Obituary: George Zimmer / Ticket taker for more than 40 years at Forbes Field and Three Rivers Stadium

Jan. 5, 1925 - May 21, 2011

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For George Zimmer, a day taking tickets at Three Rivers Stadium was only half of a day spent working. The rest was a social outing.

Mr. Zimmer, who spent more than 40 years working as a ticket taker at Three Rivers, and before that at Forbes Field, would spend the second half of the game in the Allegheny Club, the private club housed at the stadium, socializing with the other employees and the patrons whose tickets he had torn on their way into the game.

Mr. Zimmer died Saturday of complications from prostate and colorectal cancer at Good Samaritan Hospice in Pine. He was 86.

The position at Three Rivers was more than a job for Mr. Zimmer. His longtime friend William Young, who drove the ambulance for the Steelers in the same years Mr. Zimmer was working at Three Rivers, remembers walking into the stadium and seeing the entire family -- Mr. Zimmer, his wife, Betty, and their son, also named George -- working together, taking tickets.

The late Mrs. Zimmer was a ticket taker for many years, although not as long as her husband, and his son worked there while he was in high school.

"I can still remember getting hit by a baseball on third base side by Al Oliver. And when I left the nurse's station I had three balls, and one signed by Al Oliver, because my dad knew everyone there," his son said.

"I had more uncles and aunts than you can imagine, and I wasn't related to any of them."

Mr. Zimmer was deeply embedded in the culture on the North Side of Pittsburgh, where he was born, grew up, and raised his own family. He lived his entire life within five miles of where he was born.

He also owned and operated Zimmer Auto Service on the North Side for about 20 years, drawing clientele from as far as 20 miles away in the days when it was rare to go outside of your own neighborhood for such chores, his son said, both because of Mr. Zimmer's auto-repair skills and the sense of community that built up around the shop.

Mr. Zimmer dropped out of school in the 11th grade to serve in World War II, going on to the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics to learn to be a radio operator, which he went on to be in the war.

A social being his entire life, Mr. Zimmer was proud of his list of accomplishments at his many lodges and clubs: He was the former monarch of the Islam Grotto, president of his Naco Caravan, and the youngest member of the Allegheny Elks Lodge to ever be chosen as exalted ruler.

Bill Zipf, his friend for more than 50 years through these social clubs, said Mr. Zimmer liked to party but had a stellar reputation.

"He wasn't in trouble very often," he said. "He didn't have to get riled up or get into trouble to go to a party."

And while his friends and family say he wasn't one to "take a lot of crap," as his son said, they also extolled his kindness and generosity.

"He didn't view the networking for business or for financial gain. It was for fun," Mr. Zimmer said. "He didn't come from a whole lot of money, but he'd give you the shirt off his back."

Mr. Zimmer is survived by his son and two grandchildren.

Visitation will be held today from 1 to 3 and 6 to 8 p.m. at Schellhaas Funeral Home in West View, where a service will be held Wednesday at 11 a.m.


Shay Maunz: smaunz@post-gazette.com .


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