Former state trooper was ‘larger than life’
Growing up in Latrobe in the 1940s and ’50s, Pete Buchan was in awe when he saw a Pennsylvania State Police trooper in uniform.
Mr. Buchan realize his childhood dream when he became a state trooper in 1958, working for 31 years with crime units and undercover, vice and narcotic squads at barracks in Washington, Pittsburgh, Erie and Greensburg.
“He loved his career,” said his daughter, Mary Paige Coyne.
Mr. Peter Buchan, 78, of Latrobe died of leukemia Monday, Sept. 29, 2014, in UPMC Shadyside Hospital in Pittsburgh.
He was born Sept. 11, 1936, in Latrobe, the youngest of nine children of the late Marko Bucan,a blacksmith at Latrobe Steel Co., and Helen Annie Bucan.
After graduating from Latrobe High School in 1954, he enlisted in the Air Force and was stationed at bases around the United States and in Paris. Mr. Buchan turned down offers to re-enlist, telling officers he wanted to go home to join the Pennsylvania State Police.
In an oral history interview, he described the rigors of state police life in the late 1950s and early ’60s. He lived in barracks with fellow troopers and had to be on the job for two years before he could ask permission from his superiors to marry his wife, Mary Margaret Gebhart.
Among his assignments, he did undercover work in Pittsburgh while attached to the Bureau of Criminal Investigation from 1968 to 1969 and was named supervisor of the Greensburg vice unit in 1970. He started a Western Pennsylvania Narcotics Detail in 1971 and assumed command of the Region Five Strike Force. He returned to the Greensburg barracks in 1980 and served as traffic sergeant, crime sergeant and vice sergeant.
Despite a work schedule that sometimes required odd work hours, “he was such a committed family man,” Mary Paige Coyne said.
He wanted to keep busy when he retired in 1989, so he became a safety supervisor for Mashuda Corp.
“He was very industrious and inventive,” his daughter said.
An avid woodworker and quilter, he crafted miniature pianos in his basement shop that are now in the homes of family and friends across the nation. His quilting was so good that his pieces were exhibited in the Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg and in a traveling exhibition.
“He was larger than life and was a good and honorable man,” said his wife.
In addition to his parents, he was predeceased by his son, Daniel Peter Buchan. He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Mary Margaret Buchan; two daughters, Mary Paige Coyne and husband, John, of Stockholm, N.J.; and Amy Baldonieri and husband, Kenneth M., of Greensburg, and three grandchildren.
Family and friends will be received from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday in the John J. Lopatich Funeral Home Inc., 601 Weldon St., Latrobe. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 9:30 a.m. Friday in Holy Family Church, Latrobe. Interment will follow at St. Vincent Cemetery in Unity Township.
Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.