PITTSBURGH - Former Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Michelle Madoff-Scheske died of leukemia at a hospice in Arizona, where she retired and had remarried late in life. She was 85.
Her husband of 12 years, Fred Scheske, said the former politician -- known in Pittsburgh as Michelle Madoff -- died Saturday in Peoria, Ariz.
Madoff was elected in 1978 to fill the unexpired term of Richard Caliguiri after he became mayor. Madoff served on council until 1993, though she had made a contentious name for herself even before she was elected in her adopted hometown of Pittsburgh.
Madoff was born in Toronto in 1926 and moved to Pittsburgh in 1961 with her then-husband, physician Henry Madoff. Appalled at the air pollution from steel and other industrial plants in and around the city, Madoff co-founded GASP, or Group Against Smog and Pollution, in part because the city's then-poor air aggravated her asthma.
Although her political style could be characterized as loud and abrasive, Madoff knew how to win friends and influence people. GASP created a list of lawmakers dubbed "The Dirty Dozen" who, the group contended, helped industries dodge efforts to clean up the air. Among the companies Madoff criticized was Jones & Laughlin Steel -- whose former manager of air quality control she befriended after both retired to Arizona.
That happened after Madoff drew the attention of the Arizona Republic newspaper when she stopped a truck entering a quarry near her new home in Peoria. Madoff was upset about the dust the trucks kicked up going in and out of the quarry at night, when air pollution monitors weren't operating, her husband said.
J&L's former air quality manager, William Wilson, saw the photo. "He thought, `I can't believe it, I can't get away from this woman,"' Scheske said, describing Wilson's reaction to the newspaper photo.
Wilson called Madoff, who invited Wilson and his wife, Diann Wall Wilson, to dinner.
"They had butted heads all the time, but we became the greatest of friends," Diann Wilson said. "When she married Fred, she asked Bill to give her away, and he did."
Funeral arrangements were incomplete but include plans for a memorial service next week at the Camino Del Sol Funeral Chapel in Sun City West, Ariz.