Longtime McKeesport Daily News sports editor covered kids, pros
For more than three decades, Norman Vargo wrote about everything from high school volleyball to Super Bowls.
He was there to chronicle the Pittsburgh Steelers’ dynasty in the 1970s, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ World Series title in 1979 and the Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup runs in the early 1990s. As the longtime sports editor of the McKeesport Daily News, he reported on thousands of high school athletes, from those who played just for fun to those who went on to play in college or the pros.
“Even though he covered the Steelers and the other professional sports teams, he still loved to go out and cover high school sports,” said daughter Sandee Vargo. “He really promoted the high school athletes.”
Norman J. Vargo of North Huntingdon died Friday, May 3. He was 85.
He was born March 23, 1934 in Munhall.
Mr. Vargo’s work in newspapers was not his first career, having first served as a lab technician who helped build nuclear submarines. His interest in local politics pushed him into part-time work as a general news reporter at the Irwin Standard Observer and then at the Jeannette News Dispatch, where he started his transition into sports.
He went on to the McKeesport Daily News where he served as the newspaper’s sports editor for 27 years until he retired in 2003.
“Everywhere we go, someone knows him,” Sandee Vargo said. “So many people have very fond memories of him.”
Mr. Vargo was there for most of the biggest sports events in the late 20th century, including U.S. Open golf tournaments, the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, N.Y., championship boxing matches and the University of Pittsburgh’s championship football season in 1976.
He was the author of the book: “Stadium Stories: Pittsburgh Steelers’ Colorful Tales of the Black and Gold.”
Mr. Vargo won the Luke Quay Memorial Award in 1977 and the Bob Prince Memorial Award in 1986. He was inducted into the Western Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 1999 and two years later was inducted into the McKeesport Sports Hall of Fame.
He was a past president of the Pittsburgh chapters of the Baseball Writers Association of America, Professional Football Writers Association of America and Professional Hockey Writers Association. He also was a voter for the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame and for the Heisman Trophy, the top award handed out to college football players.
Known as “Stormin Norman,” Mr. Vargo carved out a reputation as a tough reporter, yet someone who could just hang out with the athletes he covered.
“He loved (training) camp and his camp stories were also good,” Sandee Vargo said. “ I remember one time we were at camp and he was riding a motorcycle. I didn’t know how he got a motorcycle but he couldn’t ride it. And he went through a yard, fell off and split his head open.
”He was covering Steelers’ training camp at the time, and said Terry Bradshaw changed his dressing for him. They all teased him about it.”
Mr. Vargo was also a founding member of the Rescue 8 ambulance service in North Huntingdon and an Army veteran.
He is survived by his wife, Audrey (Cawley) Vargo, to whom he was married for 61 years. Also surviving are his sons Mark (Sharon) Vargo, of North Huntingdon; Michael (Brian) Vargo, of Mt. Joy; Sandee Vargo, of North Huntingdon and Gary (Taryn) Vargo, of Irwin; and grandchildren Christopher (Tiffany) Vargo, of North Huntingdon; Sean (Erin) Vargo, of North Versailles and Tennyson Vargo of Irwin.
Friends will be received, Monday, from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. at Ott Funeral Home, Inc., 805 Pennsylvania Ave, Irwin. A funeral service will take place Tuesday at 11 a.m. in the funeral home. In lieu of flowers, donations in his honor can be made to the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, or Action for Animals in Latrobe.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .