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This is my tribute to our late Mayor Bob O'Connor.

Over the weekend of Sept. 2, I spent a lot of time to thinking about Mayor O'Connor, and what he meant to me, and to the city I've lived in my entire life.

Layered between my memories and thoughts of Bob O'Connor, were memories of my mother and brother's death, 16 and 4 years ago. Unexpected, intense memories flooded back, of what it feels like to loose a loved one. But also, there was a sudden appreciation for someone you thought would just always be there. He had the energy, and charisma, of someone you just think is never going to die! I was also deeply touched by the courage his family was showing during this incredibly difficult, very public time. I think all of Pittsburgh truly came together, and shares in this family's pain, but also now really realizes Mr. O'Connor's gifts, and dedication to our city. I know many of us liked Bob. Even if we didn't know him well. But I think it's only now, now that it's too late, we are able to really see how much he cared about us, and our city.


The day of Mr. O'Connor's funeral was a beautiful, sunny early September day. (I think it was the first day the sun peaked through since his death.) I decided around 9am to make a couple of banners for my front porch, as I realized that my house would be one of the last ones seen before the Mayor and his family arrived at Calvary Cemetary. I made a quick run to the Squirrel Hill art supply store for paper and markers. When I returned home, I turned on the TV to watch the begining of the Mayor's funeral while I made my banners. It was just so sad. I had a lump in my throat the whole time. After hanging my banners, I quickly grabbed my camera bag and headed up to the Squirrel Hill business district, before I would get stuck on my street in preparation for the motorcade...

I parked in the Giant Eagle parking lot, and thought for a second - where is the most meaningful place I could head to, to perhaps be with like-minded individuals. I walked down Murray, just a block past the street where Mayor O'Connnor lived, to one of my favorite Squirrel Hills stores, A Pleasant Present. I wanted to see if Michael had any more of the black and gold wrist bands. As I approached the store, I saw a sign honoring the late Mayor on the sidewalk. The windows contained full storefront tributes to the Mayor. I started to choke up. In the next window was a silly display of some sort of dog-ware. I grinned, and thought I was 'OK'. I hesitated, then walked into the store. Michael was behind the counter, and in his usual good-natured way, asked, "Hi, how are you?" I give him the so-so sign, then totally teared up. He came over and gave me a big hug. All of the sadness I'd been holding inside was just too much. Now I had someone to share it with. We ended up watching the rest of the funeral together, with Michael giving me his seat behind the counter the entire time.

Several people came into the store during the ceremony, to purchase the black and gold Leukemia bands, and Michael stuffed the $2 donations into a special envelope. They all commented on how incredibly sad they were, and how moving the funeral was...

It was so meaningful to me, to be able to hang out a bit with someone who really 'got' Bob O'Connor, and shared my sorrow. Thank you Michael. You were so gracious. And I was so impressed with how you treated everyone who walked into your store, as a friend or family member. You are just as gifted as Bob in this way!

After watching the ceremony, (and purchasing a few very cool items - an assortment of bumper stickers, baby booties, a chapstick and a Curious George puzzle for my 2 yr old), I thanked Michael and hugged him goodbye. I made the long uphill walk up Murray to Forbes Ave., in the hot late summer sun. Black ribbons were tied on every parking meter. I knew the motorcade was about to make it to downtown. I could hear helicopters in the distance. I decided I would head to The Coffee Tree, where I heard on the KDKA stream that they were to have a '21 cup salute' to the Mayor. I had my two cameras. One with a super wide angle, my other with a standard lens.

When I first arrived, there were a couple of dozen folks. I watched the helicopters inching closer, while I tried to estimate the location of the motorcade. An occasional pair of police motorcycles would fly through with lights and sirens going. The street began to fill with people. Both sides. Now there were families holding babies and watching their toddlers in the street. More and more coffee cups were passed out. I found a good vantage point across the street from the Coffee Tree. I was joined by a KDKA camera guy. Struck up a friendly conversation with Lynn Hayes Freeland. (Our kids went to the same elementary school - small town - we both agreed we loved that about Pittsburgh!)

When the motorcade finally approached, I fell into photographer mode at first. Shot what I could. Thought I saw the sleeve of Judy, his wife, wave out of one of the limos. Then a minute later, decided to join the rest of the crowd, and give a thumbs up with my left hand, with my new black and gold wrist bands, while continuing to shoot with my right. It was a very moving tribute...

As the limos, and literally one mile of cars passed, I felt there was a definite connection, between those of us out on the street, holding our cups and thumbs up high, and the family and loved ones inside the cars, waving and giving a thumbs up back. I saw several inside their cars grabbing their tissues, as they saw our last salute to Bob. And I know, speaking for myself, there was more than one tear shed on Forbes Ave. that day.

After we stood and held our hands and cups high, for every vehicle that passed, (including the blue recycling truck that brought up the rear, to appreciative applause), we all gently dispersed.

As I rounded Forbes and Murray, I saw life returning to it's regular Pittsburgh flow. People were getting on busses, shopping, chatting. When I got in my hot car in the Giant Eagle parking lot, the Pirates were on KDKA beating the Cubs, and I saw people going about their daily business again. I thought - just as Bob would have wanted it to be.

This is my Squirrel Hill Tribute to you Bob. You will live on in our hearts.

God Bless.




May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun be warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your field and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.




Please double click on each photo to view it larger.
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007 A Pleasant Present - Squirrel Hill, Murray Ave..jpg
007 A Pleasant Present - Squirrel Hill, Murray Ave..jpg
006 Part of Michael's window display.jpg
006 Part of Michael's window display.jpg
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001 Watching funeral with Michael at A Pleasant Present.jpg
001 Watching funeral with Michael at A Pleasant Present.jpg
002 His Bob bracelet donation enevelope.jpg
002 His Bob bracelet donation enevelope.jpg
003 You can still buy Bob bracelets to benefit the Leukemia Society.jpg
003 You can still buy Bob bracelets to benefit the Leukemia Society.jpg
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008 61C Cafe on Murray.jpg
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009 Forbes and Murray.jpg
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014 The Coffee Tree.jpg
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035 The 21 + Cup Salute.jpg
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055 Even the KDKA woman salutes....jpg
055 Even the KDKA woman salutes....jpg
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