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Uldis Kaktins

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Dr. Uldis Kaktins, 74, of Johnstown, Pennsylvania died on Saturday, July 2nd, a three-year survivor of pancreatic cancer. Uldis was born on June 10th, 1942 to Zigurds and Zenta Kaktins during the heart of World War II, in Riga, Latvia. When he was about 2 years old, Uldis’ family fled Latvia to escape Stalin and deportation to Siberia. Five years of his childhood were spent in displaced persons camps in Austria and then Germany while his mother and father struggled to move their family to the United States. On arrival in Boston, Uldis remembers drinking his first glass of fresh milk and eating a donut. It was a very fond memory for him! He grew up in a Boston ghetto, and Uldis joked about being picked on because he was short, had a funny name, and didn’t speak English. But, the family put down new roots and Uldis worked hard to get an education. The Vietnam war interrupted graduate school for geology. Uldis was deployed to Vietnam and wrote his thesis by hand on the floor of his Bachelor Officer’s Quarters during the Tet II Offensive. He eventually earned his PhD and worked as a professor and chairperson of the geology department at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, where he taught from 1975-2008. Uldis taught and mentored countless students, many of whom became close family friends. Part of his legacy lies with the geologists he helped create who ply their trade around the globe from Johnstown to Singapore. A devoted husband, father, brother, uncle and friend, Uldis has always been a source of constant strength and guidance to his family and friends. He is survived by his wife, Nina Kaktins. Daughters Erika Morris, Mara Kaktins, and Kaija Bretzius. Brother Egils Kaktins, and sister-in-law Natalia Kaktins. Niece and goddaughter Kristine Kaktins, her husband Michael Boys and their son Ben. Stepchildren Travis Birck, Artemis Dove Birck, Sheila Kassouf, and Gary W. Westphal. Sons- and daughters-in-law Bryan Bretzius, Joseph Blondino, Gina Vukson, Joshua Kassouf, and Rebecca Westphal. Grandchildren Alexia Welch Morris, Sarah Bretzius, Joshua Bretzius, Barrett Bretzius, Levi Bretzius, Sancia Birck, Isabelle Birck, Melody Jackson, Noah Kassouf, Johanna Westphal, and Owen Westphal, as well as a future grandchild who will be born in November to Mara Kaktins and Joe Blondino. Uldis was loved greatly and will be missed by many. A private ceremony will be held in Uldis Kaktins’ honor at the family home.

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William T. Hindman III