Every October, Eddie Schlegel celebrated.
He wasn't marking his wedding anniversary or his birthday but the day in 1958 that he started working in the pressroom of The Pittsburgh Press, a job he held for 45 years. He also helped churn out newspapers for the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, the Pittsburgh Courier and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the newspaper he retired from in 2003.
"He loved it. ... He liked the people. He worked with some real good men and women," said his wife, Dorothy Schlegel. "He would get upset sometimes if the paper was blurred or they'd miss a page and he felt somebody wasn't doing their job."
Mr. Schlegel, of Brookline, died March 11 of cancer. He was 76.
He was a U.S. Army veteran who served with the 101st Airborne and came from a family of pressmen. His father and uncle both worked the ink-stained machinery in the lower levels of the Post-Gazette building at Boulevard of the Allies and Commonwealth Place, a press that will fall silent when the newspaper moves its printing operations to a new facility near Pittsburgh International Airport later this year.
"There's been a Schlegel in this building since before Prohibition," said his son Rhett Schlegel, a third-generation pressman who worked with his father for five years before he retired. "One of the first things he told me was 'Whatever you do, don't touch anything.' "
He was a proud member of the Pittsburgh Newspaper Printing Pressmen Union, Local 9, though he didn't let strikes get in the way of supporting his wife and six children.
"When the different unions would go on strike, that man dug ditches, he was a bartender, he worked on houses. ... Eddie always worked for us. He never was too proud to say 'That job's not good enough,' " Mrs. Schlegel said.
After the first of what would be six granddaughters was born, he was given a new nickname, "Grumpy," the result of the late hours spent on the press and his natural disposition.
"He loved the name and he loved his grandbabies," his wife said.
Mr. Schlegel was an avid reader who was fascinated with the Civil War, prompted partly by an ancestor who fought at Gettysburg, and was a "trivia king" at various local bars, Mrs. Schlegel said.
"He just wanted knowledge. He always thought you should increase your brain power," she said. "That way, you never met a stranger ... because you always had something in common."
Of mixed Irish and German heritage, his gift for storytelling and jokes favored his Celtic forebears. "He was every man's man. They also expected me to be just like him and that's a big shoe to fill," his son said.
The late Mr. Schlegel, who before this year hadn't missed a Pittsburgh St. Patrick's Day parade since 1959, also had a favorite off-color joke from the Emerald Isle that he'd deliver in a perfect brogue.
Sally O'Malley, the joke goes, asks the milkman to bring extra milk tomorrow because she intends to take a milk bath.
"Pasteurized?" the milkman asks.
"No," Sally replies. "Up to my [chest] will be fine."
A memorial Mass is scheduled for noon Saturday at the Church of the Resurrection, 1100 Creedmoor Ave., Brookline.