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October 29, 2015

Obituary: Jeff Armstrong

Armstrong, JeffFriends were received Oct. 25 in Pitt-Bradford’s McDowell Sport and Fitness Center at a memorial service for longtime UPB facilities worker Jeff Armstrong, who died suddenly at his home in Bradford on Oct. 20, 2015.

Armstrong, 60, had been employed at Pitt-Bradford for 41 years. He was among the longest serving UPB staff.

During UPB’s 50th anniversary celebration in 2013, he was tapped to join a panel of UPB long-timers who shared tales and recollections of campus history.

A Bradford native, Armstrong’s connections to Pitt-Bradford date back to his teen years, when he mowed lawns for Donald Swarts, the campus’s first president.

Armstrong began his full-time work as a groundskeeper at UPB in 1974. His work included snow removal, set-ups for events including commencement and the Pitt varsity marching band’s annual camp at UPB, garden maintenance and other grounds work at the campus and president’s residence.

James Evans, UPB vice president and dean of student affairs, said Armstrong “took great pride in the beauty of the campus.”

As a longtime employee, Armstrong simply knew what needed to be done and ensured those things “just happened,” said Evans, who has worked at the Bradford campus for 40 years.

Armstrong’s presence “was felt across the campus in a very positive way.”

Evans remembered Armstrong as a true gentleman. “In the course of his work, he treated everyone in the campus community with dignity and respect,” he said. “He was always steady, hardworking, trustworthy and did what he said he was going to do,” said Evans. “He was reliable. The loss will really be noticed by many, many people, and already is.”

Pete Buchheit, UPB director of facilities management at UPB, said Armstrong loved the outdoors and “had a particular interest in the quality of the environment around the campus,” and dedication to the campus community.

“This was Jeff’s second home,” said Buchheit.

“He was my go-to guy,” Buchheit said. “Jeff was always there, ready to go. You never had to call him in at 2 a.m. for snow removal: He was here,” Buchheit said.

Armstrong kept the campus’s needs in mind even when scheduling his vacation, taking his time off during the sweet spot between the end of summer mowing and the start of winter snow removal when long hours are the norm, Buchheit said.

He spent his time off hunting and fishing. Armstrong shared his passion for deer and pheasant hunting and steelhead fishing with his children, teaching them proper practices, Buchheit said. “He was a great dad.”

That Armstrong’s memorial was held on campus — and that the sport center was needed to accommodate the hundreds of people who came — made a statement, Buchheit said. “People loved to be around him.”

The department’s student workers gravitated to Armstrong, Buchheit said. In addition to working with the department’s work-study students, Armstrong each year would take two or three of the department’s summer student workers under his wing.

“He always got the most out of our student workers,” Buchheit said.

Funny and good-natured, Armstrong got students to work side-by-side with him, sharing his strong work ethic that centered on getting a job done and done right, Buchheit said. “He made them good people.”

Many of those former students attended the memorial, with one commenting that he’d learned more about life from Armstrong than he had in the course of his formal education on campus, Buchheit recounted.

Buchheit, who worked with Armstrong for 37 years, said Armstrong’s death has devastated his department “family” of a dozen co-workers. “It’s a shock that’s going to take a long time for all of us to recover from,” he said. “We’re all about to find out what Jeff did and what he knew.”

Armstrong is survived by his wife, Harriet. The two were married on the UPB campus in 2000.

Also surviving are daughters Allison Rene Armstrong, Stacie Lynn Carey, Cheyenne Lee Armstrong and Martina May Blahovec; son Alexander Norman Blahovec; grandchildren Kamden Carey, Aleksa Carey and Raiden Westlake; sister and brother-in-law Mary Beth and Kelvin Mohr; brother Mark Armstrong; and brother and sister-in-law Matthew and Patti Armstrong.

—Kimberly K. Barlow            

Filed under: Feature,Volume 48 Issue 5

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