PITTSBURGH - On Tuesday, the city of Pittsburgh honored the life of former Mayor Sophie Masloff.
The “grandmother of Pittsburgh” died at the age of 96 over the weekend. Masloff, who served as the 56th mayor of Pittsburgh, died shortly before 9 a.m. Sunday at the Center for Compassionate Care in Mount Lebanon, family members said.
A public funeral service for Masloff was held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Temple Sinai in Squirrel Hill. The burial was private.
“She was a down to earth Jewish grandmother mingling with presidents and popes,” said Rabbi Ronald Symons.
Eulogies tracked Masloff’s simple beginnings growing up in the Hill District and working as a secretary in county government. Her lifetime of service in politics eventually led to her role as mayor at age 70.
“She stood for something bigger than herself. She stood for qualities that embody Pittsburgh,” said Mayor Bill Peduto.
“We had some great conversations in her living room. She opened her home to me on numerous occasions. Whether it was political-related or whether it was personal, those were invaluable conversations to me. I really considered her a friend,” said the youngest Pittsburgh mayor, Luke Ravenstahl, about the oldest Pittsburgh mayor.
“I think if you go out there with an honest attitude and really show your heart to the citizens of Pittsburgh, they’ll accept, and that’s what Sophie really stood for,” said City Councilman Corey O’Connor.
“When you walked in and saw Sophie, it was like talking to your mom,” said former Firefighters Union President Joe King.
Friends said Masloff never viewed herself as an important person and that the service would be considered too much.
“Sophie would be unhappy with this. She would think this is far too much hoopla,” said former Chief of Staff Joe Mistick.
In addition to the public funeral, many other memorials were planned in Masloff’s honor. A week-long vigil in the lobby of the city-county building began Monday, displaying Masloff's official portrait as well as a guest book that will be given to her family.
Peduto ordered that flags on city property to be lowered to half-staff for the week.
“Gracious is the word that comes to mind. She was someone who understood how to treat people,” said Former Pittsburgh Council President Doug Shields earlier this week.
“She wanted everyone to be part of the rebuild of the renaissance of Pittsburgh and she made sure that women and minorities were part of the rebuild,” said Gil Berry who worked with Masloff.
Dr. Cyril Wecht said Masloff was a great leader but not someone he thought would be the first female mayor of Pittsburgh.
“I don’t think she would have either. Things fell into place, and fortunately for us, it worked out,” said Wecht. Read others' statements HERE.
The former mayor touched many people at Channel 11. Investigator Rick Earle remembered being with Masloff at the Democratic National Convention 14 years ago. He said she liked to tell stories. Anchor Peggy Finnegan said Masloff was one of the first people to welcome her when she moved to Pittsburgh.
“I always had access to her office. She always leveled with me. She always told me the truth. On the record was on the record. Off the record was off the record with Sophie, and that was the kind of relationship we had,” said Bishop Loran Mann, a former WPXI reporter.