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Photog. Ends 40-Yr. News Stint
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pennsylvania)

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette photographer Robert J. Pavuchak always got terrific photos. But often, he got more than expected.

Sometimes he got dirty, sweaty and tired. And on at least one occasion, he almost got killed.

Mr. Pavuchak, 67, of West Mifflin, retired Friday after a 40-year career with Pittsburgh newspapers, including 13 with the Post-Gazette.

His memorable career included notable photographs, including one in 1980 of Steeler Joe Greene wearing his four Super Bowl rings with his thumb sticking out in hopes of getting "one for the thumb," a line that became Steelers fans' mantra for a generation.

He captured Pirates third baseman Bill Madlock shoving his glove into an umpire's face, a photo that drew national attention and a suspension for Mr. Madlock.

In the 1970s, he took a photograph of a squad carrying a live bomb out of Gimbels department store in Pittsburgh, only to learn after returning to the newsroom that the bomb exploded about 10 minutes later. Lucky it was late. It had been scheduled to go off about the time Mr. Pavuchak was snapping the photograph.

Assigned to cover Washington County for 20 years, he walked its streams, explored its woods and searched high and low for everything from abandoned railroad tunnels to elusive wildlife.

He tramped across coal refuse piles and hazardous waste dumps. He went up in planes and helicopters for aerial shots and into caves and coal mines for underground shots. He photographed the area's covered bridges, festivals and changes of seasons, including storm clouds, hay fields and rainbows.

"I love the rural people there," he said of Washington and Greene counties. "They always were so easy-going and nice to deal with. I always appreciated that."

A native of Duquesne, Mr. Pavuchak took up photography as a hobby and landed a job in 1958 at the Brady Stewart Studio Inc. in Pittsburgh. There, he developed his skills before taking a job with The Pittsburgh Press in 1966. When the Press closed in 1992, he was hired by the Post-Gazette.

His friendliness, coupled with machine-gun approach to shooting photos, were his forte in taking award-winning photographs. He often entered a room with camera clicking to get shots of people before they could pose or hide.

A favorite episode occurred in February 1998 when Mr. Pavuchak visited a Chartiers farm to photograph dairyman Marko Brigich, who was busy milking cows in a concrete pit where it was easier to attach milking machines to the cows above.

Let's just say Mr. Pavuchak got royally splattered by what came out the south end of northbound Holsteins. Bob being Bob, he kept his eye focused through the camera lens to get the necessary shots. This time, he was unable to avoid the explosion.

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