Everybody who lived in Mt. Pleasant Borough knew Bill Gratzinger
There wasn’t a resident in Mt. Pleasant Borough who Bill Gratzinger didn’t know.
Through his jobs as the town’s police chief and also as the head of the local volunteer fire department, Gratzinger made sure his neighbors were safe and protected.
They were jobs he took seriously long after he retired from both positions.
“You talk about a guy who talked to everybody in town,” Mt. Pleasant Mayor Jerry Lucia said. “Everyone knew who the chief was.”
William E. Gratzinger of Mt. Pleasant died Friday, July 12 at Excela Health Latrobe Hospital following a lengthy illness. He was 91.
Mr. Gratzinger joined the Mt. Pleasant Police Department as a patrolman not long after he returned home from a tour of duty in the Army serving in Europe during World War II. His daughter, Deborah, said her father was wounded overseas and eventually lost an eye, but that he rarely talked about his time during the war.
She said he was most proud of his service to his hometown, where he served as Mt. Pleasant’s police chief, a position he held for more than a decade before retiring in the late 1970s to head security and the personnel office at Seven Springs Resort.
“My dad was proud of both his police and fire department positions,” Gratzinger said. “He was very proud to be the youngest chief of police ever in Mt. Pleasant.”
She recalled her father talking about his involvement in the investigation and eventual conviction of a local woman in connection with the murder and dismemberment of a 30-year-old Mt. Pleasant man in 1967. A severed leg and other body parts were discovered by a man walking with his young daughter along Jacobs Creek.
It was a shocking discovery — and one that Gratzinger didn’t quite realize at first was from a murder scene.
“When Dad got the phone call he said, ‘Oh my gosh they found a leg.’ It was around Halloween and originally they thought that it was a mannequin,” Gratzinger said. “And Dad said to sew (it) back on.”
It was later determined the leg was from a 30-year-old Mt. Pleasant man who had been shot to death and dismembered. Gratzinger said the killer later confessed to a priest.
Mr. Gratzinger’s career as a police chief was notable for his compassion and easy going nature, Mayor Lucia said.
“He was just a good-hearted person,” Lucia said. “He made it a point that all of his officers would walk up to strangers to introduce themselves to make them more comfortable.
”If you moved into Mt. Pleasant and he didn’t know you, he made sure you knew him when you were done talking to him.”
Mr. Gratzinger continued to serve with the town’s fire department well into his 80s. In later years, he played Santa Claus for children at Christmastime, Lucia said.
Born Aug. 20, 1927, in Mt. Pleasant, Mr. Gratzinger was the son the late William and Anna Hoyman Gratzinger.
He was a member of St. Pius X Roman Catholic Church where he served as Eucharistic minister.
Mr. Gratzinger graduated from the former Ramsay High School and attended Waynesburg College.
He is survived by his daughter, Deborah Gratzinger; grandchildren, Andre and Candice Martin; great grandchildren, Layla and Damion; and his brother, Ronald Gratzinger. In addition to his parents, Mr. Gratzinger was preceded in death by his wife of 68 years, Dorothy “Dolly” Jacak Gratzinger who died in June 2018; his brother, Robert; and sister, Lois.
Family and friends will be received Thursday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Galone-Caruso Funeral Home, 204 Eagle St., Mt. Pleasant.
A blessing service will be held 9:30 a.m. Friday at the funeral home followed by a 10 a.m. Funeral Mass in St. Pius X R.C. Church, Mt. Pleasant, with the Rev Richard J. Kosisko as celebrant.
Interment with military rites accorded by the American Legion Post 446 will be in the Middle Presbyterian Cemetery, Mt. Pleasant Township.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .