Vondas died Tuesday at age 83 at UPMC Passavant hospital from an infection stemming from an automobile accident in March.
Vondas could glean the essence of a person from otherwise mundane details—"Oh, so she made good soup?" he might be overheard in the newsroom asking about the deceased—and particularly liked to celebrate a person's salt-of-the-earth qualities, including work ethic, and love of God or country.
"He would say, 'This is a story about their life, not about their death. It helps people remember what they did in life and what they accomplished,'" said his daughter, Maria Vondas Connelly. "For him, he saw it as providing solace. He was able to memorialize them and to capture the human spirit with his writing talent. It's a gift to capture a person's essence. This was his calling."
And one he loved, Tribune-Review managing editor Jim Cuddy said.
"He was a constant in the newsroom, a fellow in his 80s still coming to work and looking forward to it," Cuddy said.
Vondas was hired by the Tribune-Review in 1998 after working at a newspaper published by the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Pittsburgh. He also worked at the Pittsburgh Press 1971 to 1992, which closed that year. Vondas had worked about 10 years as a bartender and waiter before switching to journalism in 1968 at the former North Hills News Record.
"Jerry's humanity radiated to anyone he talked to. His work ethic and dedication to the Trib were inspirational," Cuddy said.
The Press Club of Western Pennsylvania gave its inaugural Service in Journalism award to Vondas in 2000.