Eugene "Mean Gene" Pascuzzi, a retired hotel maintenance director with a passion for deejaying, died from complications of heart disease on Monday, ending a long string of illnesses.
Mr. Pascuzzi's family jokingly called the 67-year-old "the cat with nine lives," said his youngest of three daughters, Joelle Pascuzzi of Overbrook.
Born in New York, Mr. Pascuzzi moved to the South Side as a small child when he was adopted. He knew little about his biological family and as a result often struggled to form an identity. He struggled even more when he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 15.
"He was kind of a rough, rough kid, hanging out on the streets of the South Side," Ms. Pascuzzi said. He didn't break the law, but "every time he would tell the stories ... he sounded like a Greaser."
Two experiences changed him. He met Kathie Lynch, a woman from the South Side, who would later become his wife. Ms. Lynch and her mother took Mr. Pascuzzi under their wing, providing him with stability and a sense of strong morals, Ms. Pascuzzi said.
Mr. Pascuzzi also developed a close bond with an adopted aunt who had a passion for music.
"Not having an identity, I think that music helped him to kind of relate almost and get through some hard times," Ms. Pascuzzi said.
He began "Mean Gene and the Music Machine," his deejaying persona, in the late '70s or early '80s, adopting a name that was contrary to his kind personality, Ms. Pascuzzi said.
For years, he spent his week working as the director of maintenance at the Howard Johnson hotels in Blawnox and his weekends performing at local weddings, his family said. His daughters would run downstairs after the weddings, waiting for their father to tell them the details and feed them cookies he'd brought back from the reception.
Tina Zandier Famiglietti, 49, of Whitehall, remembered meeting Mr. Pascuzzi when she was about 10 years old.
"He had friends of all ages," she said, and often spoke happily about his neighbors "as if he were a proud father."
So it was only natural, Ms. Famiglietti said, to ask him to deejay at her wedding in 1986, when people still played records. "For many years after my wedding, people would tell me, 'That was the best wedding I've ever been to -- I was on the dance floor all night,'" she recalled.
Mr. Pascuzzi also deejayed casually for his daughters in their Carrick home. For a while, he worked as a boxing coach at Carrick Community Boxing.
Most of that came to an end about five years ago, when heart attacks forced him into retirement. He spent the last years of his life in and out of UPMC Mercy and other care facilities.
"In '97 they gave him two years, and look where we are," Ms. Pascuzzi said. "I can't even tell you how he pushed through."
Besides his wife and youngest daughter, Mr. Pascuzzi is survived by daughters Kim DiPaolo of Castle Shannon and Gena DeIuliis of Bethel Park; and three grandchildren.
A memorial will be held at 10 a.m. today at the John F. Slater Funeral Home, 4201 Brownsville Road, Brentwood. A funeral service will follow at 11 a.m. at St. Wendelin Church, 2728 Custer Ave., Carrick.
Liz Navratil: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1438.