Obituary: Robert Roy Stage / Pilot for Steelers 'had a ball' in life

June 1, 1947 -- June 9, 2013

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In addition to his family, Robert Roy Stage had two lifelong passions: Football and flying airplanes.

Over the course of his life, those three interests joined together, as Mr. Stage served as a pilot for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"He always wanted to play pro ball," his wife, Ginger, said. "And he always wanted to fly."

Mr. Stage died Sunday from leiomyosarcoma, a type of muscle cancer, with his wife by his side at his home in Moon. He was 66.

Mr. Stage and his wife met at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pa., and got engaged within a year. A knee injury ended Mr. Stage's football career his freshman year of college and resulted in multiple surgeries throughout his life. While recovering from one such surgery, a simple suggestion from a friend would change his life.

That friend worked as a pilot and suggested that Mr. Stage, who was in his early 30s and working in sales, learn how to fly because of his interest in aviation.

A year later, Mr. Stage had his pilot's license, but he could not land a job as a pilot. He went back to sales, selling planes for both Rockwell and Beechcraft. While working for Beechcraft, Mr. Stage met members of the Pittsburgh Steelers organization and was offered an opportunity to occasionally fly Steelers players, coaches and scouts.

"He had so many wonderful stories about going out with the guys," Mrs. Stage said. "He had a ball."

Through his new line of work, Mr. Stage formed a bond with the late Mike Webster, a Pro Football Hall of Fame center for the Steelers.

His son, Garrett Webster, saw Mr. Stage treat his father like any other normal guy, helping the two become great friends.

"If he wasn't my dad's best friend," Mr. Webster said, "he was definitely right up there."

Mr. Webster remembers the two men playing practical jokes on Mrs. Stage, even putting rubber snakes in her car to "get a kick out of rattling such a sweet lady."

The two even traveled to multiple Pro Bowls together.

"Those two would get in a place and laugh about everything," Pamela Webster, Mike's wife, said. "They hit it off on a different level."

Mr. Stage went on to work for US Airways as an instructor and dispatcher before retiring when he was 60. However, Mr. Stage wanted to keep working and began to drive a school bus for athletic teams so he could be involved with students' lives.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by his son, Stephen of Pittsburgh; two brothers, Gary Stage of Indianapolis and Brian Stage of Minneapolis; and four grandchildren.

Visitation is from 1 to 3 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m today at Copeland Funeral Home, 981 Brodhead Road, Moon. The funeral service is 10 a.m. Friday, and visitors are asked to meet at St. Stephen's Church, 405 Frederick St., Sewickley.

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Mike Vernon: or Twitter @m_vernon.


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