Art Pallan, 1985
On the air at radio stations WWSW and KDKA, Art Pallan was a funny, upbeat supporter of local musicians and a consummate professional. Off the air, he was a humble war hero, an amateur singer, a community supporter and a practical joker.
The radio celebrity who referred to himself on the air as "Your pal, Pallan" died Monday at St. John Specialty Care Center in Mars. He was 83.
Born in Braddock to the late Rudolph and Elizabeth Berger Pallan, Mr. Pallan landed his first radio job at WWSW a year after graduating from Brentwood High School.
During World War II, he was a radio operator aboard a B-25 bomber flying missions over the Aleutian Islands. Mr. Pallan was awarded the Air Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Asiatic Pacific Ribbon with three battle stars.
After the war, he returned to WWSW, where he worked for more than a decade. He moved to KDKA in 1956.
When Rege Cordic left his popular morning show in 1965, Mr. Pallan and co-host Bob Trow inherited the time slot. He stayed with KDKA in various roles until his retirement in 1985.
Singer Bobby Vinton, a Canonsburg native, still calls Mr. Pallan "the godfather of radio in Pittsburgh."
"I remember Art Pallan played a Bobby Vinton song on KDKA every day he was on the radio," he said.
Perhaps Mr. Pallan's dedication to musicians was kindled by his aborted music career. He cut two records, "Waiting" and "Sleepy Time Down South," and sang with The Lee Kelton Band.
"What you might not know," said Pittsburgh radio personality Jack Bogut, "is that Art Pallan was one of the best singers I ever heard. He sounded as much like Bing Crosby as Bing Crosby. I said one time, 'Art, why didn't you pursue it as a career?' He said he didn't want to travel and wanted to be with his family."
Mr. Bogut, now at WJAS, took over the KDKA morning show in 1968.
"Sometimes, it's not comfortable to be replaced by somebody," he said. "But Art never had a cross word or bad attitude, never showed any hostility or resentment to me at all. He couldn't have been more welcoming."
Off the air, Mr. Pallan is remembered by colleagues as a hard worker, good sport and practical joker.
John Cigna, who hosted the KDKA morning show from 1983 to 2001, said he was sometimes the victim of Mr. Pallan's humor, but he respected his upbeat attitude and professionalism.
"He was always up. I never saw him get angry with anybody," said Mr. Cigna.
Mr. Pallan helped raise money for Children's Hospital during holiday season broadcasts from department store windows, and on the 40th anniversary of his career in radio, the Myasthenia Gravis Association, one of his many charities, presented him with the Art Pallan Humanitarian Award for contributions to the community. In 2002, he was inducted to the Brentwood High School Hall of Fame.
Mr. Pallan attended St. Kilian Church in Mars, was active in the Knights of Columbus, Rotary Club, Masonic Lodge and American Diabetes Association, and was a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
He is survived by his brother, Rudolph Pallan of Pittsburgh; son Arthur Pallan Jr. of Butler; daughters Andrea "Pidge" Welsh of Butler, Anne Olescyski of Mars, and Artha Hockenberry of Shippensburg; his friend Irene Cherchiaro; five grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; and one great-great-grandson.
A reception will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. today and 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. tomorrow at McDonald-Aeberli Funeral Home, 238 Crowe Ave., Mars. Burial with military honors will be at Mars Cemetery in Adams.
Memorial tributes will be accepted at Good Samaritan Hospice, 3500 Brooktree Road, Wexford, PA 15090 and St. John Specialty Care Center, P.O. Box 928, Mars, PA 16046.
John Hayes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1991.