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‘Authoritative’ Trib business newsman Jack Markowitz dies at 85

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Tribune-Review
Former Tribune-Review Business Editor Jack Markowitz in 2008.
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In 2000, Jack Markowitz stands about where he did 52 years ago when he came to the Hunt National Guard Armory on Emerson Street in Shadyside to see Harry S. Truman speak.

When Jack Markowitz came to the Tribune-Review in 1978, he brought instant credibility to the business desk and a unique ability to mix humor with expertise in explaining complex issues.

“He was a superb business columnist,” said John Oravecz, who succeeded Markowitz as business editor in 1996. “Even his run-of-the-mill columns were better than most, but when he was on top of his game, there was nobody better. … He was entertaining and humorous and authoritative. And he knew business and how businesses operate.”

Mr. Markowitz died Tuesday, April 4, 2017, after a brief battle with lymphoma. He was 85.

Mr. Markowitz worked more than 60 years in the news business: As a copyboy at the New York Daily News, a reporter at the Philadelphia Daily News and as business editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — where he stayed until 1978 — and then the Tribune-Review and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He continued to write columns for the Trib years after his retirement.

“He gave so much guidance to young reporters,” recalled Joe Napsha, a longtime Tribune-Review reporter who worked with Mr. Markowitz. “You’d go out (on assignment) and say, ‘I work for Jack,’ and that would give you credibility. Otherwise, I’m just some young reporter.

“He’d been business editor at the Post-Gazette for a long time. When he came over, he gave the Trib and the business desk instant respectability.”

He was a prolific writer. In addition to his regular business features, profiles and columns, in 1973, he authored “A Walk on the Crust of Hell,” about winners of the Carnegie Hero Medal.

In 2009, he assisted the late Richard M. Scaife, publisher of the Tribune-Review, in preparing Scaife’s privately printed memoir, “A Richly Conservative Life.” And in 2013, he self-published a novel, “The Coming of Josephson.”

But it was his business writing that won him respect in the business and journalism communities.

“He was an amazing writer and storyteller with a gift for taking highly complex business and financial issues and presenting them in a way that just about anyone could appreciate,” said Sue McFarland, executive editor of the Tribune-Review.

Yet, he found his deepest happiness not in the written word but in the presence of his five daughters, whom he referred to as his “greatest works.”

“My dad could not have been more devoted to us,” said Eve Preston of New York. “Anytime we had a problem, a concern, a question about history, a joke — he was the one we turned to first. We knew our dad would be interested, open and enthusiastic. He was always there for us. We never questioned his availability and his interest and dedication.”

Though the daughters scattered around the world, with one living in Spain and two in California, they all returned to his bedside as the end neared.

“I told him in his final hours that he would always be with us,” Preston said. “He really showed us what love and devotion was all about. Hopefully, we can share that with others.”

Mr. Markowitz was born in Pittsburgh on July 31, 1931, to Lena and Ben Markowitz. He grew up in the Hill District and Squirrel Hill and attended Pittsburgh public schools. He got his start in journalism at the University of Pittsburgh’s Pitt News, then spent a career mentoring and rooting for colleagues.

“Jack was incredibly nurturing to young journalists, and he was helpful to me on so many occasions as I progressed in my career,” McFarland said. “He wanted everyone to feel the passion and excitement that he felt about this business. His enthusiasm for the work was really contagious.”

In addition to his daughter Eve, Mr. Markowitz is survived by daughters Beth Markowitz of Cordoba, Spain, Hannah Markowitz of Venice, Calif., Laura Markowitz of Jericho, Vt., and Rachel Markowitz Borcea of San Francisco; brothers Mort and George Markowitz; six grandchildren; many nephews and nieces; former wife Mildred (Middy) Markowitz; and a dear friend, Roberta Weiss. He was preceded in death by younger brother Melvin Markowitz.

Services are at Ralph Schugar Chapel Inc., 5509 Centre Ave., Shadyside at 11 a.m. Thursday. Visitation one hour before services. Interment at Poale Zedeck Memorial Park Cemetery.

Chris Togneri is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-5632 or [email protected]

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