PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A procession with Rabbi Ronald Symons and Roman Catholic Bishop David Zubik isn’t something you see every day.
But it was the norm at a funeral for Sophie Masloff. Her own history would naturally bring different kinds of people together.
The 11 a.m. funeral was held at Temple Sinai on Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill.
KDKA’s Christine D’Antonio Reports:
“A Jew and a woman in a Catholic town totally dominated by traditional men,” described former campaign manager John Seidman. “She saw the excesses, she saw the misogyny and he kept her mouth shut, and she waited. She kept her opinions to herself until she arrived at a position where her opinions would matter.”
The public was invited to attend. And condolences were also sent from former President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.
Many local officials attended the service, including Mayor Bill Peduto and former Mayors Luke Ravenstahl and Tom Murphy, as well as Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese Bishop David Zubik.
Through all the sadness, there were warm and touching tales of former Mayor Masloff’s unique spin on government.
Many remembered how she came to power when Richard Caliguiri died in 1988.
Harold Hayes reports:
“I was with her the day of the death of our beloved Mayor Caliguiri,” recalled family friend Frederick Frank. “She said to me, ‘I have a lot to do’ but she was not intimidated and she said, ‘I’ll do my best’ and indeed she did.”
Caliguiri’s son, David, who was a little boy when his father died, remembered too.
“Sophie became a grandma for me,” he said. “She was a member of our family. She treated us as such. She couldn’t have been any sweeter and any more supportive of our family at what was a really difficult time.”
Former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl told reporters after the service, “My best memories were intimate moments that I had the chance to spend with her and she welcomed me into her living room numerous times. I cherish those conversations and that’s really what I’ll remember most about her.”
More than one speaker called her Pittsburgh’s grandmother and more than one speaker said that her legacy of honesty will inspire future generations.
In Mayor Peduto’s remembrance of former Mayor Masloff, he said “she stood for the qualities that embody Pittsburgh.”
“You know why Sophie loved being mayor, because she loved Pittsburgh,” Mayor Peduto added.
He honored her as a trailblazer who was giving and all about empowering others.
“She was about giving; she was about understanding that her place was not a position of power where it was about her, but how it was a position of power about how she could empower others,” Mayor Peduto said.
“To the young women, to the leaders of tomorrow – follow your heart, follow your dreams. To Sophie, thank you for blazing that trail,” he added.
Some of Pittsburgh’s biggest heavy hitters when it comes to politics were at the service; they came together to fondly remember the Pittsburgh legend.
“She leaves a lasting legacy for 96 years that she lived in this city, that she served this city and loved this city,” said Fitzgerald.
“She was a good leader for this city,” Murphy added.
It was a loving tribute to Pittsburgh’s first and only female mayor, elected at the age of 70 after the passing of Richard Caliguri.
“We knew it in January when they elected her council because Dick’s health… we knew he was not going to fulfill his full term,” said Joe King, the former Pittsburgh Firefighters president. “It was a lot of lobbying when they chose Sophie to be president of council, and I said to my team, ‘There’s gonna be your next mayor right there.’”
“Sophie had such a direct approach with the citizens. She loved working with them; she was one of them,” said Jim Turner, who worked during the Masloff administration.
“She had that grandmother image, but she could be tough as nails when she had to be in the right way,” Dan Onorato, former Allegheny County executive, added.
“I know going back years when I was in charge of crime prevention, she was very active in different aspects of community policing,” said Acting Pittsburgh Police Chief Regina McDonald.
Masloff leaves behind that legendary voice, with the political gusto, and trailblazing attitude to back it up.
“Sophie was a visionary and that’s how she’ll be remembered,” said Pittsburgh City Councilman Corey O’Connor.
“When you think of somebody like this who lived to a grand old age, who made all of these wonderful contributions, who did so in a non-self-aggrandizing fashion, never one to seek publicity, never one to attack someone unfairly, but never one to back away either,” said Dr. Cyril Wecht, the former Allegheny County Medical Examiner.
Temple Sinai was expecting about 600 people to attend the service.
According to a statement from a family spokesman, Masloff died at the Center for Compassionate Care in Mt. Lebanon at 8:55 a.m. Sunday. She was 96.
“Mayor Masloff is survived by her daughter Sue (Nicholas) Busia, her granddaughter Jennifer Busia, her grandson Michael (Krystan) Busia, her great-granddaughter Scarlett Busia and her niece Elayne (Harold) Harris,” the statement said.
Masloff was sworn in as the city’s 56th mayor on May 6, 1988, following the death of Mayor Richard S. Caliguiri.
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