Skip Beal, retired VND and Trib newsman and voice of ‘The Stroller,’ dies at 81
Skip Beal was a passionate newsman who knew the Alle-Kiski Valley inside and out and wasn’t afraid to spark a little outrage when he wrote The Stroller column in the Valley News Dispatch.
“He loved his job, there’s no doubt about it,” said his oldest son, Benjamin Beal III of Sewickley. “He’d have probably worked right up until his passing if he could. He loved being in that newsroom.”
Benjamin “Skip” Beal Jr. of Lower Burrell died Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019. He was 81.
Born Sept. 15, 1937, in Aspinwall, he was the son of the late Benjamin Beal Sr. and Mary Grace Roll Beal. He graduated from Gettysburg College and spent nearly 50 years with the Valley Daily News and its successors, the Valley News Dispatch and the Tribune-Review.
Beal started at the Valley Daily News right out of college, his son said, and he retired around age 70 from the Trib. He worked as a reporter and city editor for years and was later a Valley News Dispatch columnist and copy editor.
“There were no airs about him,” said Richard A. “Rick” Monti, retired editor and general manager of the Valley News Dispatch and now a consultant for Trib Total Media. Monti worked for Beal as a young reporter in the 1970s and ’80s. “He knew everybody, and everybody knew him.”
Paul Hess, a former Valley News Dispatch reporter, editor and executive editor, said, “Skip was always a delight to work with, both as a reporter and when he worked on the copy desk.”
Always a reporter at heart, he never hesitated to ask questions and wanted to know every detail of a situation. He was a dedicated news consumer, reading multiple newspapers and magazines each day. He was a bit of a gossip, too, his sons said.
One of his favorite things was writing The Stroller.
“He didn’t really mind when he would put his opinions in The Stroller and people disagreed,” said his youngest son, David Beal of New Castle. “He sort of liked drumming up a little controversy with his opinions.”
His elder son agreed: “He always had his own little editorials in there, and not everyone always agreed with his little editorials.”
When Beal began working the night shift on the copy desk at the Tribune-Review office in Pittsburgh, he would still get calls from Alle-Kiski Valley sources in the middle of the night — tips that he would pass on to reporters, his older son said.
More than anything, his sons said, he was dedicated to his family.
“He didn’t have a ton of really, really close friends,” said David Beal, “because he was so tied up with his family all the time. His life revolved around the community, family, politics and sports.”
Even before his retirement, Beal would travel with his children and grandchildren to hockey tournaments and equestrian meets.
“Dad really didn’t care if he had any friends as long as family was around,” Benjamin Beal III said.
In addition to his sons, Beal is survived by his wife of 56 years, Judy, his daughter, Beth Ann, seven grandchildren and three sisters: Gretchen Busse, Mary Ann Malley and Lynn Beal.
He was preceded in death by his parents and a granddaughter, Lucy Beal.
Arrangements will be handled by Frank F. Gigler Funeral Home. A memorial Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Margaret Mary’s Church in Lower Burrell. A luncheon will follow at VFW Post 92 on Wildlife Lodge Road in Lower Burrell.
Memorial contributions can be made to the Layups for Lucy Community Foundation. They will benefit UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter .