Robert Duca was ‘one-man language department’ at UPJ

Robert Anthony Duca Sr., a long-time Pitt–Johnstown humanities professor, died Jan. 10, at 85.

Duca taught courses in Spanish, French and Italian, and was fluent in Sicilian as well, making him Johnstown’s “one-man language department,” said Duca’s colleague, Marty Rice, a philosophy faculty member on campus.

Duca joined Pitt–Johnstown’s faculty in the Humanities Division in 1969 and retired as associate professor in 1998, returning to the regional campus as a part-time faculty member through 2005.

“Teaching languages was more than a job for Dr. Duca,” said Patty Derrick, emeritus professor of English and Humanities chair, in tributes gathered on campus. “It was a passion and a mission. He had a global view of people and took great joy in sharing with students his deep knowledge of foreign cultures and languages. Even in retirement, he continued to teach conversational Italian and to lead groups on trips to Italy.”

“Bob was from Johnstown,” noted Denis Robitaille, emeritus associate professor of French at Johnstown. “We would tell him that we could never get anywhere when we were out with him because there seemed to be no one he didn't know or was related to. Families were important to Bob, and of course especially his own.  He spared nothing to help his three sons or his wife, Sory.”

Born July 19, 1933, he was an alumnus of Pitt–Johnstown, later earning master's degrees in Italian from Middlebury College and in Spanish from Kent State University. He received his Ph.D. in Spanish Language and Civilization at Penn State. He also served in the Army at Fort Buchanan in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Duca began his teaching career at Hubbard High School in Ohio, moving next to the Greater Johnstown Area Vocational Technical School, Slippery Rock University and Youngstown State University, before coming to his alma mater, from which he retired as chairman of the language department. He was honored for his work by both the Spanish and Italian governments

He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Zoraida Gutierrez Sanchez; children Robert Anthony Jr. (married to Lourdes Rexach), Frederick Joseph (Mary Pamela Barks) and Mark Anthony (Megan Keisling); grandchildren Frederick Joseph Jr., Michael Anthony, Daniel James, Mary Elisa, Christopher Anthony, Katherine Ann, Robert Anthony III and Giovanni Antonio; and many nieces and nephews.

Memorial contributions are suggested to the Dr. Robert A. Duca Sr. Scholarship in Humanities and Romance Languages Fund at the University of Pittsburgh–Johnstown, c/o Frank Duca Funeral Home, 1622 Menoher Blvd., Johnstown, PA 15905.