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Published: Sunday, 7/4/2004

Basketball player had a career in glass

Emil Sotnyk, whose athletic abilities landed him in a professional basketball league for one season and who claimed he knew everyone who lived in Ford City, Pa., died Friday of bone cancer at Ridgewood Manor in Maumee. He was 82.

Mr. Sotnyk played professional basketball in the National Basketball League from 1946-47, his son, Ted Sotnyk, said. "He was a deadly outside shooter. If the three-point rule was in effect then, he would have really been amazing."

He quit after a single season because he and his wife, Margaret, just had their second child and felt that family obligations were more important. His wife died in 1991.

Mr. Sotnyk grew up in Ford City, Pa., where his son said Mr. Sotnyk claimed to know everyone in every house in the town.

"He was just an amazing historian," his son said. "It's not like he studied it or anything. He just lived it and remembered it."

Mr. Sotnyk graduated from Ford City High School in 1939, where he earned varsity letters in basketball, football, and baseball. He then graduated from Virginia Military Institute in 1943 with a degree in civil engineering, specializing in artillery.

After service during World War II, he returned to Ford City to play basketball before landing a job with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation in 1947. He then worked for Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company before moving to Toledo in 1966 to work for Owens-Illinois, Inc., then Libbey-Owens-Ford Co. and Pilkington PLC before retiring in 1986. "He always worked for the glass industry," his son said. "That became his specialty."

Mr. Sotnyk said his father spoke English, Ukrainian, and Polish; he taught himself Spanish in his 70s.

"I've read that learning a foreign language keeps your mind young, and I didn't quite understand it, but he got a kick out of it," Mr. Sotnyk said of his father.

Mr. Sotnyk was an avid bowler, with a 210 average. He continued to bowl until he was 81, quitting only after he ruptured his Achilles tendon, his son said. He also enjoyed doing math problems and could explain calculus in his 80s.

"He had numbers in his head," his son said. "He had a hand-held computer and he just played with math all his life."

"He was smart and funny with a dry sense of humor that was very cute," his daughter, Kathy Barnes, added.

Surviving are daughters Kathy Barnes, Cindy Pickard, Maggie Tinney, and Fran Sotnyk; sons Emil Sotnyk and Ted Sotnyk; nine grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren.

There will be no visitation, and services will be private. Arrangements are by Strabler Funeral Home of Sylvania.



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