A Pitt Man and his Family

I’d like to take a few minutes and share something with all of our Pitt friends.

After driving up to Pittsburgh from Maryland to attend the Pitt Media day at the Southside facilities on Tuesday I stayed over in the city for two days to be with a childhood friend of mine whose mother had died over the previous weekend.

I wanted to be there, on call as it were, to help my friend, Howard Scott Jr., and his brother and sisters, all friends of mine also, in any way I could.

The reasons for doing that are many, love and friendship certainly, but mainly  because I owe a real life-long debt to their family for helping to take care of me when I was younger and without parents of my own.

So why am I sharing this with all of you?  Because their father, Howard Scott Sr., was a true born and bred ”Pitt Man” through and through.

Please allow me to expound on that and explain…

A year ago, while writing for The Pitt Blather, I did an article on Memorial Day titled “On That Day” that detailed the connection between the University of Pittsburgh, its alumni and our Armed Forces.

It started off with this:

As the years’ calendar turns to the end of May and the start of what we all see as the spring and summer season, or as we PITT football fans say “the time when no football things are happening” one date always jumps out at me.

It’s on that day our Memorial Holiday falls.  In addition to the store sales, reunions, parties, parades, and picnics Memorial Day also holds a meaning that strikes a deeper and more significant cord in many of us.  You all know that I’ve reference my professional life as a military officer before.  Because that career and my experiences serving in that capacity filled almost my whole adult life, from age 22 until I retired four years ago, it is the lens in which I see, think and feel almost everything through.

So while woolgathering yesterday to try to figure out the next thing to write about Pitt football it occurred to me that I’ve never done a separate Memorial Day piece and that is because it seems to have nothing to do with PITT football.  But after some serious reflection I do believe Memorial Day and the University of Pittsburgh, in all their respective facets, have deep ties and are intertwined both historically and in the present.

I reference that post because it struck me while driving back home to Maryland that the epitome of the connection between Pitt and our Armed Forces was my friend’s father’s story and I didn’t know it at the time. I didn’t realize that he was just the subject person I meant when writing that article.

On Wednesday when things were hectic in getting ready for the memorial service and burial I insisted that Howard and I take the evening and have a quiet dinner with two other of our old friends.  We went to a restaurant in the Strip District, ate and drank and talked for hours about many things, but mostly about our childhoods together and our parents. I have written on here before that my parents died when I was a young man – my father when I was 13 and then my mother passed when I was 19.

One part  of that discussion was that Howard and I talked about our dad’s being at Pitt at the same time.

Mr. Scott and my father had gone to Pitt together and were in the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity during their undergraduate years, both went to war and returned later to attend Pitt again while working on graduate degrees;  my father’s PhD was in Business Administration and Howard Sr. finished his Law degree.  Mr. Scott also played baseball and football for Pitt prior to enlisting into the army in 1942.

Back in the mid-70s when I would go over to the Scott’s family home in Shadyside to visit my friend he sometimes wasn’t there.  A few of those times I would go down to their basement where their father had a woodworking shop and talk with him until Howard Jr. came home.

Mr. Scott knew that my father had died when I was 13 so during those visits he’d ask me questions about my life, throw wisdom in and talk with me like I was also an adult. He made sure not to preach to me or to criticize which I greatly appreciated.

It was refreshing to be treated like that and very much needed at that time as I was a rudderless young man who really had some hard choices to make in my life.  The ones I had made up to that point were all wrong – I was been kicked out of two high schools and arrested a few times and yet still felt I could make something of myself. The truth is I didn’t feel worthy of any sort of success so I just didn’t put the time or effort into actually achieving it.

But he talked with me and asked those questions in a leading and caring way – and made me look at myself in the harsher light of reality than I had been doing while under the influence of drugs and booze as was my norm back then.

He didn’t judge me on those behaviors, nor did his wife, Tallu, who we would bury later.  I was a friend of their sons and daughters and so was treated with respect and kindness they felt I deserved.

So it was at dinner together Wednesday night that I told Howard that during his mother’s memorial service and the grave site ceremony I was going to wear the three highest medals I was award during my military career, and that I was doing it to honor his father’s service in WWII.   I knew that Mr. Scott had served back then, as did all of our fathers in some way or another.

What I didn’t know was the extent of his father’s experiences during that time, and that during those talks with him I had been in the presence, many times over, of a genuine American hero… and I don’t ever use that term lightly.

When Howard casually dropped the fact that his dad had won a battlefield commission during the Battle of the Bulge, commanded the immediate ground unit involved in the first liberation of the prisoners of Dachau and won a Silver Star for those actions you can bet I sat up straighter and snapped to attention. To put it simple I was in awe.

The following are some details of those small bits of information my friend dropped on me that evening:

Howard’s 7th Army unit was engaged in intense infantry combat for many months during 1944 and 1945 and faced some of the first jet aircraft attacks in history. He was proud but never boastful to have earned a battlefield commission from the rank of Private to 2nd Lieutenant in combat against German counterattacks in the Moselle River region of France. There he was decorated for bravery and valor.

 In the aftermath of the Battle of the Bulge, Scott’s infantry unit fought and captured many German SS and army troops. The unit he personally commanded liberated the notorious Dachau concentration camp from the Nazis, as well as numerous towns in the Alsace region of France. (He returned to these Alsace battlefields one time in the 1990’s, where he was honored as a liberating hero by local French residents and politicians).

 Scott eventually rose to the rank of Captain, and coached and played for the occupation Army football and baseball teams.

My friends, I have met and known many military Veterans in my adult life, I am one myself, and have to say from the heart that Howard Scott Sr.’s war record is second to none.

An in-theater, in-action battlefield Officer’s commission from the lowly rank of Private to 2nd Lieutenant is almost unheard of.  If it happened at all it was normally awarded to soldiers from the higher and more experienced enlisted ranks such as Sergeant or Staff Sergeant, not from the bottom rung rank of Private.

A battlefield commission is akin to being knighted on the battlefield during the medieval times.  The granting of a battlefield commission has its historical predecessor in the medieval practice of the knighting or ennoblement of a plebeian combatant on the battleground for demonstration of heroic qualities in an exceptional degree.

Such as it is that our heroes – our real heroes – don’t talk about what they have done to earn that title.  As his children inherited his humble traits they also knew and never bragged about their father’s war record either.  In a full 40 years of knowing this family Wednesday night was the first I had head of those sterling accomplishments.

I had many role models in my young life and some of them I wanted to emulate.  I joined the Service because an uncle I loved dearly was a retired Navy Commander.  Another of my uncles spent two years in a German concentration camp… those two, along with my own father’s wartime experiences, were part of that decision I made when I was 22.  That was a hard but necessary decision if I was truly serious about finally growing up living a good and decent life.

But men like Howard Scott Sr., with his quiet and strong demeanor and his willingness to take time to lend a young man his ear, have to be factored in also. I looked up to him in no small measure not only because he lived his life as well as a man could, but fathered two young men who I knew would go on to do good and important things in their lives also. And they sure did, each in their own right.

Mr. Scott’s Pitt education was war interrupted for some years but he came back to his hometown, used the G.I. Bill to earn his Pitt Law Degree and then went on to become a leading citizen in the city we love.

We Pitt fans know other many success stories of Pitt students and players who did their duties in our wars and we’ll see that happen again in the future.  The caliber of Pitt men and women on campus today can rise to any occasion that comes their way, I truly believe that.

Thank you for listening.  I just wanted to share my story of one man and his family who I all respect and value and in whom all of us Pitt people can be proud.

32 thoughts on “A Pitt Man and his Family

  1. Reed…. Maybe your best column.
    There is something about the drive from MD back to Pitt that engenders memory overload.

    Glad you were able to visit some good ones!

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  2. The scary part is when you ask your self where will the citizens like this come from in the future of this country.The solid citizens, caring adults like you describe here do not exist in the numbers they used to and by that loss is this country weakened.

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  3. Reed. My Dad was there too. He was one of the first Americans into Dachau and ended up in Berlin. He never talked much about the war, only a few stories here and there. And at his funeral I had the VFW do a 21 gun salute and they presented my family with awards that we never knew my Dad had earned. We and lots of the world owe our freedom these brave men.

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  4. since I’m a contrarian, I am going to say this was Reed’s 2nd best posting …. 2nd only to the Memorial Day entry that was referenced above. As I recall, that one took a large amount of research; but of course, this one took a large amount of love and respect.

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  5. My dad and 3 uncles served during WWII and my cousin who I just saw this past weekend was ‘on-call’ on one the a back-up ships during the Cuban Missile crisis. My only surviving uncle, who just turned 90 last month, has never missed the 9 am Memorial Day ceremony at the local WWII Memorial despite a replacement hip and knee.

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  6. @ Reed, that was really a Cool, Cool story. I genuinely would say I felt reading that was ‘Powerful’, and truly-touching, if I may say so.

    I think it’s the greatest thing when people are positive towards another person (not just older to younger mentor-ships) and don’t either patronize them, nor be negative, but just be themselves and just offer the good things and knowledge they have if another person will have them. Sometimes it can positively change one’s entire life when another person is open and kind….And I say that from my own experiences over the years with wonderful people sharing their wisdom, knowledge and even just their personal-perceptions on things like we’re both human beings trying to learn and grow in this world.

    @ Reed after reading this I’m reminded— I’d actually love to read any Fiction you write or even other non-fiction topics that obviously aren’t Pitt Football related lol. I remember you discussing a few months back about how you were working on or outlining a Novel as well??

    …….And on a football note: Man, never has Pat Narduzzi’s Media-lockouts felt as brutal as it does today. Yeesh, what the heck happened today during the full-contact scrimmage? I’m chomping at the bit to know how the Manny Stocker-Ben DiNucci-Thomas MacVittie performances were just from the eye test. Can Ben DiNucci play in Live Power-5 Football, or not?

    And if anyone out there needs anymore rocket-fuel on the #HATE for the Penn State Wussy-Cats + PS Who? (less than a month away now 🙂 🙂 ) —- please do a Ctrl+F “Pitt” search on the comments on this article from “Black Shoe Diaries” : http://www.blackshoediaries.com/2016/8/11/12275424/penn-state-football-predictions-2016-saquon-barkley-james-franklin-contract-torrence-brown#comments

    — Penn State fanatics are $hit*ing their pants about Pitt and they try to act like they don’t care it’s pretty epic haha. The article was solely about what PS Who fans thought about what individual players would accomplish essentially — yet the entire comment section basically gets hijacked with State ‘Cow Town’ College fans just Hating on Pitt, and deluding themselves about the Power-Shift that’s happened while they were in their little “Sandusky Didn’t Happen” bubble 🙂 🙂 🙂 Hail to Pitt!

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  7. Don’t understand the media blackout on the scrimmage either. Kind of frustrating not to hear any specifics.
    I must say that I liked Chryst’s open practices much better. I guess we can live with it if we continue to get more and better wins.

    If PSU doesn’t care about the game, why did they buy so many Pitt season tickets? I have heard anywhere from 10-20K. This really is a big, big game for both teams.

    Sandusky in court, says he never had sex with a child. PSU paid 90 million to those kids for nothing. The deniers must be loving this.

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  8. Really like to hear Reed elaborate on what he heard about recruiting.

    Can’t be going well when Pitt just offered two Wpial tight ends, one who has already verbaled to Temple.

    All these offers to big time national players must not be panning out.

    Following up on last year’s really great class seems to be proving quite difficult.

    Especially with Pitt doing so poorly in it’s own backyard.

    Good news was that Wade was at the scrimmage yesterday.

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  9. I don’t like the lack of FB news right now. I hope it translates into a lack of losses this season.

    Being bored by the lack of Pitt news, I jumped onto a few Alabama sites and kinda got the same thing – minuscule amount of info. I did find that Robert Foster is perceived to be third on the depth chart due to lingering shoulder issues.

    I like hearing that A.Mathews is impressing the coaches and that his former teammate L.Wade was at practice for the second time during the first week of camp.

    HTP!

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  10. gc – I don’t really follow recruiting much if at all. Sorry, but we have to go elsewhere for info on that. The Pittsburgh Sports Now website is devoted to that… However, as I stated in the Media Day article the conversations I had with other media types on the sidelines and in the Media room weren’t real positive.

    This policy of Narduzzi’s is very frustrating – I’d drive up once a week if things were open. But last year’s winning season and the season ticket sales bump will probably condemn open practices forever while Narduzzi’s here.

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  11. Thanks Reed, I like Pittsburgh Sports Now but they are very rah rah. Found your comment on the media’s recruiting opinion very interesting. I have been of the opinion that things are not going well, even with the increased spending and exposure. If we lose Wade and Jeter, a really bad year in a better than average WPIAL. Narduzzi needs another great class to follow last years if we really want to see Pitt move up. It takes multiple classes with exceptional talent to compete at the highest levels. We also lost our second best guy from this years class and possibly Gilbert, another big recruit.

    Hopefully he will finish strong, but so far I see too many 3 star guys with weak offer sheets. Perhaps Narduzzi is a victim of his early success. Expectations are pretty high after Whitehead (although a Chryst recruit) Hamlin, MacVittie, Hill and a very strong class last year.

    I understand your not following recruiting, just though you might have some more incite from your conversations with the media guys.

    Wwb, has given reasons for Kelly’s success, but it has been a while since ND owned WPA. I don’t like it much. Especially since they are a so-called ACC rival.

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  12. Wanny understood that you need to control your own backyard as much as possible, just wonder if all the flights out of town were detrimental to the effort in the WPIAl? Why did it take so long to offer the local tight ends? Seems like a fall back position. With Hamlin and Weaver coming to Pitt, why the exodus from Central to ND? Just asking?

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  13. Nothing Sandusky said surprised me as I headed these type appeals for DA Office for seven years. Amendola (sp) lead counsel did not roll over which many defense attorneys do at this stage. This aint going nowhere. PSU, Paterno, fans, trustees led by Lambrano, etc all blame anyone, especially the kids. The University is morally bankrupt. ‘Am I attracted to small boys ……..hmmmm……(thinking – boy that’s a tough one…’) Rot in hell Jerry and those who covered it up for years – JoePa, administration, asst coaches..

    Ditto on Media ban – it makes no sense.

    My father was a disabled vet from WWII – Luzon, New Guinea, Phillipines and never talked about it. While we were not part of the Greatest Generation we are sons and daughters and can pass along experience to the youth as it was passed to us. Heck we went to Pitt.

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  14. Reed, not that you need my confirmation but I’m just fine for you to continue to provide the information that you do. There are enough other sources available that are focused on recruiting … and while I continuously read them, I do not get too hung up on what recruit tweets this and what recruits says that. It is my experience that classes are not to be judged until Feb … and even then, it is often a bit premature.

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  15. I wish Dokish posted about recruiting more often – but he’s more of an overview guy not so much day-to-day reporting.

    I think that coaching is more important than recruiting but you still have to have a good baseline of talent to work with.

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  16. Relax about the recruiting at this point in time. There is plenty of talent around the country and I’d be willing to bet Narduzzi and Pitt will finish off their class pretty well. Keep in mind all schools are limited in the number of scholarships the can offer. And we have too many top starred people waiting for that ND ALA and OSU offers to comer their way before they commit. I do believe there will be plenty of talented recruits left standing at the alter when the BIG SCHOOLS have their quota’s filled.

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  17. RKB,
    Our dad’s were at the same places during WWII! Mine was under Gen. McArthur, 40th Division US Army. I’m guessing your dad was 40th or 39th?

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  18. Pittman4ever. I actually don’t know – he never spoke much of his service and his records were destroyed in a fire in St. Louis. His discharge papers show 9th Army Air Corp which he was never in and was out of Europe. He was under General McArthur. Now at least I have the 39th and 40th. Thanks.

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  19. RKB,
    Everything your dad said, my dad said. However, My dad was buddy’s with the 40th Div photographer. I have pictures and a letter stating where and what the 40th did. You can call me 281 380 6890 anytime.

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  20. @Reed – I read the comments from RKB and Pittman, your story and my nephews own through special forces. I think the reason that we don’t know the true hero story’s is because they didn’t consider themselves heroes. They had a job, they did it, and did it well. No boasting about their skills, their wins or their losses. It is the losses, that gave them strength.

    They would exchange a loss of a colleague, for their own. I believe that. That is why they are heroes. That is why they don’t talk much about it. That is my theory. Their mental strength is far more heroic, than their physical skill set. Great story and thank you for sharing!.

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