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Former Steeler Found Dead at Versailles Ave. Care Home

By Jason Togyer
The Tube City Almanac
September 11, 2019
Posted in: Crime and Police News

A former Pittsburgh Steelers guard who was found in the basement of a personal care home on Versailles Avenue in the city died of complications related to heart disease, the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office said.

Samuel R. Davis, 75, known as "the Tight Man" while playing with Steelers teams that won four Super Bowls in the 1970s, was found just after 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at New Life Personal Care Home on Versailles Avenue.

McKeesport police said Davis, who was legally blind and needed daily medications, had been seen leaving the care home Tuesday morning and was reported missing before 7 a.m.

The medical examiner's office said Davis was taken to the hospital Tuesday night and pronounced dead a few minutes later. His death was of natural causes, a spokesperson said.

In a prepared release, McKeesport police said detectives are investigating "but have not found anything suspicious or criminal regarding this incident."

An 18-bed privately owned facility not far from McKeesport & Versailles Cemetery, New Life is owned by James E. Cole, who also serves as the facility's administrator, according to state records.

Attempts by Tube City Almanac to reach Cole by phone were not successful. New Life's main phone number was out of service Wednesday and a message left on a cell phone identified as Cole's was not returned.

A native of Irwin County, Georgia, Davis attended Allen University in South Carolina before being signed by the Steelers in 1967.

He started at left offensive guard for the team from 1970 through 1979.

In a statement released Wednesday, Art Rooney II, president of the Pittsburgh Steelers, said the team was "deeply saddened" to hear of Davis' passing.

"A member of our 50th Season All-Time Team, he played 13 seasons and was beloved and respected by his Steelers teammates, coaches and staff," Rooney said. "Our prayers go out to the entire Davis family during this difficult time."

Davis was legally blind and dependent on medication, emergency personnel said Tuesday.

After his playing days, Davis owned a construction company before having financial difficulties, according to a story last year by freelance writer Lee Wolverton in Pittsburgh Magazine.

Davis had reportedly been in poor health since being found unconscious at his home in 1991, the story said.

The circumstances of his 1991 injury are still the subject of debate, the story reported, with some sources claiming that Davis fell down the stairs, but others --- including the late Pittsburgh sportswriter Bruce Keidan --- alleging that he was beaten by members of a motorcycle gang.

In recent years, Davis was suffering from memory loss, and former teammates reported that he no longer recognized them, according to Wolverton. His public appearances had been limited to sports memorabilia shows and a 2009 visit to Steelers training camp in Latrobe.

State records indicate that New Life Personal Care Inc. has been in business since 1995 and the Versailles Avenue facility received its occupancy permit in 2000.

The facility was inspected on April 10 and April 19 and a new license was issued in July, valid until October 2020.

At the time of the April inspections, New Life employed 16 people and had 16 residents, including three with intellectual disabilities and four with mental illnesses, according to state records.

During the unannounced visit on April 10, state inspectors reported several alleged violations, mostly related to paperwork problems.

Inspectors found that a previous violation notice had been posted publicly, in accordance with state regulations, but patients' personal data had not been deleted. In addition, an employee was hired in December but a criminal background check was not completed until April; and the home had no record of having performed a fire drill in 2017.

Inspectors also found that medications for two residents were not properly recorded on their most recent medical evaluations, and that two residents had not had annual checkups in a timely fashion.

The home agreed to correct the violations immediately, according to state reports.

Jason Togyer is the editor of The Tube City Almanac and volunteer executive director of Tube City Community Media Inc. He may be reached at jtogyer@gmail.com.

Originally published September 11, 2019.

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