Remembering Prominent Pittsburghers Who Passed Away in 2020
We’ve said goodbye to many influential Pittsburghers this year. Remember those who have passed away and their impact on the region—and the world—in this compilation of our Last Chapter department.
Editor’s note: After we published this compilation, a reader astutely asked, “Why would Paul O’Neill, 72nd Secretary of the Treasury, CEO of Alcoa for 13 years, responsible for North Shore Development, River Shore Development and significant hospital improvements, gave Alcoa’s 31-story high rise building to the City of Pittsburgh, etc. not be on your list?” Very good question. The answer is that I wrote a separate column after Paul’s passing. To read it, click here.
Harvey C. Nathanson, 83: Nathanson was chief scientist for Westinghouse Research Labs, pioneering numerous technologies including micro-electro mechanical (MEMS) devices. An electrical engineer, he had more than 50 patents and was honored with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Millennium Medal.
Glenn Cannon, 72: Cannon was a dedicated and successful public servant, leading emergency medicine, police and emergency management efforts in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County and statewide over a 40-year career. He was Pittsburgh’s public safety director under two mayors and led both the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, among other agencies. Cannon was a tough and effective leader, dealing with a variety of constituents, streamlining county government and reorganizing its 911 system.
Mariss Jansons, 76: Jansons, one of the world’s great conductors, led orchestras all over the world including the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra from 1997–2004. He was known for his passionate intensity and focus on the music’s inherent emotion. Jansons was born in hiding in Nazi-occupied Latvia, his early musical instruction coming from his father, also a conductor. He had an infectious personality—he did stints as a stand-up comedian—and was known for his work ethic and dedication. During one Pittsburgh performance, his defibrillator went off twice; despite being in tremendous pain, he finished the concert.
Susan H. Hartford, 65: Hartford was the creator of numerous musical jingles, writing and engineering music and sound effects that have appeared in movies, commercials and museums across the country. The Sewickley native won two Clio Awards and composed original songs for the Pittsburgh film, “The Bread, My Sweet.”
Bruce Wolf, 71: Wolf was a lawyer in the natural gas industry and a civic-minded art collector who led efforts to expand the Westmoreland Museum of American Art. A 30-year veteran of the natural gas industry, he was general counsel for Atlas Energy, which Chevron purchased for $2.6 billion in 2012. He was an avid collector of art and rare objects, including a Honus Wagner baseball card, and he enjoyed sleuthing for rare objects he found.
Henry H. Armstrong, 88: Armstrong founded one of Pittsburgh’s early independent financial advising firms, Henry Armstrong Associates, now run by his son. When he opened in 1973, he brought a new, ethical approach to the industry, working in clients’ interests rather than pushing high-commission products on them, which had been the norm. He was an avid botanist and outdoorsman, who loved being in nature, whether gardening, admiring trees or fishing the world’s greatest streams.
Dr. Ralph Siewers, 84: Dr. Siewers was a pioneering pediatric heart surgeon who spent his career at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Originally intending to be a Moravian missionary, he instead became an expert at treating children born with congenital heart problems, saving and improving the lives of countless children with a personal touch.
Marvin Goodfriend, 69: Goodfriend, an economics professor at Carnegie Mellon University since 2005, was nominated to the Federal Reserve Board in 2017. A critic of Fed actions after the financial crisis of 2008, Goodfriend’s nomination to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors was not confirmed, and the spot remains open.
Joe Wymard, 84: Though he started his career as a corporate lawyer, Wymard found his calling in family law and became known for his feminist perspective and dogged persistence in divorce cases representing women. He showed the same passion for the arts, in particular the Pittsburgh Symphony, hosting an annual fundraiser at his Florida home just days before he died from a brain tumor, and the Pittsburgh Public Theater—he was board chair when it moved to the O’Reilly in 1992 and was among those who chose the winning design by Michael Graves for the new theater.
Yves Carreau, 60: Beginning with Sonoma Grille in 2004, Carreau was pivotal in the creation of a Downtown restaurant scene where none had existed. A native of Lyons, France, he brought the concept of a California wine bar to Penn Ave. and three years later, opened Seviche across the street. NOLA on the Square, a New Orleans-inspired restaurant, and Perle, a champagne bar, soon followed. The last in his Big Y Restaurant Group was Poros, an upscale Greek establishment. As his restaurants grew, so did the number of residents and office occupancy Downtown, confirming his vision of city life being transformed in part by the variety of fine dining options. He sold his restaurants in 2018 and spent the last year of his life traveling and spending time with his family after being diagnosed with renal cancer.
Ron Sepic, 75: In 1963 the Parade All-American high school basketball team made an appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Sepic, from Uniontown High School, was introduced along with with Lew Alcindor, later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He was recognized as one of the top five players in the country and one of the best two-sport athletes in the history of WPIAL sports. He played basketball at Ohio State and was selected in both the NFL and NBA drafts. Sepic, who went to dental school instead and became an orthodontist, was inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame last October.
Robert Leberman, 82: A Meadville native, Leberman became interested in birds as a child and by 1958 had begun to band birds on his own. Three years later he moved to Powdermill Nature Reserve in Ligonier Valley and his childhood hobby became his lifelong profession when he established the bird banding program. He became a senior research scientist at Carnegie Museum of Natural History and one of the nation’s most adept songbird banders. He could identify as well as determine the age and gender of countless birds and in 1976 published a detailed book on the region’s birds.
Rosemarie Cibik, 96: The valedictorian of her McKeesport High School Class, Cibik earned a debate scholarship to Pitt, where she graduated magna cum laude with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education. At age 26, she became the youngest public high school principal in the state. She went on to become the first female school superintendent in Allegheny County, for the Baldwin-Whitehall School District, and was recognized by the National School Boards Association as one of the top 100 school executives in North America. In 1988, she became the first layperson to serve as superintendent of schools in the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. She also served as chairman of the Dept. of Education at Point Park University.
Bob Goldstein, 72: He was a Squirrel Hill CPA who grew up in Oakland, the son of Russian Immigrants. His father and uncles owned Goldstein’s Bar & Grill, a point of intersection for all kinds of Pittsburgh people. A sturdy athletic specimen, Bob was a Pitt fan, through and through, and he loved weaving tales about the colorful characters of Pittsburgh history and the East End. Even at tax time, every client meeting ended with three or four jokes, typically Jewish-based, and then a big hug, with the CPA telling his client, “I love you.”
Judge John Corbett, 73: Corbett lost the use of his body from the chest down after a diving accident when he was 15. Despite that, he became a distinguished jurist and lawyer, once arguing a case before the Supreme Court. After Pitt Law School, he and two classmates with disabilities formed the Downtown firm of Karns, Corbett and Kissane. Through the 1970s and 1980s, Corbett worked at the Allegheny County Public Defender’s office, including as chief of its appellate division. In 1989, he was appointed administrative law judge with the PUC, a post he held for 23 years. He frequently visited patients at the Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh, and helped those who’d experienced similar traumas.
E. Maxine Bruhns, 96: The tiny but forceful Bruhns retired in January after 54 years directing Pitt’s famed Nationality Rooms. She guarded their authenticity, researching and recording the narrations describing each room. Bruhns also ran Pitt’s Intercultural Exchange Programs and traveled to 83 countries. She was conversant in nine languages. The early rooms concentrated on European countries and the identities those immigrants brought, but Bruhns saw the need to represent diverse cultures and added rooms from around the world. Today the 31 rooms that are her legacy have become a major Pittsburgh tourist attraction.
William Russell Robinson, 78: The longtime representative of the Hill District and Pittsburgh’s eastern neighborhoods in the state House, City Council and County Council spent his career fighting racial injustice and for his community. The former Schenley High track star earned a masters in political science at Duquesne and was known for a trademark red carnation in his lapel and his outgoing personality. He was most proud of ensuring that minority contractors were given equal opportunities in the construction of Heinz Field, PNC Park and other large projects.
David Lewis, 98: Architect, painter, sculptor, writer, critic, teacher and urban design pioneer, the South African native came to Carnegie Mellon in 1963, starting one of the first graduate urban design programs. Students worked with elected officials, agency representatives and citizens on community design. Charismatic, warm-hearted and compassionate, Lewis was a founder of Urban Design Associates, a ground-breaking architecture firm that designed buildings to solve social problems. He wrote books on art, architecture and urban design, held numerous one-person art exhibitions and chaired the 1988 Remaking Cities Conference with HRH Prince Charles as the keynote speaker.
Dr. Carl Fuhrman, 67: Dr. Fuhrman was chief of thoracic radiology at UPMC and a medical school professor for 27 years. As the director of Pitt’s undergraduate medical education, he was a nine-time winner of the Golden Apple award, given by students to the top medical school professor. He was also recognized 15 times with the Ronald J. Hoy Excellence in Teaching Award in radiology. The prize, given by residents, was renamed in Dr. Fuhrman’s honor. He loved to travel and drive his 1971 Corvette. A bachelor, he volunteered to work holidays so his colleagues could be with their families. He died of a heart attack while working.
Joseph Calihan, 82: A Wharton graduate, Calihan worked for Mellon Bank and became CEO of Bradford Schools before establishing the successful investment firm, Bradford Capital Partners, in 1987. He served on the boards of the Extra Mile Education Foundation, the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh, the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, Children’s Hospital, the Pittsburgh Symphony, and the Pittsburgh Foundation. In 2014 he started the Mansmann Foundation to help entrepreneurs in underserved local markets.
G. Gray Garland Jr., 96: With an MBA from Harvard and a law degree from Duquesne, Garland would have excelled at an ordinary life. But his was filled with adventure, heroics and several escapes from death. The first was during World War II, when the naval lieutenant’s boat was caught in Typhoon Louise and he saved his shipmates by swimming to a neighboring boat and attaching a rope. In 1980 Garland was invited to visit Liberia by its president, William Tolbert, who was overthrown and executed during the visit. Garland had to sneak out of the country in the middle of the night. A founding partner of McCann, Garland, Ridall and Burke law firm, he also founded Unionvale Coal Company in Ligonier and later bought the Youngstown Steel Tank company. He chaired several other companies, including the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad. A voracious reader, he wrote three spy novels inspired by his adventures.
Richard P. Mellon, 81: The oldest son of the late Richard King Mellon, for 28 years he chaired the R.K. Mellon Foundation, the quiet giant of Pittsburgh philanthropy. During his tenure, the foundation provided decisive support for countless initiatives that remade this region. Mellon is also likely the most important private citizen in U.S. history in land conservation, overseeing the preservation of more than four million acres in all 50 states. He was known as a thoughtful, generous person and an avid reader who loved the outdoors.
Jack Mascaro, 75: A civil engineer by training, Mascaro realized he didn’t want to spend his life behind a desk. He went to work for a construction company for 15 years, took out a second mortgage on his home and started Mascaro Construction on his ping- pong table. More than 32 years later his three sons run the company, which built or renovated Heinz Field, The Children’s Museum, Heinz Hall, the UPMC Sports Performance Complex and Pitt’s Biomedical Science Tower 3. He was extremely generous to many causes but especially to Pitt, his alma mater. He received the Chancellor’s Medallion, was a Legacy Laureate and in 2009 completed the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation at Pitt. He also received numerous industry awards including National Entrepreneur of the Year and the National Business Ethics Award.
Dr. Siamak Adibi, 88: At 17, he emigrated from Iran to the United States, raising money to charter a plane with friends for the trip. When a financial crisis shuttered the banks, the Shah of Iran intervened so they could pay the pilot. Dr. Adibi went on to get an education—at Johns Hopkins, Thomas Jefferson Medical School, MIT and Harvard. In 1966 he moved to Pittsburgh to become chief of gastroenterology and clinical nutrition at Montefiore Hospital and to join Pitt’s School of Medicine faculty. He wrote hundreds of medical journal articles and two books, a memoir and a book about Iranian-American relations. Peace was his passion, along with sailing his boat “Eroica,” named after Beethoven’s composition.
William “Willie” Baker, 79: A grocer in Homewood-Brushton, Baker gave away refurbished bicycles each Christmas that he had spent the year collecting and fixing. Known for his generosity and warm heart, he ran the neighborhood’s longest operating black-owned business. For 52 years, Baker’s Dairy Store was a hub, where he gave free sandwiches to hungry children, free advice to scofflaws, hosted community appreciation parties and, if he caught a kid stealing, wrote his name on the wall until the child returned with his mother. Raised in Alabama, he was severely injured in a car accident at 11 but went on to be a high school linebacker. After moving to Pittsburgh, he enrolled in business courses at CCAC and delivered milk for Country Bell until he opened his first store in 1968.
Johnny Majors, 85: He was introduced with the prophetic slogan “A Major Change in Pitt Football,” and led Panthers to their last national championship in 1976. He was born in Lynchburg, Tenn., the son of a coach and the oldest of five brothers, all of whom played football. The former tailback starred at Tennessee from 1953–56 and finished second to Notre Dame’s Paul Hornung in the 1956 Heisman Trophy balloting. When he arrived at Pitt the football program was on the verge of extinction, with little fan or financial support. After his two stints at Pitt—1973–76 and 1993–95—he was inducted into Pitt’s Hall of Fame.
Robert Full, 65: The former Allegheny County Emergency Services chief and fire marshal and the former assistant director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, Full created the county’s centralized 911 system—reducing 30 dispatch centers to 13. His first love was firefighting—he was a lifelong volunteer in Forest Hills. But he became a paramedic and was remembered for climbing 126 feet to help an ironworker whose leg was pinned by a girder on the old Brady Street Bridge. Full held the man while a doctor amputated the leg, the only way to save the worker.
Tom Love, 65: Love helped make Ohiopyle an international destination for whitewater rafting, creating the Shredder, the first frameless, inflatable “cataraft”—a combination of catamaran and raft. He traveled throughout North America riding rapids, promoting the Shredder and making friends with his sense of humor. He initially tested the Shredder illegally by going over the legendary Ohiopyle Falls, a drop of 20 feet. When it worked, his company, Airtight Inflatables, was born, along with a worldwide fan club.
Vernell Lillie, 89: When Kuntu Repertory Theatre closed in 2013, Sala Udin called its founder and artistic director “the queen mother of black theater in this city.” A professor emeritus in Africana Studies at Pitt, Lillie founded Kuntu Rep in 1974 as a way of exploring black life from a sociopolitical-historical perspective. It was also a showcase for her colleague, playwright Rob Penny, who brought August Wilson into the fold. In 1975, Lillie directed “Homecoming,” Wilson’s fist play to be produced by a resident company. Lillie nurtured the careers of many during the course of 40 years and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Black Theatre Festival.
Eric Springer, 91: A man of erudition, letters and the law, Springer was a founding partner of the Pittsburgh law firm Horty, Springer and Mattern. He was an avid writer who was involved in the arts, civic progress and social justice. He was the first black president of the Allegheny County Bar Association and former chair of the Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations, and he served on numerous local boards. A deep thinker with a probative mind and wide breadth of experience and knowledge, he was equally quick with a witty comment and a kind word.
Linda Dickerson, 59: Spending most of her life in a wheelchair didn’t stop her from making extraordinary contributions to Pittsburgh. Diagnosed as a child with a genetic neurosmuscular disease, the diminutive Dickerson became a determined advocate for people with disabilities. She also published Executive Report Magazine and ran the consulting firm Dickerson & Mangus, Ink., which raised money and supported numerous nonprofits. She sat on dozens of boards, was the first chair of the Allegheny Regional Asset District, ran for Allegheny County commissioner in 1995 and served as CEO of the National Aviary for two years. Her lobbying helped the ADA to become federal law in 1990.
Jean Fink, 75: At 22, after her fourth child was born, the high school dropout got her GED. She went on to spend more than three decades on the Pittsburgh Public School Board, including serving as president. The job was unpaid, but the advocate for neighborhood schools said she did it for her love of children. A feisty woman who was known to get into shouting matches and once threatened to pour water on a fellow board member’s head, she was also a mother of six, renowned for her cooking and sewing abilities.
Harold Betters, 92: “Mr. Trombone” played with Al Hirt, Ray Charles and Louis Armstrong, who described his sound as “rich and honest.” His eponymous quartet toured the country, but Betters preferred Pittsburgh and made his home at the famed Encore nightclub in Shadyside, playing five nights a week and a Saturday matinee for 17 years. Musicians including Max Roach, Dizzy Gillespie, Stanley Turrentine, Roy Eldridge and Sonny Rollins sat in with him when they were in town. A native of Connellsville, where his parents owned a jazz club, he was one of seven children and formed a combo with his brother Jerry.
Jerry Cozewith, 67: As head of the Southwestern Pa. American Red Cross, he was instrumental in the recovery effort after Flight 93 crashed at Stonycreek, organizing the on-site care of all the firefighters, law enforcement officials and numerous volunteers. He led the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, an international nonprofit, started Entrepreneuring Youth, or E-Youth, to help at-risk young people, and later was director of development for Sarah Heinz House. Known for his quick wit, warm heart and sense of humor, Cozewith had a beautiful tenor voice he showcased at family weddings.
Estella Smith, 80: She married her high school sweetheart at 16, went on to get a Ph.D. in education and later became the first black woman to head a Pennsylvania bank. As a student at Indiana University in Bloomington, she took a job teaching third grade and counted Michael Jackson among her pupils. After teaching education at the University of Pittsburgh, she enrolled in an Equibank training program, rising through the ranks to become president of Heritage National Bank. She left banking to become manager of investor and community relations for Duquesne Light and general manager of DQE public affairs.
Jack Piatt Sr., 92: In 2005 when no one wanted to invest in Downtown Pittsburgh, Piatt did, buying the former Lazarus-Macy’s building and spending $50 million to convert it to the commercial and residential Piatt Place. He later bought the State Office Building, G.C. Murphy and Saks Fifth Avenue, sparking a renaissance and giving new luster to the Golden Triangle. The Washington, Pa. native was CEO of Millcraft Industries, which he founded in 1957 as a machine shop. It grew to include interests in mining, steel, hospitality and real estate development, most notably in his first major project, Southpointe.