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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It was just over a year ago when Mike Pintek stood behind the KDKA Radio microphone and told his audience, “In early May, I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It is not operable. Google it; you’ll see all sorts of ugly pictures.”
But Pintek that day told his loyal listeners he was going to undergo an experimental treatment and fight the cancer for all he was worth. He said on the air that day he didn’t ask the usual “why me” but instead “why not me.”
KDKA Radio Program Director Jim Graci says Pintek worked his treatments in a way to least impact work.
“He would have them on a Friday, take that day off, and be back in on Monday. He loved what he did, he lived for being a talk show host,” Graci said.
The treatments were working and Mike was making progress until a stroke earlier this summer forced a suspension of the treatments. As he recovered from the stroke, the cancer was unleashed and it became only a question of time. At 2:15 Wednesday morning, his fight came to a quiet end.
Pintek was first and foremost a journalist. He started his career in York, Pa., and was the morning news voice in Harrisburg the morning of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Disaster. Pintek was alerted to something going on at TMI by the station’s traffic reporter. When he called the facility and identified himself, the operator transferred him into the reactor’s control room. The harried engineer on the other end of the phone told Mike he couldn’t talk because they were dealing with a problem.
Minutes later, after getting in touch with a company spokesperson, Pintek went on the air.
“This is Mike Pintek in the WKBO newsroom. MET ED company officials had to shut down their Three Mile Island nuclear power station unit number two this morning after an accident occurred within the plants turbine system. Officials have been saying there is no danger to the general public and that the situation is under control.”
It was the breaking news scoop of a career for a journalist who was just beginning a four-decades-long commitment to getting the facts and getting them right. Longtime KDKA Radio Producer Timira Rush spent a year as Pintek’s producer and says with Mike, “It’s all about getting it done and that was Mike’s attitude for producers.”
Pintek came to KDKA Radio as a new reporter and moved into the talk show ranks three years later. For 30 years, no one has been more dedicated to detail, says KDKA Radio News Director PJ Kumanchik.
“Mike could be pretty tough, but if you had your facts straight he would debate you,” Kumanchik said.
Mike Pintek didn’t cut anyone a break, powerful or important guest, or listener. Bishop David Zubik was often on the receiving end, but he believes there was a method in Mike’s style.
“I think it was meant to help people to not take things for granted, but really think things through,” Zubik said.
“He had a way of finding that different way of viewing the world,” KDKA Radio Morning Co-Host Larry Richert said.
“While Mike could be tough to work with, he did it for a good reason. He cared about what he did every day,” longtime producer and now Senior Events Coordinator Amy Mauk said.
“To know Mike, you know how curious he was,” KDKA Radio Sports Director Jeff Hathhorn said.
Twice working as his producer, Hathhorn traveled with Pintek to do a week of live shows from Israel. During one of those trips, the two traveled to the Israel-Lebanon border. Along the chain-link fence, there were Israeli soldiers on one side and Lebanese soldier on the other. Hathhorn says they did an interview with a Lebanese soldier not far away.
“And occasionally he would throw a rock at us and Mike thought it was cool. Mike was all in to it and tried to get him to talk. Our guide was like, no no no no no, don’t start anything at the border. But Mike just wanted to get this guy’s point of view. He wanted both perspectives,” Hathhorn said.
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Despite his hard news, driving-for-the-truth efforts, Larry Richert points out, “There was definitely a very human and warm side to Mike. He just covered it up very well many times.”
Producer Timira Rush says his producers knew to reach that softer side all you needed was a good cat story.
“He loved cats! That was his thing and it made it easier for us when we produced for him,” Rush said.
He also loved the time he spent on his bike.
“That was where he would free his mind,” Rush said.
“Mike was a good guy with a good heart,” Mauk said.
Bishop Zubik has spent 13 years trying to get Pintek back to the church. He recently spent several hours with Mike.
“We went back and forth on our arguments about religion and about God. But it was a beautiful expression of a man on a journey, and he was realizing the journey was leading to where we all hope we’re going to get someday. That was beautiful. It touched my heart,” Zubik said.
“Mike was someone who was so unique in the way he presented his opinion about what was going on in our town and in the world that it’s going to be hard to replace,” Graci saiad.
One person at KDKA Radio this morning quipped, “There’s quite a talk show going on in heaven today with Mike Pintek, Fred Honsberger, and John Cigna.” Legends all gone too soon.
A public visitation for Mike Pintek will be held at the Schellhaas & Sons Funeral Home, 1600 Stone Mansion Drive in Wexford on Saturday, Sept. 15 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The funeral will be private.