NICHOLAS "NICK" A.
Nicholas A. Beldecos of Squirrel Hill, a former executive and engineer with Westinghouse Electric Corporation, died on October 9, 2017, with his wife and children at his side. He was an acknowledged leader, a loving and devoted family man, a man who always tried to bring out the best in others. He was 95.
The son of Greek immigrants, Nick contributed to the preeminent position of Westinghouse in developing nuclear propulsion for the US Navy, and later directed multi-plant turbine and generator manufacturing operations that had 13,000 employees at their peak. His career with Westinghouse spanned 35 years.
Nick began work with Westinghouse in 1946 at the Steam Turbine Division, Lester, PA, on the same day he was discharged from active duty with the US Navy. He moved to Pittsburgh in 1952 to join the Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory in West Mifflin, which Westinghouse operated for the US Government. In 1955, he received a supervisory position and, with it, the opportunity to attend Harvard Business School, from which he received an MMP degree in 1956.
Over the next years, he led numerous projects. His work on the development of a surface ship reactor plant culminated in his appointment as General Manager of the Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory in 1965. In this capacity, he worked closely with Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, father of the Nuclear Navy. In 1968, he was awarded the prestigious Westinghouse Silver W and Order of Merit, cited "For his leadership . . . in direction of the reactor . . . design of the . . . Navy's first nuclear powered surface ship and significantly improved submarine reactor designs; and for the establishment of service and support for a greatly expanded atomic fleet."
In 1970, Nick was appointed Vice President and General Manager of the East Pittsburgh Large Rotating Apparatus Division, where 8,000 workers were employed at its peak, directing the sale, design, and manufacture of large utility-type electric generators and motors. During his tenure, Westinghouse delivered the largest domestic hydroelectric generators to the Grand Coulee Dam. In 1978, he became Vice President and General Manager of Power Generation Operations.
"Nick was a fine man, upbeat, adored by everyone," recalls Ted Stern, former President, Westinghouse Energy Systems Group. "He was never politically inclined, and would speak his mind. In contrast to these days, when so few are concerned with morality, Nick was the epitome of it." For Mary Vasilakis, former Manager of Information Resources, Westinghouse Energy Center, "Nick was a people person" who placed a premium on open communication and "was a great mentor to new engineers and newly appointed managers."
Reliably, he would begin any account of his past with the words, "I've been very lucky in my life," according to his daughter, Ann Natale. "My father was a very grateful man. He had a belief in the power of human agency---in the importance of self-discipline and hard work---but he never overlooked the role that sheer luck and opportunity played in his life." He believed his good fortune to have begun at birth in 1922 in Chester, PA, as the second of five children to Andrew and Penelope Beldecos. His father was a produce wholesaler, and the household resources were meager, but family love, mutual support, and rectitude abounded. His father was fond of saying of his children, "I cannot afford to buy stock, but I have great livestock." In 1937, Nick graduated from Chester High School with the science prize and a top-ten ranking. There was no prospect of college until one year later when a high school basketball coach and a local Boy Scout official, both Swarthmore College alumni, interceded with the College to secure an interview for him. The result was an offer of admission with a four-year scholarship.
Nick regarded his Swarthmore years as transformative. With rigor and passion, he pursued academics, athletics, and student government. As part of the V-12 Navy College Training Program, he entered active duty his junior year. Now on a fast track to complete his degree, he graduated in 1943 with distinction, having been awarded both the highest honor the College bestows on a male student, the Ivy Award for outstanding leadership and scholarship, and the McCabe Engineering Award, given to the top engineering student in the graduating class.
Nick received his commission in early 1944, graduating as a "90-day wonder," as it was known, from the Midshipman School at Notre Dame University. He served first as Assistant Machinery Superintendent in Portsmouth, NH for the construction of two submarines. His yearning for sea duty was finally realized in 1945 when he was assigned to serve as an engineering officer in the Pacific on a troop transport, the USS Henrico. He remained in the Naval reserves until 1955.
In addition to a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Swarthmore College and an MMP from Harvard Business School, he earned an MS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 1955.
After retirement from Westinghouse, Nick worked from 1982 to 1988 as President of Health Center Development for the University Health Center of Pittsburgh (UHCP) and for three years as UHCP Chief Operating Officer. In this role, he was responsible for establishing shared clinical laboratory and imaging services across five independent hospitals prior to their consolidation under UPMC. He was also involved in the construction of an expanded Children's Hospital in Oakland.
Over the years, Nick directed his time and talents to the boards of many non-profit organizations, among them Magee-Women's Hospital, St. Edmund's Academy, St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral, and, most notably, Family House, a home away from home for patients and their families dealing with life-threatening illnesses, where he served for 25 years as a founding member. "Nick was one of the finest people I have ever known," said Mary Lou McLaughlin, founding Executive Director of Family House. "He served Family House brilliantly, offering strategic wisdom and empathy as he realized full well the emotional and financial challenges our patients and their families were dealing with."
Nick is survived by his beloved wife, Vange (Seitanakis), with whom he shared a 64-year love story; his adoring and grateful children, Ann (Robert Natale) of Chappaqua, NY, Andrea of New York City, NY, and John Nicholas (Maggie) of Pittsburgh; his grandchildren of whom he was so proud, Nicholas Natale and Lucas Picher; his sisters, Mary Faines (Peter) of Pittsburgh and Kathryn Koines of Cocoa Beach, FL; his sisters-in-law, Helen Beldecos of Wallingford, PA and Despina Beldecos of O'Hara Township; his brother-in-law, Peter Seitanakis of Cincinnati, OH; his cousins, Mary Beldecos of Springfield, PA and Helen Beldecos of Springfield, PA; and many cherished nieces and nephews, godchildren, and friends. He was preceded in death by his parents, Andrew and Penelope; and by his brothers, John, formerly of Wallingford, PA, and Frank, formerly of O'Hara Township; his sister-in-law, Marian Seitanakis, formerly of Cincinnati, OH; and his brother-in-law, William Koines, formerly of Cocoa Beach, FL. Family and friends will be received at JOHN A. FREYVOGEL SONS, INC., 4900 Centre Avenue at Devonshire Street (freyvogelfuneralhome.com
) on Monday, October 16, 2017, 3-7 p.m. Visitation will continue on Tuesday, October 17, 2017, 10-11 a.m. at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 419 S. Dithridge Street, Pittsburgh, immediately after which funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. The Trisagion Service will be held on Monday night at 6:30 p.m. at the funeral home. Donations may be made to St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral or to Family House, Inc., 5001 Baum Boulevard, #545, Pittsburgh, PA 15213.