Jimmy Cvetic, a singular Pittsburgh character, has died.
Cvetic, a gregarious and gravelly-voiced Pittsburgh native, was a Vietnam veteran, Allegheny County narcotics detective, boxing coach and poet. He also organized annual holiday toy drives for needy children.
He died late Friday at age 69, after a long struggle with cancer.
Though he retired from the police force years ago, Cvetic remained well known in law-enforcement circles. He managed several boxing gyms in the area and ran the toy drives from an office in the Monroeville Mall.
Rest in Peace, Jimmy Cvetic. You were larger than life & made a difference in the lives of so many. I'm blessed to know & call you a friend. Hearts are broken & you will be dearly missed but we will find comfort in the fact that your good deeds and memory will last forever. pic.twitter.com/Oy2VDpJ443
— Scott Schubert (@PghPoliceChief) February 16, 2019
In recent years, however, he was best known by many for his poetry – darkly funny, plain spoken and often salty verses that drew on everything from his Catholic school boyhood in Garfield in the 1950s to life-threatening scrapes on the force.
Many of his poetry collections included the word "Dog" in the title; "Dog" was Cvetic's police nickname. One poem in the 2018 collection "Dog Days" is titled, "Thinking Nobody Wants to Jump from a Skyscraper, and Wars Last a Long Time, and Lepers Can't Dance at a Bar Mitzvah, and I Can't Sleep While Pondering What Jesus' Middle Name Is, and All the While I'm Talking with God."
Cvetic co-founded and co-hosted the long-running Hemingway's Summer Poetry Series in Oakland, a lively venue for local poets to read their work. His poetry inspired "In Defense of Gravity," a 2017 work by local dance group Attack Theatre.
Poetry – including the work of Charles Bukowski, whom Cvetic admired and was often likened to – was one source of Cvetic's friendship with Hollywood star Nick Nolte. The two met on a film shoot in Pittsburgh years ago and remained in touch. The Facebook page of local poet Bob Ziller, who published Cvetic's work via his imprint Lascaux Editions, includes a photo of he and Nolte reading poetry aloud with Cvetic at Shadyside Hospital in the days before Cvetic's death.
Cvetic leaves behind his wife, Gloria Jane Szutowski, a longtime companion and fellow boxing coach; they had married in May of last year.
Ziller's Facebook post said that Cvetic did not want a funeral but that there will be a memorial service several weeks from now.