Family members of Edward L. Dardanell described him as a man who lived life large and took control of whatever efforts he was involved in from the time he left Penn Hills High School as valedictorian and class president, through the ownership of newspaper publishing and real estate development businesses, an antiques gallery and even to community volunteer efforts, including those that led to the creation of Forbes Regional Hospital in Monroeville.
It was in Forbes Regional where Mr. Dardanell died Friday from Parkinson's disease. He was 89.
"He was always very astute and involved and he always knew which direction he should go," said Mr. Dardanell's daughter, Megan Olsen of Shaler.
Mr. Dardanell grew up in Penn Hills and lived throughout the eastern suburbs and Shadyside, earned a bachelor's degree in public administration from the University of Pittsburgh. But he interrupted his college education in 1942 to enlist in the Army. He served as a combat officer in France and Germany during World War II. Mr. Dardanell also served in the Army during the Korean conflict in the Far East Command.
Among the awards he received for his military service were the Purple Heart and a Bronze Star with an oak leaf cluster, indicating it was awarded a second time.
Mr. Dardanell was modest about the awards, saying he earned them by "being in the wrong place at the wrong time," said his wife, Marilyn.
Mr. Dardanell started his professional career in the newspaper business where he quickly rose to become chairman of the board of Dardanell Enterprises, which published 16 suburban newspapers in the Pittsburgh area as part of Dardanell Publications. They included the Allegheny Valley Advance-Leader, Penn Hills Progress and Monroeville Times Express.
In addition, he published a monthly sportsmen and conservation publication and a biweekly, tri-state food publication. The Dardanell firm operated a printing plant that printed some 60 other publications. He sold the business to the Liverpool Daily Post & Echo in England in 1978, which operated the community newspapers under the banner of Gateway Publications. They are now part of Trib Total Media.
Mr. Dardanell served as president of the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publishers Association and the Suburban Newspapers of America.
During his time as a newspaper publisher, Mr. Dardanell also spent two terms as a state representative in the mid-1960s, pushing environmental legislation concerning the purity of the state's water and increasing penalties for industrial waste and mine drainage. He also sponsored legislation to provide scholarship funds for postsecondary education and to promote the protection of animals.
He was also on the board of the former Columbia Hospital in Wilkinsburg and saw the need for a new hospital in the eastern suburbs as the Monroeville area started to develop rapidly in the 1970s. He led the effort to raise $5 million to establish Forbes Regional Hospital. He would later donate $1 million to the hospital to establish the Ed Dardanell Heart & Vascular Center, which opened in March 2008.
After Mr. Dardanell sold the newspaper publishing business, he began to invest in commercial real estate in Monroeville, East Liberty and most recently in Point Breeze. For a time, he operated an antiques gallery know as Dargate Galleries in East Liberty until he sold it.
"Everything he set his mind to he knew what he had to do to make it successful and if his interests changed, he moved onto something else," Mrs. Olsen said.
Until a few months before his death, Mr. Dardanell remained in charge of his real estate holdings, calling meetings of his top employees at the Seneca Manor Assisted Living Center in Penn Hills, where he was living. His most recent acquisition, in partnership with his wife, was the former Mine Safety Appliance Building on North Braddock Avenue in 2011. The building now has artists, small businesses and the Carnegie Mellon University drama department among its tenants.
Mr. Dardanell served on a number of local boards, including those of Forbes Health System, La Roche College and Pitt, where he established the Ed Dardanell Scholarship Fund. He also sat on the boards of the Pittsburgh Opera, Animal Rescue League and United Mental Health.
In his free time, Mr. Dardanell enjoyed traveling to Italy and drinking Italian wines, his wife said.
Surviving in addition to his wife and daughter is a son, Edward of the South Side, and two grandsons. Arrangements are being handled by the William F. Gross Funeral Home in Penn Hills. Funeral services are private.
Mary Niederberger: email@example.com or 412-263-1590.