Ted "Buck" Villani was, in every sense of the phrase, a South Fayette boy. He was born there Sept. 25, 1936, and never left. He dedicated nearly 50 years of his life to serve and protect the township.
Mr. Villani, 75, died Tuesday after suffering cardiac arrest.
Mr. Villani was on South Fayette's police force for 44 years, 27 of which he served as chief.
David Egan began dating Mr. Villani's daughter in the 1980s; he met his future father-in-law while Mr. Villani was chief, something that could be intimidating.
"He didn't like me at first because I wasn't Italian," Mr. Egan joked. He added, in a more serious tone, that he reminded him of his own father -- because Mr. Villani was "a family man."
Mr. Egan recalled how, every summer, Mr. Villani would rent a beach house and the family would spend their vacations together there. Affectionately dubbed "Pappy's Beach Bash," the trips were "an amazing experience and [Mr. Villani] was at the center of it," he said.
For both his family and fellow officers, Mr. Villani regularly hosted large get-togethers.
Louis Volle, South Fayette's current chief of police, said Mr. Villani invited nearly every police officer in Western Pennsylvania to his seasonal cookouts at the local hunting club.
"Most people don't have a personal relationship with their boss, but I did," he said of his 30-year relationship with Mr. Villani. "[His officers] worked hard for him."
Chief Volle said South Fayette was rated one of the country's top 10 safest communities under Mr. Villani's term as chief. He cited that Mr. Villani brought the department into the digital age with modern computers, updated record keeping and bought new vehicles.
"He had a larger-than-life presence," said South Fayette Capt. John Phoennik, who worked with Mr. Villani for nearly 20 years.
Capt. Phoennik described how he became discouraged when he first joined the force and wanted to quit. Mr. Villani, his boss at the time, pushed him to continue.
"Professionally, he was like my father," he said.
Because of his career in South Fayette and being an alumnus of the FBI National Academy, Mr. Villani knew every police chief in Pennsylvania and officers across the country, Chief Volle said. "He was a policeman's policeman," he added.
Even after his retirement, Mr. Villani stayed active in the South Fayette and Bridgeville communities. He served as a South Fayette commissioner for four years, as president of the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association and as president of the state's FBI National Academy Associates chapter.
He was also a regular at football games, Mr. Egan said, cheering on his nephews. "I will always remember him as this larger-than-life, gregarious man," he said.
He is survived by his wife, Carol Villani; his sister, Jerilyn Vitelli of Bridgeville; his daughter Amy Egan of Peters; and several grandchildren.
Emily Dobler: email@example.com or 412-263-3873.