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Obituary: Dale Stitt McFeatters: Journalist, businessman, popular cartoonist

Saturday, September 25, 1999

By Pamela Gaynor, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Dale Stitt McFeatters wanted to be an artist when he finished his training at the Pittsburgh Art Institute in 1931.

With the onset of the Great Depression, however, he had to set those ambitions aside, instead signing on as a general assignment reporter with The Pittsburgh Press.

Ironically, by the time he left the newspaper business, he was probably better known for his art than his writing.

A single-frame cartoon that he created called "Strictly Business" got its start in The Press Business Section in 1941 and was quickly syndicated. It eventually gained followers in some 200 newspapers across the country.

Mr. McFeatters, a Mt. Lebanon resident, died Thursday at St. Clair Hospital, where he had been admitted after failing to fully recover from a fall he had taken about two weeks ago. He was 88.

His neatly drawn cartoon was the "Dilbert" of its day and continued syndication for 43 years, a record, at the time, for a single-frame comic.

Through regular characters, Bitsy Betts, Mr. Pottleby, Argyle and an office boy named Mervin, Mr. McFeatters poked gentle fun at the corporate world.

"His humor was never mean-spirited. It tickled rather than tormented," said Larry Walsh, a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette staff writer who knew Mr. McFeatters through friendships with his son, Dale, an editorial writer and columnist for Scripps Howard News Service in Washington, and his daughter-in-law Ann, the Post-Gazette's national bureau chief.

By the time he started doing the cartoon, Mr. McFeatters had several years under his belt as The Press business and financial editor.

The vantage point no doubt gave him lots of good material. It also gave him a high profile among the region's business leaders.

One of them, a former Westinghouse Electric Corp. chief executive, Gwilym Price, thought enough of his writing and speaking skills to recruit him.

Mr. McFeatters accepted an offer from Price in 1945 to join Westinghouse. Originally hired to set up a communications program between the company and its employees, he later became vice president of corporate information services, a pioneering role at a time when few companies had formal communications departments.

Apparently as comfortable in a boardroom as he was in a newsroom, Mr. McFeatters was known among colleagues as an easygoing, witty individual who made friends easily.

"He was a gentleman's gentleman. ... He was a man who everyone respected and liked, and that's tough in the rough and tough business world," said Tom Phares, a former Westinghouse communications executive who served under him.

Mr. McFeatters was also known for a wide range of outside interests and was a self-taught expert in some of them. He continued drawing his cartoon after retirement from Westinghouse in 1973 and also spent more time painting in a small studio that he set up in Mt. Lebanon.

An avid outdoorsman, he was an expert on wildflowers and took every opportunity that arose to get out on his boat or go trout fishing. Flowers and natural settings also became subjects for much of his art.

Mr. McFeatters also enjoyed music and was a regular subscriber to performances of the Pittsburgh Opera and the Pittsburgh Symphony.

His range of civic commitments was also wide. He had served on the boards of the Civic Light Opera, the Community Chest, a predecessor of the United Way, Braddock General Hospital and the Red Cross. He also served on the executive council of the Boy Scouts of Allegheny County and was active in the National Conference of Christians and Jews.

He was a member of the Duquesne Club, the Rolling Rock Club and Chartiers Country Club.

Mr. McFeatters was also a member of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Mt. Lebanon.

In addition to his son, Dale of Chevy Chase, Md., Mr. McFeatters is survived by his wife of nearly 61 years, Tirzah of Mt. Lebanon; daughters Susan McFeatters of New York and Ann Koepke of Lake Forest, Ill.; and six grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Monday in St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Washington Road and Mayfair Drive, Mt. Lebanon.

Memorial contributions can be sent to St. Paul's or the St. Clair Hospital Foundation.

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