Franklin, Cosetti, Mann, Robinson, Hillebrand, Eide

Don Franklin, 82: A renowned Baroque musicologist, Franklin was professor of music, emeritus, at the University of Pittsburgh, where he served as chair twice from 1970 until his retirement in 2009. A Willmar, Minn. native, he was the youngest trumpet player to play taps at the Willmar Cemetery and was a gifted pianist who earned …

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What’s that Otherworldly Sound in the Wee Hours?

The medical residents were gathered in the library of the house on Pembroke Place in Shadyside for their monthly journal club when a knock came at the home’s entrance. After a brief exchange, there was a strange request: “Doctors,” said the convening surgeon, “we’re needed next door. There is an unusual intruder.” It seems an …

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A Trashy Ordeal

Last year, I rode my bike on back roads near our farm. I prefer swimming, but our YMCA was closed, so I dusted off my 30-year-old red Cannondale and set out in a beautiful valley between two ridges of the Allegheny Mountains. My favorite ride was a seven-mile loop with steep hills and as I …

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The Last Liberal Republican: An Insider’s Perspective on Nixon’s Surprising Social Policy

“The Last Liberal Republican” is a memoir of my decade in politics, especially the first three years in Richard Nixon’s White House. As special assistant to the president, I worked with him on his universal health insurance proposal, his overhaul of the Food Stamp program and, most significantly, his Family Assistance Plan (FAP), to place …

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My Big Moment

As I mentioned earlier, the Republican convention was being held that year in Miami Beach and it was being run by Gerald Ford, then Speaker of the House. Previously in this series: “Lugar for Veep” Ford had the nifty idea of having a woman give the keynote address. It turned out that in the history of …

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Wertz, Wilde, Zappala, Rosenberg, Rangos, Blasier

Ricki Wertz, 86: From 1959 to 1969, Wertz hosted the popular children’s show ”Ricki and Copper” on WTAE. Her co-host was a retriever mix who came from a shelter and was Wertz’s own pet, a wedding gift from her husband. She went on to host “Junior High Quiz” on WTAE for the next 20 years …

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The Glacial Landscape of French Creek’s West Branch

Prehistoric continental glaciers sculpted the broad valleys and rounded hills of the northwest corner of Pennsylvania. And much of this region — Erie, Crawford, Mercer and Lawrence counties — is within the watershed of French Creek, a major tributary of the Allegheny River. French Creek is known for its abundance of freshwater mussels and fish, …

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The Global Supply Chain is Collapsing

Over the past 18 months, I’m betting there isn’t a single person who hasn’t been affected by supply chain issues. From toilet paper to home appliances to semiconductor chips, it has become obvious that the global supply chain we have blindly depended on for so long is collapsing. Today we’re experiencing a period of massive …

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Lugar for Veep?

I’ll close out my series on Richard Lugar with a three-part episode I’ll call  “Veep.” Previously in this series: “The Hug that Rocked Indianapolis: Richard Lugar, Part VII” Richard Lugar wasn’t just the Mayor of Indianapolis and he wasn’t just running for the U.S. Senate – he was also being mooted as President Nixon’s running mate. …

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Reforming Education on the Fly

It was against the backdrop of war and pandemic that public education in America underwent radical innovation during the early decades of the 20th century. While the nation endured World War I and the Spanish flu, public education was quietly reshaped by a surge in public school enrollment and a wave of reform. It was …

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On a Pedestal, Fall 2021

Jeffrey Romoff After nearly 50 years at the university of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Jeffrey Romoff can look back at what he has created with a sense of accomplishment that few, if any, people in Pittsburgh during that period can match. He is the visionary leader who, along with the man who hired him 48 years …

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Roberto Clemente

50 Years Ago, Clemente Proved His Greatness

In the spring of 1955, at the same time that I was trying out for my high school baseball team and dreaming of becoming a big league ballplayer, the Pirates were breaking in a flashy rookie outfielder from Puerto Rico. By all accounts, Roberto Clemente was a natural.  Pittsburgh sportswriters described his arm as a …

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Corning Museum of Glass

A Trip to Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes

With fall approaching, who isn’t itching to hit the road? No matter your age or interests, Corning, N.Y. and the Southern Finger Lakes region might provide the perfect escape. Much of the 4 1/2-hour drive goes through beautiful tree-filled valleys that will be exploding with autumn color. Charming, walkable Corning sits along the Chemung River …

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Office work

Local Unemployment On A Holding Pattern

Southwestern Pennsylvania’s economy held steady in August with the unemployment rate and labor force reaching a plateau, according to the latest Pennsylvania Department of Labor data.   Unemployment in the seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area remained at 6.2 percent in August 2021—the same percentage of workers unemployed in the region in July. Although the rate failed …

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nashville scene

The Hug that Rocked Indianapolis

Fortunately, most of my experiences in Dick Lugar’s office weren’t as creepy as the episode of “Drinking the Kool-Aid” or as alarming as “See No Evil.” There was, for example, the one I’ll call — Hello, Dolly! Previously in this series: “Lie Down with Dogs…: Richard Lugard Part VI” When Lugar was first elected Mayor of …

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Roberto Clemente in Retrospect

The last time Roberto Clemente stepped up to home plate was on a field on Puerto Rico’s west coast where he was teaching boys to play baseball. Locals had coaxed him into taking a swing, and he obliged, hitting the ball out of the park. It’s not surprising that one of the world’s greatest athletes …

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Considering the Record of Mayor Pete Flaherty

As Pittsburgh prepares to elect a new Mayor and embark on all that a new administration represents, it may be worthwhile to consider the tenure of another Democrat mayor who held the office 50 years ago. On January 5, 1970, Democrat Peter F. Flaherty was sworn in as mayor of Pittsburgh and, as promised, focused …

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Policeman profile photo

Lie Down with Dogs…

“On my honor, I will never betray my integrity, my character, or the public trust.” –Indianapolis Police Dept. Oath Previously in this series: “You Meet the Strangest People…: Richard Lugar, Part V” Only a day or two after the episode of Drinking the Kool-Aid, there was the episode I’ll call:  See No Evil  Late in the afternoon a guy …

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Just Askin’… Gretchen Baker

Q: What’s the most interesting thing about your job? A: Within a single day, I can spend time with dinosaur experts looking at fossils, review plans with talented exhibit designers, watch an energetic educator engage a group of kids in our galleries, meet with community partners, and work on a budget. My job activates almost …

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Pittsburgh Gets High Marks as a Place for Innovation

Pittsburgh has one of the world’s top emerging startup ecosystems from which companies are born from new ideas, talented innovators and investment in their development, according to a new report. California’s Silicon Valley is still far and away the best ecosystem for startups, followed by London, New York City, Beijing and Boston. But Pittsburgh is …

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Christopher Howard: Living Life in the Moment

I come from a family of proud people who didn’t have a lot. My great-great-grandfather started out as an “enslaved human being” in Texas. Later, he and my grandfather were sharecroppers until my grandfather got a job in a factory. It’s kind of a Pittsburgh story: Man becomes “blue collar” because of factory work. My …

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A Closer Look at the “Panacea”

People whose political opinions put them well to the left of the center of American opinion will naturally find themselves sympathetic to many of the policy proposals put forth by the Democrat Presidential candidates. People well to the right of center will naturally be hostile to those policies. But almost everyone, including those in the …

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The Fall 2021 issue:

Job Growth Declines Again

The number of jobs in southwestern Pennsylvania fell slightly in August, further slowing the regional recovery to pre-pandemic levels. Employers in the seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area had 3,100 fewer jobs on their payrolls in August than one month earlier, according to recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is the second …

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You Meet the Strangest People…

I arrived at the Mayor’s office a bit early, announced myself and took a seat in the waiting room. I had only been there a minute or two when a lady came out, told me the Mayor would be with me soon, and asked me to fill out a form while I was waiting. Previously …

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A Lifelong Friend

I’ve been lucky to have many close friends. But as I look back, it’s clear to me that, of all of them, my life has been most closely intertwined with that of my friend Chris Bentley. Chris and I were born less than two months apart, in early 1962, and we met before either of …

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Pittsburgh’s Huge Flathead Catfish Rule the Rivers

Late one August night last year, Dusty Learn, an Indiana County farmer and factory worker, caught what is, perhaps, the most spectacular catfish Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers have been known to ever yield. Although not the VW Beetle-sized beast of urban legend, Learn’s flathead — nabbed on a piece of cut bluegill — might have beaten …

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Norris Beach: “Swim Where You Will Be Welcomed”

Ninety years ago, on August 14, 1931, the city of Pittsburgh opened its largest and most luxurious public swimming pool in Highland Park. Opening day was one of great fanfare and pride. However, it was also a day that saw African Americans who tried to enter the pool turned away. When Black citizens returned the …

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Your 8th Birthday

To Lucas I forget the comet’s name I looked for all night but never found. You slept in the tent while I kept the fire going, hoping an arrow of light and dust might pierce the air so I could stir you from your coma and show you. We could’ve seen crumbs of ice dissolving …

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Surprising the Mayor

In those days, the mayor of Indianapolis was a guy named Richard Lugar. Lugar was an unusual mayor, to say the least. He’d been first in his class in high school and college, had been a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford and was an Eagle Scout. He was as straight-laced and honest as a country parson. …

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Flight 93 National Memorial

“Are you guys ready? Okay! Let’s roll!” This is what telephone operator Lisa Jefferson, who’d been on the phone with United Air Lines Flight 93 passenger Todd Beamer, says she heard at 9:55 a.m. on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. Four minutes later, as unarmed passengers and crew charged with a food cart and broke into …

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Remembering 9/11: A Portrait of Shanksville

On Sept. 11, 2001, Judi Baeckel was working at the Shanksville Post Office and talking with a customer about news reports that hijackers had flown jetliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. “At least we know we’re safe in Shanksville,” Baeckel recalls the customer saying. Within minutes, the roof and windows of the …

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Must We Gain Weight as We Grow Older?

Question: “My middle-aged friends and I watch what we eat and try to stay active, but all of us seem to be gaining weight as we get older. Is getting fatter simply an unavoidable consequence of aging?” Although weight gain is generally considered part of the aging process, there are no legitimate reasons why a …

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Joining the Force

One day I arrived at the MP station and saw a new announcement tacked up on the bulletin board. It was notifying everyone that, with the War in Vietnam winding down, nonessential personnel with only a few months left in the Army would be mustered out early. The Army needed to save money. Previously in …

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