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Richard Gottfried: a devoted dentist killed in Squirrel Hill shooting

November 18, 2018

Richard Gottfried took a different approach to Halloween: Instead of passing out candy, the Ross dentist passed out toothbrushes to his neighbors’ kids, neighbor Brian Rooker said.

“He was a great guy, friendly, always willing to help out,” said Rooker, who has lived next door to Gottfried since 2003.

Richard Gottfried, 65, was among the 11 people killed Saturday when a gunman opened fire at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood.

Shocked at the news, Rooker recalled the times his neighbor would stop to chat, or come down the driveway to give a treat to his two dogs.

Gottfried was a member of the New Light Congregation, which shared the building.

He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1974 with an undergraduate degree in English literature, according to a biography posted to his dental practice’s website.

He went on to receive a dental degree from Pitt in 1980, the same year he married his wife, Margaret Durachko, also a graduate of Pitt’s dental school.

The two started their own practice in Ross in 1984 and were planning for retirement.

Gottfried and Durachko volunteered with the Catholic Charities Free Dental Clinic and served as marriage mentors at St. Athanasius Roman Catholic Church in West View, where Durachko was a member.

Both were very strong in their faith, the Rev. Leroy Depietro, a priest at St. Athanasius, said.

“Rich was kind of the cornerstone of that congregation,” Depietro said of Gottfried’s commitment to New Life Congregation, adding that Gottfried also would come to services at St. Athanasius to see his wife, a lector, read during mass.

Their work as marriage mentors helped to prepare engaged couples in the parish for marriage.

“This is a time for Christians, Muslims and Jews to come together,” Depietro said. “We all worship the same God. This is such a tragedy.”

Gottfried and his wife went everywhere and did everything together, said Beth Schellhaas, who was the president of the West View Chamber of Commerce when Gottfried and his wife volunteered with the organization.

“We could always count on both of them being there for support,” Schellhaas said. The couple always had ideas for supporting the community and helped out with any project, from fundraisers to craft shows.

The North Hills School District sent a letter home to families acknowledging the contributions Gottfried and Durachko made to the school community for over 30 years, both through their work at their dental practice and through Durachko’s work as the district’s dentist.

“They have been a fixture in the lives of those in our community,” the letter said.

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