View Full Version : Mayor O'Connor dies at 61

07-11-2006, 09:33 AM
Mayor O'Connor dies at 61
First posted: 9:27 p.m.
Friday, September 01, 2006

By Rich Lord, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pittsburgh Mayor Bob O'Connor died at 8:55 p.m. tonight at UPMC Shadyside Hospital, where he was being treated for brain cancer.

City Council President Luke Ravenstahl was sworn in as mayor at 10:30 p.m., said Dick Skrinjar, the mayor's communications director.

Mr. O'Connor's family was at his side when he passed away, Mr. Skrinjar said.

Robert E. O'Connor Jr., 61, was called "Bob" by everyone until Jan. 3, 2006, when he became "Mayor," a title he sought for 12 years but held for only eight months. His election came on his third attempt to win the job.

He hit the ground running with an agenda aimed at cleaning up the city he loved, putting heat under long-dormant Downtown development plans and reducing the number of blighted buildings marring neighborhoods.

His "redd up" campaign, named after the local colloquialism for tidying up, was organized to coincide with Major League Baseball's All-Star Game on July 11.

But instead of leading the festivities, Mr. O'Connor that day underwent his first chemotherapy treatment for primary central nervous system T-cell lymphoma, a very rare variant of an unusual cancer of the brain and spinal cord.

The mayor initially was hospitalized on July 6 for what were described as flu-like symptoms. He went home for two days but, after tests uncovered the cancer, he returned to Shadyside .

A month later, just before undergoing emergency surgery to drain fluid from his brain, Mr. O'Connor turned over the official day-to-day reins of city government by appointing Yarone Zober, who had been policy director, as deputy mayor.

A child of Greenfield, Mr. O'Connor was born Dec. 9, 1944, to Bob Sr. and Mary Anne Dever O'Connor.

He attended St. Philomena's grade school, Central Catholic High School, briefly, and graduated in 1962 from Taylor Allderdice High.

Then he went to work, first at Jones & Laughlin's steel mills.

In 1964, he and Judy Klemp, a Squirrel Hill native and fellow Allderdice graduate, eloped to West Virginia.

From 1972 on, they lived in the Squirrel Hill home in which she grew up. They raised three children, Heidy Garth , now of Swissvale and a marketing research manager; Terrence O'Connor, a law school graduate who went on to become a Catholic priest at St. Alphonsus Parish in Pine; and Corey O'Connor, varsity golf coach at Central Catholic High School.

After five years in the mills, Mr. O'Connor took a pay cut - not his last - to join his wife's uncles in a restaurant business. The company was later sold to Beaver County businessman Lou Pappan.

Mr. Pappan, the owner at various times of many Pappans, Roy Rogers and Wendy's restaurants, took a shine to the young, friendly-but-serious Mr. O'Connor. Recognizing management material, he put his young protege through leadership training, and eventually made him an executive vice president in charge of 1,000 employees in 36 locations.

Eventually Mr. O'Connor decided to run for office. He was 45 and the rules for electing City Council members had just been changed so members were elected by district, rather than citywide.

Mr. O'Connor beat three better-known Democrats, thanks in part to an enthusiastic, hyper-loyal troupe of volunteers and gigantic popularity in Greenfield and Hazelwood.

After the election, he did something that, along with his always-perfect silver hair and his cookie cruise fund-raisers, would become a trademark: He stood on a busy street corner with a sign that said, simply, "Thanks."

Mr. O'Connor's early City Council years set the tone for his career. He was all about beat cops, clean streets, fixed playgrounds, and raw ambition.

In January 1994, with two years on council under his belt, he made a bid for that body's presidency. Just-elected Mayor Tom Murphy, though, exerted his influence and placed Jim Ferlo, now a state senator, in the presidency.

In 1997, he challenged Mr. Murphy in the Democratic mayoral primary. He campaigned not so much on a platform as on a series of criticisms of the incumbent. He opposed public financing of new stadiums for the Pirates and Steelers, which Mr. Murphy supported. He said Mr. Murphy was shortsighted in selling the city water system, trading a steady source of revenue for short-term cash. He predicted financial implosion.

He was badly outspent and undermanned. Nonetheless, he pulled in 42 percent of the vote, which was 12 points percentage points behind Mr. Murphy in a three-candidate field.

In 1998, Mr. O'Connor won the council presidency on the second ballot, in part through brilliant parliamentary moves by Mr. Ferlo. That would mark the beginning of an odd political pairing - two Democrats, one conservative and the other liberal, one rooted in business and the other in activism, united by mutual respect and deep suspicion of Mr. Murphy.

Mr. O'Connor presided over council for four years, during which he and Mr. Ferlo helped defeat Mr. Murphy's plan to raze and rebuild Downtown's retail core, and rewrote the city's property tax system so land and buildings now are taxed at the same rate.

That led into a tough 2001 mayor's race that some of Mr. O'Connor's backers still maintain was stolen. In its closing weeks, Mr. Murphy agreed to the outlines of a generous contract with the city's firefighters, who promptly endorsed him. Mr. Murphy won by 699 votes - fewer than the number of city firefighters at the time - and Mr. O'Connor conceded only after weeks of scouring the tally for errors.

Mr. O'Connor considered a 2002 run for lieutenant governor, but instead left city government in 2003 for an appointed post, running Gov. Ed Rendell's southwestern Pennsylvania office.

In 2005, he ran for mayor again. He beat city Councilman William Peduto and county Prothonotary Michael Lamb in the primary, and he easily beat Republican Joe Weinroth in the general election.

On Jan. 3, 2006, he was sworn in as mayor in front of the City-County Building.

Then, on the 185th day of his administration and five days before the All-Star Game, he was admitted to UPMC Shadyside for mounting fatigue, nausea, and head and neck pain. He was diagnosed first with a duodenal ulcer, and later with the extremely rare T-cell type of the uncommon primary central nervous system lymphoma.


07-11-2006, 09:51 AM
That is really so sad. He has done so much for the city. He will be back at it though, let;s all think positive thoughts for him!

07-11-2006, 10:03 AM
Yeah, he's a good guy. Met him at an Italian club along with Franco Harris. It was hosted by Al and Andy Vento (Franco's Italian Army).

He's a stand up guy. He will be in my thoughts and prayers.

07-11-2006, 04:45 PM
from what I've heard, it sounds like he's got a really got shot at overcoming this. I'll be keeping him in my prayers

09-01-2006, 05:59 AM
It's not looking good for our mayor. He is now off life support.....

Mayor's condition deteriorates, now 'hour by hour'
Friday, September 01, 2006

By Rich Lord, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

While Mayor Bob O'Connor's battle with brain cancer continued at UPMC Shadyside, city government officials late last night were braced for the worst.

City Council President Luke Ravenstahl, who would succeed Mr. O'Connor as mayor, remained in the City-County Building awaiting reports from the hospital. Throughout the night, city officials came and went.

City staff members were on call, in case word came that a late-night swearing in ceremony would be necessary.

About 10:30 last night, mayoral spokesman Dick Skrinjar told reporters at the City-County Building that Mr. O'Connor's condition was deteriorating.

"The mayor has gone from day-to-day to hour-by-hour," Mr. Skrinjar said. He added that Mr. O'Connor was surrounded by family members and friends and that he was not on any life support.


09-01-2006, 06:03 AM
A tragedy...he is a fine man.....

09-01-2006, 04:16 PM
Praying for the full recovery of Bob O'Connor.

09-01-2006, 09:01 PM
Mayor O'Connor passed away tonight at 8:55 PM at the age of 61. I am just heartbroken.

Rest in peace, Mayor O'Connor and thank you for being the outstanding person and Mayor you were. You'll always remain in our hearts.

Deepest condolences to Judy and the children.

09-01-2006, 09:08 PM

Rest In Peace Bobby O'Connor

Sad news especially in the Greenfield area. Were gonna miss him terribly. You made us so proud Bobby.

09-01-2006, 09:29 PM
Today is indeed a solom day for the City of Pittsburgh. Rest in Peace Bob O' Connor. You made Pittsburgh even greater when you were mayor. We will miss you.

09-01-2006, 09:30 PM
RIP to a great fellow Pittsburgher. My thoughts and prayers go out the O'Connor family. God Bless.

09-01-2006, 09:30 PM
Wow. Diagnosed to dead in less than 2 months. May he rest in peace.

09-01-2006, 09:35 PM
RIP. :(

09-01-2006, 09:37 PM
RIP Mayor O'Connor ;(

09-01-2006, 09:49 PM
Our "stand-in" mayor is only 26 years old. Wow.

09-01-2006, 09:50 PM
Who is the stand in mayor 83?

09-01-2006, 09:54 PM
Who is the stand in mayor 83?

Luke Ravenstahl

09-01-2006, 10:26 PM
Luke Ravenstahl

He's the mayor till the next elections if I understand how it works here. That means for about 3 more years.

09-01-2006, 10:39 PM
Rest in peace, Mayor O'Connor.

09-01-2006, 10:42 PM
God bless his family

09-01-2006, 10:44 PM
He's the mayor till the next elections if I understand how it works here. That means for about 3 more years.

If I recall correctly, because of the circumstances, he will only hold office for one year and then they will hold another election.

09-02-2006, 03:08 PM
Here is the City Charter with regard to the vacancy in the Office of Mayor. Very unclear, I think.


09-03-2006, 10:41 AM
Here are the arrangements for Bob O'Connor's viewing, funeral and Mass on Thursday. I'm hoping to get down there tomorrow sometime.


Viewing Of Mayor Beginning At Noon

(KDKA) PITTSBURGH Mayor Bob O'Connor?s body will lie in state at the City County Building beginning today.

The public can begin viewing the mayor?s body at noon today. Viewing will continue non-stop from noon today through Monday at 10 p.m.

Visitation will shift to the John A. Freyvogel Sons Funeral Home at Centre Avenue and Devonshire Street, Pittsburgh on Tuesday and Wednesday. Visitation at the funeral home will be from noon to 8 p.m. on both days.

The funeral mass will be Thursday at 11 a.m. at St. Paul Cathedral in the city's Oakland section.

Donald W. Wuerl, former bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, will officiate. Wuerl is now the Archbishop of Washington, D.C.

O'Connor's family asks that instead of flowers, memorial contributions be sent to the Caring Foundation, S.I.D.S. Alliance or the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

09-07-2006, 11:55 AM
My condolences to the city of Pittsburgh and the O'Connor family...sounds as though he was one of the good ones...


09-07-2006, 02:32 PM
His son is also to assist the Bishop Wuerl (Fr. Terry, for those of you who don't know).