Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Bricklayer with Engaging Personality Died July 21, 2018

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Bricklayer with Engaging Personality Died July 21, 2018

Article excerpt

While writing a story about the Netherlands, James "Jimmy" Dunn drove past a Dutch Girl Cleaners shop in Ross by chance and stopped inside to ask about the logo, striking up a conversation with owner Steve Friel.

From that day on, Mr. Dunn frequently returned to the store, armed with countless captivating stories and in-depth knowledge about everything from Pittsburgh history to boxing. Sometimes eliciting laughter, sometimes tears, he would reel in employees and whoever happened to walk through the doors for conversations that could last hours. That was Jimmy Dunn's way.

"I've never had anybody come into the store and impact our lives the way he did," Mr. Friel said. "He was just a good old soul, a great man."

Mr. Dunn died Saturday from complications of lung cancer. He was 85.

"He was almost like a Mister Rogers," said Helen Ptacek, his daughter. "If you talked to him for two minutes, five minutes or two hours, at the end of the conversation you were his friend. He had an uncanny way of being able to connect with people."

Old or young, rich or poor, black or white, Mr. Dunn transcended differences and left his conversation partners with a sense of importance. Once, Roberto Clemente Jr., son of the Pirates Hall-of-Famer, gave him the coat off his back after meeting him at an event.

"Jimmy Dunn could talk to the devil and when it was over the devil would say, 'I might not be such a bad guy after all," said John Schwartzmiller, owner of Brusco-Napier Funeral Service in Beechview.

Mr. Dunn would frequently visit the funeral home.

Mr. Dunn, a Korean War veteran, was born and raised in Beechview. After a chance encounter with Helen Dadey on a trolley, they were married in 1958.

Devout Catholics, they attended Mass sometimes seven times a week. Sometimes the couple would eat lunch at UPMC Mercy, where they talked with patients and staff so often that they were asked to help out with delivering flowers to the sick. …

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