Share This Page

Saturday essay: Jerry

| Friday, Aug. 23, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

I first met Jerry Vondas nearly 30 years ago. He was the old pro at The Pittsburgh Press. I was the new kid at United Press International.

Fumbling with a Downtown map at the corner of Fifth Avenue and I Don't Know Where I Am, running late for an appointment with some muckety-muck, Jerry approached.

“You look lost,” he of short stature topped by one of his natty signature hats said with the broad smile of a best friend. “Where do you need to be?”

Quickly I was not on my way. For as anyone who knew Jerry knows, his help was comprehensive. Eventually, I was off in the right direction. But not before Jerry armed me with a wealth of information — from where to find the best breakfast (“Call me sometime, I'll introduce you to the owner; he's a nice boy”), to where the then-new subway stations were (“Oh, they're nice, ah, yeah”), to a sales pitch for the Greek Food Festival at Holy Trinity (“Very good, very good”).

And for the past 19 years, I had the privilege of working with Jerry at the Trib, first as his night editor when he was doing freelance work, then, when he came aboard full-time in 1998 and began a masterful run writing feature obituaries, some of the most important reporting a newspaper does.

Jerry was injured in an auto accident in March. He died of a related infection on Tuesday. He was 83. His desk in the southwest corner of the main Trib newsroom, left untouched for the last five months right down to his seat cushion, was adorned with a single rose and a simple “R.I.P. Jerry” note on his computer screen.

Yes, we lost a great journalist and a wonderful friend at the Trib this week. But Pittsburgh lost a treasure.

— Colin McNickle

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.