Nicholas Anthony Travaglini, 83, of Chester Springs, a pilot and later a search-firm executive, died Friday, Dec. 7, at Paoli Hospital after a heart attack.

The son of a barber, he was born in the front bedroom of his parents' house on Lancaster Avenue in Bryn Mawr.

He graduated from Lower Merion High School in 1947; from Villanova University in 1951 with a bachelor of arts degree; and in the 1960s from New York University with a master's degree in business administration.

Mr. Travaglini was an Air Force pilot in South Korea from 1952 to 1957. He flew C-119s, retiring from the reserve in 1989 with the rank of major.

In the 1960s, Mr. Travaglini worked in sales for American Airlines in Manhattan, then for Sylvania Electric in New York and Chicago.

He switched to executive recruitment, joining Spencer Stuart and then Lybrand, Ross Bros. & Montgomery before founding his own executive-search firm, Travaglini Associates, in 1972.

The business was in Chester Springs. Its aim was to match executives with aeronautical and military supply companies. He retired in the late 1990s.

Mr. Travaglini moved his family into a converted 19th-century barn in Chester Springs in 1972. He did much of the restoration work, said his son, Timothy.

Mr. Travaglini loved traveling, good food, and time spent with family. He read five newspapers daily.

"Nick was the living embodiment of a self-reliant, freethinking, fully independent individual. He was as adept at carpentry, plumbing, and electrical work as he was at political discourse, finance, and engagement with the world," his son said.

Surviving, in addition to his son, is the former Isabelle Rogers, his wife of 43 years, and a daughter, Mary. A sister died in 2006.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, at St. Thomas More Church, 2101 Pottstown Pike, Pottstown. Interment is private.

Contributions be made to the French and Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust, 511 Kimberton Rd., Phoenixville, Pa., 19460.

Contact Bonnie L. Cook at 215-854-2611 or bcook@phillynews.com.