Obituary: Edward Dobson / Allegheny County deputy coroner

May 27, 1932 - June 7, 2013

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Edward Dobson, a long-time Allegheny County deputy coroner whose career reached its pinnacle with the crash of USAir Flight 427 in 1994, died last Friday at UPMC Presbyterian.

He was 81 and had been living at a care home in Grove City, where he had moved from Penn Hills after retirement.

Mr. Dobson, a former police officer, worked at the coroner's office from 1982 to 1996, mostly on the night shift.

"He was a dependable and reliable deputy coroner," said former Coroner Cyril H. Wecht.

Mr. Dobson's daughter, Christina, who had herself once worked as a clerk in the coroner's office, said her father was meticulous and process-oriented on the job.

"Every detail mattered," she said.

He didn't discuss his work much because of confidentiality issues, but several death investigations stood out, both near the end of his career.

One was the April 6, 1995, shooting death of Jerry Jackson inside the Armstrong Tunnel by Pittsburgh Housing Authority Police Officer John Charmo. The case was difficult and controversial because Officer Charmo told investigators that he fired after Mr. Jackson spun his car 180 degrees inside the narrow tunnels and drove at him.

Evidence later indicated that the car could not have performed that maneuver. Mr. Charmo eventually pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and went to jail.

The other big case happened the year before when USAir Flight 427 went down in Hopewell on Sept. 8, killing everyone on board. Mr. Dobson was part of the tedious and emotionally draining recovery and identification process.

He didn't discuss it much, but his daughter said the work took a toll on him, as it did for many others at the scene day after day.

"That was a very significant event for him," his daughter said.

Born in Carrick, Mr. Dobson moved to Florida as a child and returned to the area when he was 8 to live in Millvale, where his mother owned a bar. He quit high school and joined the Army during the Korean War, serving as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division, but he never went to Korea. For a time, his unit was stationed in Nevada, guarding nuclear test sites.

After his discharge in 1953, he came home and went to work in a variety of jobs. He was a Millvale police officer in the 1950s and later worked at the former Allegheny County Workhouse in Blawnox, a penal facility that closed in 1971.

He and his wife, Helen, married in 1962 and moved from Millvale to Penn Hills, where they raised seven children.

After the workhouse closed, Mr. Dobson worked in a variety of fields, including sales and insurance, before joining the coroner's office in 1982. His daughter said his experience as a Millvale cop and a volunteer firefighter in Penn Hills helped him as a deputy coroner.

In his spare time, he enjoyed family life and coaching and refereeing youth and collegiate hockey; all of his sons played, and all his daughters were athletes as well.

He retired in 1996 and in 2003 moved to Grove City; the family had often visited Plantation Park in nearby Mercer and he liked the area. He was a Mason, a Shriner and a member of the Knights of Columbus and supported various charities, including veterans' causes and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis.

Besides his wife and daughter, Mr. Dobson is survived by his other children: Michael of Delaware; Deborah of Pittsburgh; Marc of Texas; Colleen of Green Tree; Keith of Virginia; and Gregory of California. He is also survived by sisters Beverly of South Carolina, MaryKay of Tennessee and Melinda of Cranberry.

Burial was Wednesday at the Cemetery of the Alleghenies.

Cunningham Funeral Home in Grove City handled the arrangements.

obituaries

Torsten Ove: tove@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1510.


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