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Trib business writer Mortimer dead at 54

Mary Pickels
| Monday, March 10, 2008

Charles Mark Mortimer was known to readers of the Tribune-Review's business pages as C.M. Mortimer, and to his many friends and colleagues as Chuck.

He was known as a consummate reporter, a quiet digger of facts who lived to do his work.

A sports fanatic and music aficionado, Mortimer possessed a sly sense of humor that often took people by surprise.

Charles Mark Mortimer, 54, of Uniontown died Sunday, March 9, 2008, at The Uniontown Hospital, following recent surgery.

John Oravecz, Tribune-Review business editor, hired Mortimer more than 10 years ago.

"Most of the time he covered heavy industry things for the paper, the coal and steel industry," Oravecz said yesterday. "He worked for U.S. Steel in Clairton in the summers. He had some background from which to draw from his school days.

"Chuck knew more about the coal industry than any reporter I've known or even read," he said. "He was a top-notch coal and steel industry reporter and he enjoyed doing that kind of work."

He grew up in Clairton, Allegheny County, and graduated from Clairton High School in 1971. Born June 17, 1953, he was the son of Mary Swetka Mortimer of Uniontown and the late Charles Wayne Mortimer.

Mortimer's work covering the coal, steel and the mushroom industries, Oravecz said, led his colleagues on the business desk to jokingly refer to him as the "subterranean reporter."

"He was well-liked by everybody on our business staff," he said. "We all worked together on things, and traded tips and sources. Chuck was very willing to do that and help people further their stories."

Mortimer won numerous awards during his tenure with the Tribune-Review, including honors from the Society of Professional Journalists Keystone State Pro Chapter's Spotlight Contest; a Matrix Award, sponsored by The Association for Women in Communications Pittsburgh Professional Chapter; and a Pennsylvania Newspaper Association Keystone Press Award.

Gloria Ruane, city editor for the Tribune-Review, first worked with Mortimer at the Uniontown Herald-Standard.

"I got to know him much better when we both came to work at the Tribune-Review," she said. "I think the thing about Chuck is he was a quiet man until you got to know him. Once you got to know him, you found out some other things about his life and his interests that were maybe a little surprising.

"I think he had an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the Steelers and the Penguins," Ruane said.

He was well-versed in classic rock and jazz, she said.

"If you named a song he could tell you if it was The Doors, he could name every album, who played what instrument, who the band members were," she said.

"When he did speak up, you would find he was knowledgeable in areas of sports, music, business, politics," she said. "When he did give an opinion or join in a discussion or have some remark, it was something of substance. He was both articulate and witty, with a wry twist to it I really came to appreciate. That was Chuck."

He devoted a lot of his time to caring for his mother and for his cats.

"He could be very thoughtful," Ruane said. "He never forgot a birthday. It was always clear when he gave a gift that he thought about it, what the person would like or would enjoy."

Tribune-Review reporter Robin Acton began her career at the Herald-Standard alongside Mortimer in 1977.

"He took me to my first Penguins game," she said.

Mortimer got a kick out of her horrified reaction when someone was struck by a puck, she said.

After his surgery, he was eager to return to work, Acton said.

"He lived for his job," she said. "He was a good, shoeleather journalist."

A bachelor for most of his life, he spent many holiday dinners at her table.

And he was a good son, she said.

"His mother told me today, 'If every mother had a son like Charles Mark, the prisons would be empty,'" Acton said.

Mortimer always appreciated the education he received at Point Park College, said former colleague and longtime friend Paul Sunyak, editorial page editor at the Herald-Standard.

Sunyak, who earned his master's degree from the same school, said Mortimer urged him to donate to their alma mater.

The two became cubicle mates at the newspaper, he said, and fast friends.

"He was a guy who was a straight shooter and had the respect, I think, of everyone he covered," Sunyak said.

He had an insight into people and sources that served him well, Sunyak said.

"He was just a real sweetheart of a guy," he added. "I know it's cliche, but he will be missed."

Friends will be received from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, and until the 10 a.m. blessing service Thursday in the Kezmarsky Funeral Home, 71 Pennsylvania Ave., Uniontown.

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