Navy veteran had a knack for fixing things
Gerald Dempsey Sr. knew how to keep things running — at work, at home and aboard a Navy destroyer.
Mr. Dempsey worked for more than 42 years at the Edgar Thomson Works in Braddock, keeping controls for the steel plant’s powerhouse in working order before retiring in the late 1980s.
“He maintained all the instrumentation,” said his son, Gerald Jr., who briefly worked at the plant as well. “Back in the old days, the instruments were all mechanical. It translated into all kinds of huge machinery.”
The elder Dempsey started at the plant a few years after completing a stint in the Navy during World War II.
A third class petty officer, he was “a torpedo man,” his son, Gerald Jr., said. “It was his responsibility to make sure they were armed and ready, so they could be fired.”
In between his military service and the start of his civilian career, Mr. Dempsey completed a course in repairing timepieces. The skills he developed adjusting the minute mechanisms of watches helped prepare him for the larger machinery he would maintain at the steel plant. It also provided him with a hobby he could enjoy — fixing watches for family and friends.
“He was a very precise man in his professional aspect,” his son said, adding, “He was a fix-it kind of a guy. If you had a problem, he would do his best to fix it.”
Gerald T. Dempsey Sr. of North Huntingdon died Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, at UPMC East. He was 93. Born July 30, 1925, in Braddock, he was a son of the late Arnold and Eleanor Dempsey.
Mr. Dempsey served in the Navy from 1943 to 1946. He completed two trips across the Atlantic Ocean, escorting ships taking wartime materials to England.
He was part of the first crew on the newly christened destroyer USS Eugene A. Greene, when it sailed out of Brooklyn, N.Y., and was part of the crew of the USS Charles Lawrence destroyer escort that set sail from Norfolk, Va.
While a sister ship was hit by enemy fire in the North Atlantic, Mr. Dempsey returned home unscathed and didn’t speak much about his time in the service until later in life, his son said. “He was a humble man,” he said.
Mr. Dempsey also had a knack for restoring antiques. He made regular trips to Georgia with his wife, Viona “Vi,” to help buy and prepare vintage items for a resale shop operated by his father-in-law, Walter Lemmon.
“They would go every year, when he had his vacation in October, ” his daughter, Norma McCarthy, said.
Mr. Dempsey also enjoyed fishing and hunting for deer, but didn’t turn any parts of the animals he harvested into keepsakes. “If you went hunting, you ate what you got,” McCarthy said of her father’s philosophy. “There was no such thing as a trophy.”
As for his larger perspective on life, she explained, “If things were going wrong, he would say, ‘Don’t sweat it.’ ”
Mr. Dempsey is survived by four children, Gerald Jr. of Bellingham, Wash., Eleanor of Youngwood, Norma McCarthy of Greensburg, and Philip and his wife, Colleen, of Blairsville; and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday in the William Snyder Funeral Home, 521 Main St., Irwin. Interment with military honors will follow in Monongahela Cemetery in Braddock.
Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @jhimler_news.
Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, email@example.com or via Twitter .