Businessman cast strong work ethic
Joe Pfenninger had a lot going for him the night he went to a dance at the former Danceland at West View Park: He had recently been discharged from the Army Air Corps, had a great personality and enjoyed dancing.
"Joe at the time wasn't the greatest dancer," said his wife, Virginia, who met Mr. Pfenninger that night in 1946. "But he was such a nice guy. We began to date and were married in 1948. Since then, we continued to dance, and Joe's dancing improved."
Joseph F. Pfenninger, of McCandless, former owner of Springfield Castings, died Friday, March 19, 2004, at Kindred Hospital, Oakdale. He was 80.
In the ensuing years, Mr. Pfenninger -- considered an expert in gray iron castings, such as the high-stress castings used in industrial machinery -- opened Springfield Casting Co. in the Strip District in the early 1970s after having been employed by the former Rosedale Foundry.
Several years later, he operated Schaffer Pedometer Co., also in the Strip District. And up until a year ago, when he became ill, Mr. Pfenninger continued to go to work every day at Schaffer after closing Springfield Casting.
"Joe also went in for half a day on Saturday," his wife said.
As president of the Smaller Manufacturers Council, Mr. Pfenninger was invited to the White House during President Carter's administration.
"Joe was impressed and often talked about it," said his wife.
Mr. Pfenninger's penchant for hard work dated back to his boyhood on the North Side, where his parents, August and Catherine Pfenninger, operated a bakery in their home. With the help of several of their 10 children, the Pfenningers delivered baked goods throughout the North Side, Fineview, Spring Hill and Troy Hill.
In 1941, following graduation from St. Cyril High School in Brighton Heights, Mr. Pfenninger enlisted in the Army Air Corps, where he picked up a number of college credits while attending Officers Training School.
His wife also recalled how her husband enjoyed flying -- an avocation that he inherited from his Army Air Force days.
"Joe belonged to a group who called themselves the Confederate Air Force," said Mrs. Pfenninger.
"He would go out to the old Allegheny County Airport and help them refurbish old and damaged planes," she recalled. "Some of the men would then fly the planes. Joe was content to just doing the repair work."
An avid golfer, Mr. Pfenninger and his son, Joseph Jr., were a twosome at the former Royal Ridge Country Club in Franklin Park.
"Dad kept myself and my three brothers busy," said his son, Joseph. "We all played Little League, and being that Dad had season tickets to the Steeler games, we got to see a lot of games."
He is survived by his wife, Virginia Marvin Pfenninger; sons, Mark M. of McCandless, Joseph J. and his wife, Kelly, of Sewickley, David D. of Bellevue and Jeffrey J. of Shadyside; grandchildren, Paige and Claire Pfenninger; a brother, Richard Pfenninger; and sisters, Catherine Grantz and Margaret Daly.
Visitation is from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. today and Monday at Devlin Funeral Home, 806 Perry Highway, Ross.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. Sebastian Church, Ross. Burial at North Side Catholic Cemetery.