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MURTHA Mary Margaret

"Singer passed on love of music to kin"
Saturday, April 24, 2004

By Jerry Vondas

It could be said of Mary Margaret Waida that she always had a song in her heart.

It didn't matter whether it was during her portrayal of Bloody Mary in the Glenshaw Players' production of "South Pacific," while attending Mass at St. Bonaventure Roman Catholic Church or cooking in the kitchen at her home.

Mrs. Waida, of Shaler, died of pulmonary problems on Thursday, April 22, 2004, in Latrobe Area Hospital in Westmoreland County. She was 75.

"Mom's pivotal role was Bloody Mary," said her son, Henry Waida. "She also had the lead singing roles in 'Annie Get Your Gun' and 'No, No, Nanette.'"

Born and raised in Mt. Pleasant, Westmoreland County, Mary Margaret Murtha was one of seven children of Frank and Margaret Kearns Murtha. Her father, after losing a leg in a mine accident, was employed at Westmoreland Regional Hospital, Greensburg, and her mother taught school for many years.

In 1946, following graduation from St. Xavier Academy, where she was the class valedictorian, Miss Murtha was employed as a waitress at the Mountain View Inn and later in the offices of the prior of St. Vincent College, both in Westmoreland County.

"Wherever Mary Margaret worked, she sent money home to our parents," said her sister, Theresa Cox.

While in her early 20s, Miss Murtha left for Washington, D.C., to work for the federal government. "Mary Margaret had such a good voice that she decided to sing professionally in the evenings," said her sister. "She even went back to our Irish roots and performed by the name of Pat O'Hara while singing in a Washington nightclub."

"My mother passed her love of music to all of her children," Henry Waida said. "I played the guitar and everyone in our family played an instrument, including the piano."

Upon returning to the Pittsburgh area in the 1950s, Miss Murtha established her own information services firm and met Henry Waida, a mechanical engineer, at the University Catholic Club. They were married in 1958.

Mr. Waida's firm, Henry E. Waida & Associates, located first Downtown and later in Shaler, was involved with a number of construction projects, including Three Rivers Stadium. He died in 1994.

Mrs. Waida, besides raising her family and singing with the Glenshaw Players, continued to operate small businesses. Her company, Teen Clean, employed teenagers to clean houses, and for years she was a real estate agent in the North Hills.

Mrs. Waida is survived by two daughters, Diane M. Waida-Cohen and her husband, Daniel, of Los Angeles, and Judy A. Dutkovic and her husband, Bill, of Cranberry; four sons, Henry E. Waida Jr., of Baltimore, Md., Daniel E. Waida and his wife, Wendy, of Needham, Mass., John F. Waida and his wife, Susan, of Carollton, Texas, and Jim W. Waida of Little Elm, Texas; and seven grandchildren.

She is also survived by three brothers, the Rev. John, Frank and Harry Murtha; and a sister, Theresa Cox. She was predeceased by two brothers, Bill and Joe Murtha.

Friends will be received from 7 to 9 p.m. today and 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. Sunday at the Bock Funeral Home Ltd., 1500 Mt. Royal Blvd., Shaler.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Monday at St. Bonaventure Church, Shaler, with her brother, the Rev. John Murtha, officiating.

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