Former Pittsburgh Mayor Sophie Masloff dies at 96

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PITTSBURGH —

Former Pittsburgh Mayor Sophie Masloff died Sunday morning at the age of 96.

A family spokesman confirmed Masloff, who served as the 56th mayor of Pittsburgh, died shortly before 9 a.m. at the Center for Compassionate Care in Mount Lebanon.

All flags at city facilities were ordered to fly at half-staff Sunday in honor of Masloff’s life.

Born on Dec. 23, 1917, in the Hill District, Masloff grew up to become one of the most well-liked mayors in Pittsburgh’s history.

She attended Fifth Avenue High School and graduated in 1935 before working as a secretary in several county government jobs.

Within three years, Masloff became the minute clerk in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, supervising jury selections. She held the position for 38 years.

Masloff won a seat on the Pittsburgh City Council in a special election in 1976. She earned re-election in 1977, 1981 and 1985.

In May 1988, Masloff, the daughter of Romanian-Jewish immigrants, became the city’s first female and first Jewish mayor after the passing of former Mayor Richard Caliguiri.

Masloff ran for, and was elected to, her first full four-year term as mayor in 1989.

While in office, Masloff carried on work started under the Caliguiri administration, supporting Pittsburgh’s transformation from a steel-making center to a corporate and service-oriented region.

Masloff stepped down as mayor after making the decision not to run for a second term in 1993.

In the years following, Masloff served as a trustee of Allegheny County Community College, as a member of the Stadium Authority and as a board member of the Martin Luther King Jr. Reading Center of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, among other civic organizations.

Physician Lawrence N. Adler said Masloff died Sunday of natural causes.

“Publicly, we lost an uncommon leader who always put the public first, her constituents first, who always thought about others,” said Joseph Sabino Mistick, who served as Masloff's chief of staff.

Mayor William Peduto recalled a recent encounter with Masloff.

“Recently, I had a loved one in the hospital, and it was the same hospital that Sophie was at and one of the nurses sent a message to me from her. And that message was, simply, ‘You’re doing a good job, but you still have to prove yourself.’ That’s a message I’ll take with me,” said Peduto.

During her lifetime, she received numerous awards; being named a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania was among those honors.

Masloff supported the idea of having separate stadiums for the Pirates and Steelers, which became a reality years after she left office.

In 2007, the corner of West General Robinson and Federal streets near PNC Park was named Sophie Masloff Way.

Masloff is survived by a daughter, granddaughter, grandson, great-granddaughter and niece.

Her husband of 52 years died while she was in office.

Peduto told Channel 11 that a box of Masloff’s speeches will be presented to her family.

Funeral services for Masloff will be held at Temple Sinai, 5505 Forbes Ave., in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, Aug. 19, at 11 a.m.

A family spokesman said the public is invited to attend the funeral service. It is requested that those attending be seated by 10:45 a.m. The burial will be private.

In lieu of flowers, Masloff's family asks that contributions be made to the Martin Luther King Jr. Reading Center of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, c/o Carnegie Library, 4400 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh, Pa., 15213, or a charity of the individual's choice.

WPXI will have LIVE coverage of Tuesday’s funeral service on Channel 11 and wpxi.com.