorite hobby of fishing while watching beautiful sunsets. Whatever he is doing, his soul is soaring, his pain is gone, his joy restored, and his mind rested.
And until we meet again in heaven, because of him, I will be steadfast to fill my own dash with things that are meaningful and purposeful. And I will always remember his famous “last words,” if you will. And if you know what I’m talking about, feel free to say it with me.
And remember……….”each day is a blessing.”
Tribute to My Dad
My Dad was born at his home in Pennsylvania. From the moment he entered the world, he captivated others with his long, “paintbrush” eyelashes, as my Grammy would say, and his beauty, charm, and intellect. His childhood nickname was “Little Einstein.” My grandparents were very proud of my Dad.
As a young adult, my Dad excelled at his studies. He fell in love with his high school sweetheart, my Mom. At age 18, my birth catapulted my Dad’s life destiny. By age 30, he had six children with my Mom while working and attending college full time. Though this lifestyle must have been grueling, my Dad always took the time to make us feel loved and special, each in a unique way. He planned all year for annual family vacations to create lasting memories. Although he was a successful executive and public figure, the most important thing in my Dad’s life was his deep love for God and his family.
My Dad remarried later in life and his soulmate, Frances, joined our family with her two children. He gracefully included them, the spouses of all of his adult children, his grandchildren, brother, nieces, nephews, and friends into his life and love.
One of my greatest life’s treasures was watching my Dad and his relationship with my daughter, Sophia. From books to birds to dollhouses, coins, and antiques, they shared intellect, respect, love, and admiration. He was so excited that her husband is an engineer and his middle name is “Robert.” My Dad and my husband were the very best of friends playing pool and basketball, and enjoying roller skating and bike riding.
My Dad lived a life that was very full in every way. He had a beautiful family, a successful career, a charitable heart, and a passionate spirit. Passionate is the best word to describe my Dad. He had a passion for living. He had high expectations of himself and others. He wanted to be the best at everything, and he did do everything! He believed in lifelong learning and perfected his Serbian in his 70s. He was the best father, father-in-law, grandfather; husband, brother, cousin, and friend. My Dad was a man of integrity and humility, and he was so honorable and wise. In addition to his family, he provided service and support to many charitable foundations.
Through Divine intervention, I received God’s greatest gift, privilege, and honor to care for my Dad the last week of his life on earth. The first-born daughter who set the trajectory for his adult life received the precious gift of time to share our memories in his lucid moments. There is no love or hero like my Dad! Near the time of his death, his wife, children, and grandchildren surrounded my Dad. He said he loved everyone and that he knew that everyone loved him and each other. We prayed in Serbian because his roots in his faith and heritage were so valued and important to my Dad.
My Dad passed away at home. His long paintbrush eyelashes closed one last time, and his incredible Einstein brain went to sleep. As my Uncle Mel, my Dad’s brother, said, Second Corinthian 5:8 “Absent from the body, and present with the Lord.” First Thessalonians 4:14-17 He will get a body like resurrected Jesus with no more pain, no more suffering, and no more sickness. These are all of God’s promises.
My Dad was always so much fun to talk and spend time with. We always text at night and when he could no longer text, his last words were, “Lights Out.”
So Lights Out on Earth Dad, but the Heavens opened up and took you to the “Light of the World.”
Lights On in Heaven Eternally, Dad!
I Love You!
Robert Mrdjenovich, age 81, passed away August 30, 2021. He was born October 8, 1939 in Wall, Pennsylvania, son of the late Daniel and Ana Mrdjenovich. He is survived by his beloved wife, Frances; his loving children: Robyn (Peter) Szeles, Daniel (Martha) Mrdjenovich, Wayne Mrdjenovich, Nancy (James) Coleman, Janice (Michael) Rende, Adam (Wendy) Mrdjenovich, Kristen (William) Madgwick, Michael (Michaela) Smyth; his grandchildren: Sophia (Brian) Jones, Alyssa Mrdjenovich, Jordan Mrdjenovich, Daniel Mrdjenovich, John Collins, Steven Collins, Jacob Rende, Madelyn Rende, and Gabriel Madgwick; his brother, Milan Mrdjenovich. He is also survived by his nieces and nephew: Nikol Conant, Lea Thone, Paula Comunale, Frank Serrapere, and Jo Serrapere. Family and friends are welcome in Alfieri Funeral Home, Inc., 201 Marguerite Ave, Wilmerding, Pa, 15148, 412-824-4332, on Saturday, from 9am till the time of service at 11am. Robert will be laid to rest in Grandview Cemetery, North Versailles. Please visit us at, www.alfierifuneralhome.com for online condolences.
Vjecnaja Pamjat - Memory Eternal
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