The table, the party, the room and everyone in it lit up when Doris McGonigle was in charge -- which she loved being. A fabulous gourmet chef and hostess at home, she was also a keen, insightful businesswoman whose skills took her to a high professional level as a restaurateur and, for many years, as the fashionable sales and catering manager of Pittsburgh's Sheraton Hotel in Station Square.
Ms. McGonigle, of Upper St. Clair, died Wednesday of complications from melanoma. She was 60.
"I discovered her passion for cooking and entrepreneurship when we formed our own banana-bread baking business in high school together," said Barbara Zitwer, her lifelong friend from childhood. "She was the most lovable and beautiful all-American dream girl on Long Island."
Ms. McGonigle and Ms. Zitwer made their legendary breads from Doris' mother's recipe (using brown bananas -- the best for baking -- with a touch of vanilla), and were so successful they began selling them to restaurants and wine-and-cheese venues as a way of helping her parents, the late Henry and Doris Bauer, with their bills.
"We would stir huge garbage pails of batter in our moms' kitchens, usurp their ovens and store dozens of breads in their refrigerators -- asking our girlfriends to freeze breads for us as well," recalls Ms. Zitwer, now a playwright and literary agent. "Finally, we were banned from our own kitchens and forced to go out and rent one, the next step to grow our little business. But then we turned to each other and asked, 'Do we want to be bakers for the rest of our lives?' "
The answer was not really.
After moving to Pittsburgh in the 1980s, Ms. McGonigle operated her own restaurant, Guido Cartwright's, on the South Side's Carson Street, among other projects. But she was mostly occupied as professional partner of her then-husband Mike Kalina, the late Post-Gazette dining critic. As "the woman behind the man" for Mr. Kalina's popular cookbooks and cable TV show "The Traveling Gourmet," it was her thankless task to test every recipe, ascertain the precise measurements and ingredients, and make sure they worked.
By all accounts, no complaints or mistakes were ever registered.
It was at the Sheraton Station Square in the 1990s that she met and fell in love with Patrick J. McGonigle Jr., owner-president of Welte Roofing, and, after their marriage, turned her attention to his business as well as her own D. Bauer Enterprises. But her primary attention -- with fireball energy and raucous, infectious laughter -- was always reserved for their family.
"Her smile brightened an entire room," said daughter Josephine McGonigle, who, with Mr. McGonigle, was holding her hand when she passed away peacefully. "She constantly shared love with anyone and everyone. She carried people. She was my best friend and my hero, as well as my mom."
Her irrepressible personality and warmth came with "a constant heart and a noble mind," said Ms. Zitwer. "She was the most devoted daughter and best mother, wife and friend I ever knew. She had a natural gift to shower everyone with sunshine."
Ms. McGonigle was a longtime member of St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Virgin Church in Whitehall. She engaged in fundraising activities for the school there and for Central Catholic and Seton-LaSalle high schools, and was a member of South Hills Country Club.
In addition to her husband and daughter, Ms. McGonigle is survived by stepson Patrick J. McGonigle III; and brothers Alfred Bauer of New York City and Henry Bauer of Holmdel, N.J.
Friends will be received at the John F. Slater Funeral Home, 4201 Brownsville Road, Brentwood, today from 1 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. A funeral prayer will take place Monday at 9:15 a.m. at the funeral home, followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Virgin Church, 5200 Greenridge Drive at 10 a.m.
The family suggests contributions to St. Lucy's Auxiliary, c/o Mrs. Fran Donahue, 106 Haverford Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15238.
Post-Gazette film critic emeritus Barry Paris: email@example.com. First Published October 12, 2013 8:00 PM