The Obit For John Bohna

John Bohna / Owner of University Travel Service, husband of 'Miss Jan'

July 20, 1928 - Oct. 12, 2008

Pittsburgh Post-GazetteThursday, 10/16,

John BohnaTravel agent John Bohna was prepared. He double-checked reservations during tours, but when links in the chain of activities failed and plans fell through, Mr. Bohna had a backup plan ready.

Ed Blank, who worked with Mr. Bohna on theater trips for The Pittsburgh Press and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, said Mr. Bohna was a quiet man, leaving group announcements to his wife, Jan. But when buses failed to show up after a Broadway show, despite multiple reminders to the bus company, Mr. Bohna arranged for travelers to get back to their hotels via cab.

"John Bohna would open his wallet and hand every two or four people $10 bills and he'd be flagging down cabs and he got every person home in a cab even though he'd pre-paid the bus company," Mr. Blank said. "I saw him do it more than once and he was always ready for that emergency. I always thought, this man has an integrity about the way he does business."

Mr. Bohna died in his Oakland apartment Sunday after returning early from a trip because he did not feel well. He was 80.

A native of Brownsville, Mr. Bohna founded University Travel Service in Oakland in 1959.

He attended the former Murray State College in Kentucky and was a pitcher for the Washington Senators' farm team for a year. He also served in the Army infantry for two years and later married Jan Ballard, who became known to Pittsburgh TV viewers as "Miss Jan," star of a local edition of the children's show "Romper Room," which aired from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. Later she joined her husband at the travel agency. She died in 2005.

"Being married to Miss Jan meant a certain amount of notoriety," said Jill Cain, Mr. Bohna's daughter. "People knew who he was. They knew he was Miss Jan's husband."

She recalled the couple's community work on various boards and has memories of her parents dressing up to go out on Saturday night.

"Dad was in a tux and mom in a formal gown. They were notable members of the community," she said. It was a community that was spread far and wide. "No matter where we went on vacation, somebody would come up to my family and say, 'Hi Miss Jan, do you remember me?'"

The Bohnas lived in Squirrel Hill and Point Breeze at various times, a quick commute to the Oakland office where Mr. Bohna put together tours for many groups -- including bowl game trips for University of Pittsburgh football fans and travel for corporate clients, Pitt and the Carnegie Museums -- and he began offering group trips to Cancun, departing from Cleveland, in 1978.

"He grew up in this little town on the Mon and really made it," said Mrs. Cain, of Reno, Nev. "It was a big accomplishment for somebody coming from a family of nine."

Joann Cosentino, a travel agent with Mr. Bohna's company for 24 years, remembered him as a fair-minded man who put his employees first.

"In all the places I've worked, I've never seen so many people who left and wanted to come back and work here," she said. "And often then did come and go and come back. They really liked working for him."

In addition to Mrs. Cain, Mr. Bohna is survived by daughter Gretchen Weissner of Hollywood, Fla.; a son, Craig, of Pittsburgh; brothers Bernard of Denver, Colo., and Eugene of Castle Shannon; sisters Margaret Bohna of East Millsboro; Rose Portner of Shaler and Delores Babich of North Strabane; and three grandchildren.

Visitation will be 4 to 8 p.m. today at Skirpan Funeral Home, 135 Park St., Brownsville. A Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. tomorrow at St. James Church in LaBelle.