Weitzel, Raymond W.

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Obituary: Raymond W. Weitzel / TV cameraman with a knack for getting the shot

Jan. 14, 1936 -- March 23, 2019

Janice Crompton Pittsburgh Post-Gazette jcrompton@post-gazette.com

A longtime television news cameraman and photographer at WPXI-TV, Raymond Weitzel had a special technique for gaining entry to places that would be off limits to most journalists: his unforgettable smile. “I will never forget his smile,” said WPXI anchorman David Johnson. “He had the most beautiful smile. He would never be so upset or angry that his smile wouldn’t pop up.” Mr. Weitzel, 83, of Overbrook, died March 23 from complications caused by a recent fall. Raised in Oakland, Mr. Weitzel graduated from Peabody High School in 1955 before enlisting in the U.S. Army. He served for two years in Honolulu before going to work as a laboratory technician, first at the University of Pittsburgh, then at One Day Film Service, a former film developing company in Wilkinsburg. The business was one of the few in the Pittsburgh region that developed color film in the early 1960s, said Mr. Weitzel’s son Bill Weitzel. “When WPXI was changing from black and white to color film they came to look into the machinery and how it worked,” said the younger Mr. Weitzel, of Scott. “They asked if anyone there was interested in a job. And my dad said, ‘Yeah, me!’” His father went to work at the television station in 1965 in the film processing lab and later became video editor. “Then, he taught himself to be a photographer, so when there was an opening he transitioned to that,” Bill Weitzel said. By the time Mr. Johnson came to the station in 1985, Mr. Weitzel was among the best and most knowledgeable cameramen in the business, he said. “He was one of the photographers that you would choose when you were able to,” Mr. Johnson recalled. “He was a veteran who knew the streets, knew where to park, how to talk to people. He was one of those guys who kind of showed me the ropes in Pittsburgh street reporting.” Despite being self-taught, Mr. Weitzel was a savvy professional, Mr. Johnson said. “He was a great guy and a very, very good photographer,” he said. “That knowledge was so important and in a tight situation where time was of the essence, it felt good to be with someone who knew what he was doing.” Mr. Weitzel’s charming manner opened many doors over the 35 years that he worked at WPXI, before his retirement in 2000. “He was tall and handsome and he always had this tan in the middle of winter even,” Mr. Johnson said. “He knew how to charmingly talk to a cop guarding a crime scene or whoever, to find out what was happening. He had a way of being able to do that, and it always impressed me.” But Mr. Weitzel’s work wasn’t always pleasant, his son recalled. “He saw some stuff,” Bill Weitzel said, including the aftermath of the USAir Flight 427 crash in Hopewell, Beaver County, in September 1994. All 132 people on board died. “He was one of the first people on the scene and said it was one of the worst things he’d ever seen,” his son said. In the summer of 1959, Mr. Weitzel met Kathleen Nee on a blind date and the couple married just two months later, in August 1959. Mrs. Weitzel died in 2015. After he retired, Mr. Weitzel spent many days on the links at the South Park Golf Course. “My grandfather loved to golf and used to take my dad to the course,” Bill Weitzel said. “My dad used to joke that he started golfing when he was three years old and never got any better.” His father was a great storyteller who loved spending time with his family, his son said. “He was a good dad,” he said. “He was one of my best friends.” Mr. Johnson said he could vouch for Mr. Weitzel’s sense of humor and his credentials as an authentic Pittsburgher. “The first place I moved when I came here was Highland Park and Ray used to joke with me, saying ‘You want yourself to sound fancy. That’s actually [East Liberty],’” Mr. Johnson said, laughing at the memory. “He’d say, ‘What’s the zip code?’ and I’d say, ‘You know the zip code!’ and he’d say, ‘That’s S’Liberty!’ And of course, he always pronounced it ‘S’Liberty.’” But the teasing didn’t end there. “If I ran into him later, he would say, ‘You still living in S’Liberty?’” Mr. Johnson said, laughing. Along with his son, Mr. Weitzel is survived by a granddaughter. He was preceded in death by his sons Raymond and Michael, and his sister Peggy Grance. His funeral was held Friday. Janice Crompton: jcrompton@post-gazette.com

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WEITZEL RAYMOND W. Age 83, of Overbrook passed away peacefully on Saturday, March 23, 2019 in Allegheny General Hospital. Beloved husband of the late Kathleen (Nee) Weitzel; father of William "Bill" (Susan) Weitzel, the late Raymond (Sheri) Weitzel and the late Michael J. Weitzel; grandfather of Autumn Weitzel. Raymond retired after 35 years as a news photographer for WPXI.