On Wednesday the Johnstown community will pay its respects to a true champion, a man of character and compassion who was also among our region’s greatest sports icons.
Pete Duranko – known as “Diesel” because of his hard-nosed play on the football field – was a star at Johns-town Catholic High School, at Notre Dame and with the NFL’s Denver Broncos.
He was always a great ambassador for Johnstown, and a funny, loving person to his friends and family.
In 2000, Duranko learned he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
The affliction slowed down a man whom many gridiron opponents could not.
But instead of stepping to the background, Duranko rose up and became an advocate for those with ALS.
Steve Smear, who followed Duranko through Johnstown Catholic/Bishop McCort and its football program, said it best: “There is only one Pete Duranko.”
Duranko was 67.
He leaves behind his wife of 43 years, Janet, and many other family members and friends.
We offer them our condolences.
Duranko will be memorialized at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church in Cambria City. He then will be laid to rest at Grandview Cemetery.
Many words will be offered in his honor by former classmates, teammates and colleagues – from those he loved and those he inspired.
Let us add our voices to those bidding this fine man fare well.
Pete, thanks for the thrills on the football field, and for your amazing dedication to your community and others suffering from ALS.
You were a true hero.
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Readers have been offering their thoughts about Pete Duranko on his obituary and stories about his passing published on our website.
On the day before this warrior is laid to rest, we offer a sampling of those tributes here: