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'Loving' dentist among those killed in Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

October 29, 2018

By Michelle Manchir

Pittsburgh — Dr. Richard Gottfried, described by family as "the kindest, most loving, caring person" who often donated care to patients, was among the 11 killed Oct. 27 in a mass shooting at Tree of Life Congregation.

Dr. Gottfried, 65, ran a practice with his wife, Dr. Margaret "Peg" Durachko, in Pittsburgh, and was a member of the New Light Congregation, which shared a building with Tree of Life, according to a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review article. He was attending synagogue with his youngest sister when the shooting occurred, said his twin sister, Debi Salvin, on NBC's "Today" show.

"It's just unimaginable that somebody who was so full of life is gone in an instant," Ms. Salvin said.

Dr. Gottfried earned a dental degree in 1980 from the University of Pittsburgh, where he met his wife, according to the biography on his practice website.

Dr. Gottfried was a volunteer dentist for Catholic Charities Free Dental Clinic along with his wife, who is a member of Pittsburgh's St. Athanasius Catholic Church. The couple helped prepare other couples for marriage at the church.

The couple also worked as part-time dentists at the Squirrel Hill Health Center, which serves refugees, immigrants and other underserved patients; and they had recently celebrated their 38th wedding anniversary, according to the Washington Post.

Ms. Salvin said on "Today" that Dr. Gottfried "touched a lot of people in all areas of his life and that just speaks to who he was. He loved his wife, he loved his family and he loved life."

Many in the dental community shared condolences following the shooting.

"I did not know him personally, but the whole dental community mourns his loss and rejects the hatred and bigotry that motivated the senseless killing of innocents who were only exercising their right to worship according to their beliefs," said ADA 3rd District Trustee Dr. Linda K. Himmelberger, who lives in Pennsylvania. "Our deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of Dr. Gottfried, and to the wider community and patients whom he served so faithfully throughout his career."

Pennsylvania Dental Association President Dr. Jim Boyle sent a letter to Dr. Durachko expressing condolences.

"The entire dental community in Pennsylvania has reached out to Dr. Durachko to provide support," said Rob Pugliese, Pennsylvania Dental Association director of communications, adding that the PDA and the Dental Society of Western Pennsylvania have been contacted about helping to recruit dentists to volunteer at the Squirrel Hill Health Center. Dental professionals who want to help can contact Susan Friedberg Kalson, CEO of Squirrel Hill Health Center, by email at sfkalson@squirrelhillhealthcenter.org or by phone at 1-412-904-5283.