Obituary: William Nugent / Dedicated United Steelworkers official

Aug. 21, 1944 - April 2, 2014

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William Nugent devoted most of his career to organized labor, working with the United Steelworkers, first in his hometown of Baltimore, and later in Pittsburgh.

Mr. Nugent died April 2 of pneumonia at Allegheny General Hospital. The O'Hara resident was 69.

Mr. Nugent was born in Baltimore. He went to high school at Baltimore City College and played football there.

"My dad rose from very humble beginnings," said his son, Patrick Nugent of Los Angeles. "What he lived for was taking care of his family. It's a simple thing, but it's a powerful thing."

As a teen, Mr. Nugent was a dancer on "The Buddy Deane Show" on WJZ-TV in Baltimore. It was a popular teen dance TV show that was the inspiration for the John Waters movie "Hairspray."

He started his career in the steel industry in 1965 at the former Bethlehem Steel-Sparrows Point plant in Baltimore.

He was elected a union official at USW Local 2609 in Baltimore, where colleagues remembered him as a well-respected representative who was skillful in negotiations and arbitration.

"He was definitely a good leader for the union," said Don Kellner of Baltimore, a retired steelworker and union leader who worked with Mr. Nugent at Sparrows Point.

By the 1950s, Sparrows Point was the world's largest steel-making facility. But like much of the U.S. steel industry, its fortunes declined in the 1970s and '80s. The company went bankrupt in 2012.

While he was working, Mr. Nugent took night courses in philosophy and political science -- two of his main interests -- at Towson University.

"He was a really brilliant critical thinker. He was a deep thinker, deep into philosophy and political science. He was an avid reader and learner," his son said. At the same time, he remembers his dad as "a jokester" who loved coaching youth soccer games when the family lived in Baltimore.

In 1998, Mr. Nugent moved to Pittsburgh to work with the United Steelworkers International. He retired in 2010.

Jim English, a retired attorney and secretary-treasurer for the union, worked with Mr. Nugent in Pittsburgh and remembers him as a conscientious and hard-working colleague.

"He was very dedicated to helping workers, and he was very dedicated to the steelworkers. He served in administrative capacities here in Pittsburgh, but prior to that he was very directly involved with collective bargaining and dealing with the problems of members."

In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife Sue Ellen, his daughter Heather Nugent of Dunkirk, N.Y., and three grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held April 26 at 11 a.m. at Little Sisters of the Poor, 601 Maiden Choice Lane, Baltimore.

Memorial contributions can be made to Little Sisters of the Poor, 1028 Benton Ave., Pittsburgh 15212 or to Animal Friends, 562 Camp Horne Road, Pittsburgh 15237.


Adrian McCoy: amccoy@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1865.

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