For as long as any of us around here can remember, Dr. Cyril Wecht made headlines everywhere. The renowned forensic pathologist, physician and lawyer died at 93 last week. But he lived a life that we will never forget.

Dr. Wecht invented the role of the celebrity forensic pathologist. He served for years as the elected coroner of Allegheny County, but he made national news as a consultant or commentator in the investigations of the most famous deaths in America — including Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and JonBenet Ramsey.

Dr. Wecht refused to believe that President John F. Kennedy was killed by a single bullet fired by a lone assassin. Frequently demonstrating the unlikely path that single bullet would have had to travel if the Warren Commission were right, he won over skeptics with a mix of science and some good-natured derision.

The Wecht Institute of Forensic Science and Law is based at Duquesne University. At Duquesne’s Kline School of Law, Dr. Wecht taught a popular course for decades. As his health flagged and guests lectured, one student said, “But if he gives just one lecture in person, I can say for the rest of my life that I was taught by Dr. Cyril Wecht.”

All of that was the work of “Doctor” Wecht. But around the county courthouse and the City-County Building, where big decisions affecting our daily lives are debated and decided, he was simply “Cyril.” And he always stepped forward, never back.

Cyril ran several successful campaigns for county coroner. He was elected Allegheny County commissioner. He lost a U.S. Senate race to Sen. John Heinz. He ran for Allegheny County executive and lost a tough fight to Republican Jim Roddey, who later became one of his closest friends.

In 1978, Cyril was elected chairman of the Allegheny County Democratic Party. He was just as comfortable dealing with the daily needs of Democratic Party committee people — the foot soldiers of politics — as he was before congressional panels or at professional conferences.

When I was asked by the Braddock Democratic chairman to arrange a meeting with Cyril to settle a local political dispute, Cyril agreed. It was a tough group from Braddock, but as we sat in Cyril’s office — the walls covered floor to ceiling with awards and certificates — Cyril talked their language, the blunt words of the streets.

When he stopped the meeting momentarily to take a call from Dr. Tom Noguchi, “coroner to the stars” in Los Angeles, the conversation was all about cerebral hematomas and other words we did not understand. Then, just as suddenly, he hung up the phone and was back — talking Braddock politics without missing a beat. It was just another day for Cyril.

Cyril was a loyal friend, a tough opponent, a blunt critic, a dedicated public servant, a brilliant physician, a cagey politician, a national celebrity. He loved Sigrid and their family — four children and 11 grandchildren — more than anything. And he lived his life straight ahead.

When Teddy Roosevelt gave a speech on citizenship in Paris in 1910, he said the “credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena … who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” That was Pittsburgh’s Cyril Wecht.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story suggested the Wecht Institute was based at the Duquesne Kline School of Law. The institute is part of the university’s School of Science and Engineering, as well as working with the schools of law and nursing.

Joseph Sabino Mistick can be reached at