The loss of an industry great
Joseph Pirschl, co-founder of the North Huntingdon-based Serro Travel Trailer Co., loved working with anyone who appreciated a good joke and a firm handshake.
In fact, he loved that part of his job so much that he would deliver his company's iconic teardrop-shaped campers to dealers across the country himself, even as he transitioned into retirement.
“He was a people person,” said his son, Gary Pirschl. “He loved the relationships with people.”
Pirschl, 89, of Hempfield died Monday at home of complications of old age, his family said.
The company started making the compact camping trailers with a tiny kitchen and sleeping space for two adults and later expanded to produce a variety of larger models.
Pirschl was instrumental in founding Scottyland Camping Resort in Rockwood, Somerset County, where campers have gathered since 1963.
Pirschl's passion for working with people and building communities started long before he got into the trailer business. He grew up in McKees Rocks, where his family ran a grocery store and helped support families in need during the Great Depression, said his daughter, Anne Degre.
Pirschl graduated from high school early, at 17, to join the Navy. He served for two and a half years during World War II.
He later met his wife of 63 years, Florence Serro Pirschl, and helped to launch the Serro Scotty brand with his father-in-law, John Serro.
“His hobby truly was work and his family,” Degre said. She recalls crisscrossing the country with her parents and siblings on trips that often included stops at Serro dealerships.
Degre eventually joined the family business in 1990, and she remembers how excited her father was to have her on board.
“My dad was semi-retired at that point,” she said. “And he very willingly gave up his office to me.”
Since its founding, the Serro Scotty name and the company's canine mascot, the Scottish terrier, quickly became synonymous with more than just the iconic trailers. To this day, the little black dog represents a community of campers who are passionate about the outdoors and spending time with family. The company strove to keep prices low so the average family could experience camping.
An international community of Serro Scotty fans keeps the tradition alive online, swapping tips for restoring vintage vehicles and planning in-person meet-ups and camping trips.
After a fire destroyed the Serro Scotty factory in North Huntingdon in 1997, the company stopped producing camping trailers. It was revived under the name Mobile Concepts by Scotty, which produced a different line of products.
In July, the Serro Scotty name was acquired by Little Guy Worldwide, an Ohio-based distributor of high-end campers and trailers. The company plans to manufacture a new generation of Serro Scotty trailers in Somerset County to maintain a local legacy, said Chris Baum, chief brand officer.
In addition to his wife, Pirschl is survived by three children, Gary J. Pirschl, Susan Skundrich and Anne Degre; and nine grandchildren.