Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Richard R. Baer Aug. 6, 1929 - May 22, 2013 Pine's First Police Chief

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Richard R. Baer Aug. 6, 1929 - May 22, 2013 Pine's First Police Chief

Article excerpt

Richard "Biff" Baer didn't finish college, or even his first year of college, at Slippery Rock University. Although he left partway through the second semester, he spent much of the rest of his life educating himself and learning skills as the police chief of what is now the Northern Regional Police Department.

Mr. Baer ultimately earned certificates from more than 30 universities and academies, including the Pennsylvania State Police Academy and the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va., according to his wife, June Baer. But sitting at a desk just wasn't the right fit.

"He was a doer," Ms. Baer said. "He got involved in everything, and pretty much rose to the top in everything he did."

Mr. Baer, of Cochranton, Crawford County, died Wednesday of complications from pugilistic dementia, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, as a result of repeated blows to the head during his early boxing career that ultimately caused degeneration of brain tissue, his wife said. He was 83.

Born the son of John and Magdalena Schnitzius Baer, Mr. Baer grew up in the Deutchtown neighborhood of Spring Garden and attended North Catholic High School, which he left to join the Air Force in 1947. He later earned his general equivalency diploma.

In the service, Mr. Baer first worked as a clerk typist, then in providing security, while also boxing in Guam, Japan and stateside, his wife said. He won a Golden Gloves competition in his division in 1947 and also won an award during an Air Force boxing tournament, she said. He later continued boxing and training boxers at Jack Metz's gym in Lawrenceville.

After his discharge in 1950, Mr. Baer attended Slippery Rock to study physical education but withdrew during the second semester.

"It wasn't a good fit for him," his wife said. "He was a right- brainer -- they go off and find their own way."

Mr. Baer started driving trucks for meatpacking companies such as Armour, working three long days driving between Pittsburgh and Ohio and spending four days at home.

After Mr. Baer married in 1952, the couple started out living in his father's apartment house in Deutchtown but managed to save enough money to build their home in Pine in 1956.

There, Mr. Baer volunteered to work as the township's building inspector after no one else in town wanted the position. In 1960, he was offered a part-time position as a police officer -- Pine had a constable but no police department at the time -- that ultimately became a full-time position as police chief with one patrolman as Pine and other communities grew around the Route 19 corridor, Mrs. Baer said.

"Eventually they hired on more people and bought police cars and went on from there," she said, describing the creation of the Pine Township Police Department. "You do this and that and it just comes to you, and that's how it was -- everything just unfolded. …

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