Obituary: Edward Michaels | Pitt player turned coal miner with admirable work ethic
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For Edward Michaels, his favorite moments were when he was hard at work. Whether it was playing football, building his business or tending his campground, he always had a drive to make things better.
Mr. Michaels, of Fawn Township, died Oct. 4. He was 75.
"[He] always had a purpose," said Mr. Michaels' wife, Francine. "He had to keep busy. It just was in him. He just could not sit down and relax, but I guess that's the way he was raised."
Mr. Michaels was born in Elmira, N.Y., and grew up on a farm and eventually earned a scholarship to play football at the University of Pittsburgh. He was a guard for the Panthers from 1956 to 1958 and was a co-captain his senior year.
"He loved all those guys," Mrs. Michaels said. "He just said it was a great time. There were so many stories, I really can't remember them all."
Mr. Michaels played on the 1956 Pitt team that went to the Gator Bowl. His wife said he still had the watch the Pitt players got as a gift on that trip.
Mr. Michaels' son, Todd, said he thought that was where his father's appreciation for hard work started. In those days, football players played both offense and defense.
Todd said his father wasn't afraid of a little physicality. One time playing against Notre Dame, Mr. Michaels got hit so hard that he accidentally walked back to Notre Dame's huddle instead of Pitt's.
"He loved the hard-nosed grinding of [Pitt coach John Michelosen] and the hard-work ethic he put in with all the football players," Todd Michaels said. "And I think that's where he started it out, because he took that hard work into the coal mines."
Just a few months after his final playing days at Pitt, it appeared that Mr. Michaels' football career could continue. Vince Lombardi, who had just taken over as coach of the Green Bay Packers, approached Mr. Michaels' employer David Tesone -- also the father of Mr. Michaels' first wife, Nancy -- about playing for the Packers.
"Mr. Tesone just thought so much of Ed and his work, he told Vince Lombardi that Ed already had a job," Mrs. Michaels said. "They never let Ed know Vince had come after him for a whole year."
Even though it was Mr. Michaels' dream to play for the Packers, he later admitted it was a good thing he never got Mr. Lombardi's message. National Football League players at the time were paid a fraction of what they are today, and he would have had to move halfway across the country.
"He said he made the right decision because of what we produced in the coal mine and all the jobs we created for those men," Todd Michaels said.
Instead, Mr. Michaels settled in Fawn, where he worked at Tesone Trucking and Penn Allegheny Coal Company. He spent more than 30 years at the coal company and ended up being promoted to general manager.
While he was part of the management in the mines, he often went down underground with his employees, an unusual and endearing quality for a mine manager. "That's a reason the coal mine was a success all those years," Todd Michaels said. "He was the general manager, so he could be in the office, but his office was down there with the men underground. They saw one of the owners there underground, so they said if he can do it, we can do it."
In his later years, Mr. Michaels enjoyed tending his campground he owned with his wife. The two put on bluegrass festivals at the sight in far northeastern Allegheny County for 18 years.
"He loved bluegrass because I played and sang," Mrs. Michaels said. "For some reason, he liked my singing."
Mr, Michaels' burial was in Mt. Airy Cemetery, Natrona Heights.
First Published October 13, 2012 12:00 am