PETER (PETE) STEPHEN STETSKO
December 20, 1946-February 3, 2020
Pete Stetsko passed away at age 73 on the morning of February 3rd after a brief battle with cancer.
Pete was born in Newark, New Jersey and was raised in nearby West Orange, the younger child of Peter and Madeleine Stetsko. Growing up within the shadows of the New York City skyscrapers, he would regularly journey into ‘The City’ with lifelong friends Fred Beyer, Bill McCloskey, Xavier Creary, Freddie Pediclaire, Anthony Surmatis, and Tom Bono. There were times spent hanging out at Coney Island, Flushing Meadows during the World’s Fair, attending various events at Madison Square Garden, and trips to the Jersey Shore. But they mostly watched childhood idols Mickey Mantle at Yankee Stadium, and Willie Mays at the Polo Grounds…even on days when everyone was supposed to be in school!
Like most teenagers of the early 1960s, these good Catholic boys could be found on most Friday nights at the Warwick Drive-In waiting for 12:01am to strike so that they could go eat cheeseburgers at the nearby White Castle. Pete graduated from Immaculate Conception High School in June 1964. These friends then went their separate ways: Fred, Eddie, and Bill went to Vietnam; Tom went to Germany; Anthony and Xavier went to college; but Pete…moved to California. He was hoping to find the ‘sun’, ‘sand’, and ‘girls’ that he had heard about in many of the Beach Boys songs; and so, he came to ‘Fresno’. It was not quite what he was expecting!
When Pete first arrived in Fresno he stayed with his maternal aunt and uncle, Carmella and Anthony DeMatteis, on the outskirts of Old Fig Garden. Just around the corner and down the street, lived two brothers that became the ‘brothers’ he never had – Ken and Stan Papi. Likewise, the Papi family took Pete in as well as a defacto family member, he became their ‘Tom Hagen’. Afterall, everyone was Italian there!
Pete and Ken enrolled at Fresno City College. Depending upon whom you heard the story from: it was either in front of the old Gymnasium, or inside the Cafeteria, he would meet his future wife, the then-Dorothy Pereira. He made quite the first impression because her first thoughts were, “Gawd, what an arrogant jerk!” But as they began to learn more about each other, she thought he came from a wealthy mafia family, and he thought she was the daughter of a rich dairy-farmer. BOTH were wrong! Nevertheless, their love did blossom, and on November 28, 1970 they were married infront of friends and family at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church. They would remain together: for richer or poorer; in sickness and in health; for the next 49 years.
Dorothy and Pete went on to attend Fresno State, and became lifelong Red Wavers. After graduating from college Dorothy would attain a teaching credential, while Pete was buying season tickets for football and basketball. Legend has it that Pete’s yelling can still be heard echoing within the confines of Selland Arena. The couple moved out to the Easton area to be near Dorothy’s mother, where they built a home and started a family.
Fourteen months after they wed, their first son Christopher was born. Five years later their second son Brian came into the world. Pete had a love for current events and history, but especially had a passion for sports. These interests were passed to his sons as one observes the professional endeavors of each. Chris pursues current events and history as a Political Science college instructor and serving in many local campaign works; whereas Brian’s success was in the athletics arena teaching PE, coaching many sports, and winning numerous football championships. Pete’s love of movies, especially for World War II and Westerns, instilled a keen sense of ‘Right and Wrong’ in his sons. This moral code continues to be passed on today by his sons to the students they teach.
Pete worked as a Sales Representative in the beverage and food industries for 40 years. He was respected for the knowledge and expertise that he possessed, and thus widely regarded. He worked for several major corporate businesses including: Coca-Cola, Foodland, Smart & Final, and Sysco Brands. He was known for his customer service which won him the loyalty of his many account customers.
Later in life he found joy being “Papa” to his granddaughters Melody and Ali. In fact it was often said that his ‘five’ biggest loves were: ‘Melody’, ‘Ali’, his ‘pickup truck’, his dog ‘Schultz’, and the ‘Golden State Warriors’. But never question his love or loyalty to friends and family. Family was always put first above all else. Pete would sacrifice time, money, sweat, and effort for family and those he cared about. He did this without question. He was always there for any one of us when we needed him…as long as a Warrior’s game wasn’t on TV.
Now we say goodbye. Pete’s spirit and legacy will live on. What he instilled is being passed on by his sons to those that they teach. His lineage continues on with the two granddaughters he loved dearly. Pete’s memory lives on with his family, friends, and the acquaintances that he made.
Thank you for all that you have done for us.
Pete was preceded in death by: parents Peter Stetsko and Madeleine (DeMatteis) Stetsko of West Orange, NJ; his godparents Robert Craig and Rose (DeMatteis) Craig of Roseland, NJ; aunt and uncle Carmella and Anthony DeMatteis of Fresno, CA; beloved Mother-in-Law Alice (Cardoza) Pereira of Fresno, CA; Brother-in-Law Chuck Kollewe of Culver City, CA; and Sister-in-Law Barbara (Pereira) Larion of Fresno, CA.
He is survived by: wife Dorothy Stetsko; sons Christopher Stetsko and Brian Stetsko; daughter-in-law Michelle (Ferguson) Stetsko; granddaughters Melody Stetsko and Alice Stetsko all of Fresno, CA; sister Stephanie-Anne Stetsko-Kiziukiewicz and her husband Edward Kiziukiewicz of Seaside Park, NJ; niece Kristina (Kiziukiewicz) Carvalhido and her husband Michael and their two sons of Freeport, NJ; CA; beloved Sister-in-Law Virginia (Pereira) Kollewe of Culver City, CA; nieces Theresa Kollewe of Culver City, Christine (Kollewe) Haruta and her two children of Stockton, CA; and Jeanmarie (Kollewe) Maxwell and her husband Richard Maxwell of Petaluma, CA; Brother-in-Law Peter Larion and wife Janice Larion of Fresno, CA.
God Bless. Until We See You Again.
“And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.”
--‘The Prodigal Son’
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