Robert Ambrose Deasy Jr., a World War II aviator and widely respected communications professional, died Saturday of pneumonia at the age of 89.
Mr. Deasy of Hampton, a veteran of the corporate communications department of Westinghouse Electric Corp., was remembered as "consummate gentleman," who always made time for the generation of younger public relations professionals he mentored during his decades at Westinghouse.
A devout Catholic, he was a former district governor of Serra International, a group of lay Catholics who support religious vocations.
"He was just a great communicator. The meetings and the luncheons he would conduct, they were just so upbeat and joyful," said the Rev. Joseph Mele, the rector of St. Paul Seminary in East Carnegie. "He had the kind of personality that would fill the whole room with laughter and light."
Vaughn Gilbert, the external communications director for Westinghouse, recalled Mr. Deasy as "the ultimate gentleman."
"He went out of his way to mentor the young people he hired. He never lost his temper. ... He was always impeccably dressed, very warm and gracious. He treated everyone with respect," Mr. Gilbert said.
Mr. Deasy, the son of the late Robert Ambrose and Margaret Conlon Deasy, was raised in Shadyside and Morningside. He graduated from Central Catholic High School, where he was the drum major for the marching band. After Central, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps, flying 11 missions as the co-pilot of a B-24 Liberator bomber based in England. Like many World War II veterans, he seldom spoke of his experiences in the years after the war as he raised children and forged a career, but later in life he shared his combat reminiscences with students in the Fox Chapel and Hampton school districts.
"We, as kids, didn't appreciate what that generation had done, so we never asked him about it." said his son, Mark Deasy of Shaler. "On one occasion he was speaking at the Dorseyville Middle School, he was talking about what it was like flying bomb missions, and watching as friends were shot down, knowing they were going to die ... he broke down when he was telling that story."
Returning from the war, he earned a degree in English at the University of Pittsburgh. He worked as a reporter for the United Press International wire service before joining Westinghouse in what would be a 35-year career in public relations and corporate communications. Among the highlights of that career was another opportunity to witness history as he represented Westinghouse at the launch of the Apollo 11 space mission.
"He traveled to Florida and Cape Canaveral; he'd bring back souvenirs ... that was something he was very proud of," his son recalled.
Mr. Deasy volunteered at the St. Vincent DePaul Society at St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Hampton, and was a Eucharistic minister at the Vincentian Home in McCandless. He was also a docent at Clayton, the mansion of the late Henry Clay Frick.
In addition to his son Mark, Mr. Deasy is survived by his wife, Marie Downs Deasy, a daughter, Deborah Ann of McCandless, and nine grandchildren. He was predeceased by his wife Maxine Benson Deasy and another son, Air Force Lt. Col. Robert A. Deasy III.
Friends will be received today and Wednesday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. at the Kyper Funeral Homes, 2703 Mt. Royal Blvd., Shaler. A burial Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Mary of the Assumption Church, 2510 Middle Road, Hampton.
Politics editor James O'Toole: email@example.com or 412-263-1562.