Teddy Bear Hospital of Pittsburgh, owner & founder
4304 Butler St., Lawrenceville
Job: Teddy Bear Surgeon
How long does the average operation take? Well, there
is no average job. They’re all made from different stuff, so they
all deteriorate at different rates. This teddy bear is 16 years old,
but he’s been loved like a 40-year-old bear. Some take two hours.
This guy looks like [he took] around four hours. It used to be the
job of mom to do this.
How did you find yourself in this line of work? Years
ago, my mother was taking me to linen shows and quilt shows,
auctions, flea markets. She wanted to make me aware that you
don’t necessarily have to buy new to appreciate things. I have
always been a recycling kind of girl.
Which was the most challenging case you have dealt
with? Burn victims are the most difficult. When I look at them, I
feel their burn. This guy came in [in fall 2013]; the eyes were all
melted in the front. I didn’t even know where to start. It was just
horrific — but eight hours later, he looked new, soft, furry. I put a
new coat of fur on him and a new ribbon.
How much of the back story do you know about that
particular bear? It [came from] a real-estate agent whose
client had a house fire. They lost everything. This one bear is all
that was salvaged, and [the client] just broke down when she
saw it. The real-estate agent decided to [pay] for the restoration.
What is the largest piece you have fixed? A life-size
[stuffed] zebra — the mascot of WVIZ, the PBS station in
What is the most common teddy bear injury? Time.
Someone who just got married and is about to have their first
child — they want to give their teddy bear from when they were
a kid to their newborn, and they want to have it restored so their
little baby will have their teddy bear. These bears have spent 15,
20 years in a box in the garage, so they have deteriorated.
How important to you is the whole medical motif?
You sign your emails “Dr. Jill DeBroff.” The person who
did this before me was mom or grandmom, and they are trusted.
Doctors are also trusted. I am restoring the things you spent your
childhood with; for me that’s important enough to put that term
on emails or letters. — Nick Keppler
How’s Work? is a semi-regular series offering interviews
with ’Burghers who hold unusual jobs.
BEST DOCTORS — Teddy Bear Edition
pittsburghmagazine.com | JAN 2014 | 25 TEDDY BEAR PHOTO BY RENEE ROSENSTEEL
Late-night TV host Jimmy Fallon appreciates our local cuisine. During a mid-November visit to the
Steel City, he grabbed a sandwich from the Strip District Primanti Bros. location.
What catches your eye? Architecture or a mural? A street performance or a literary reading? With the introduction of Pittsburgh Art Places
[ pittsburghartplaces.org] from the Office of Public Art, you can find an online listing of everything arts-related in a 13-county area: exhibits, venues,
concerts, readings, independent works and more. “We realized that there wasn’t one online interactive resource where people could explore a diverse
list of art places in Pittsburgh,” says Renee Piechocki, director of the Office of Public Art. The site also has a place for everyday people to create tours
of their favorite local artworks. These profiles can be public or private, and they are perfect for curating visits for out-of-town guests. “People are
increasingly recognizing Pittsburgh as an arts city,” says Piechocki. “Museums, bookstores, open mics — they’re all art places.” — Amy Whipple