In Tarentum, David P. Strellec was known as a lawyer who freely gave of his time and expertise because he believed deeply in the concept of pro bono -- for good.
Mr. Strellec, 68, who was in private practice and served as the borough's longtime solicitor, was well known for providing legal services for free if his client couldn't pay and often didn't charge the borough for work he did on its behalf. He died Tuesday in his sleep of a heart attack.
"We didn't drive Cadillacs or have a fancy house. He was not that kind of lawyer. He did it for the people," said one of his daughters, Christina S. Simpson of Tarentum.
Another daughter, Susan A. Strellec of Tarentum, said her father did pro bono work "because he believed everyone deserved representation. Sometimes when people couldn't pay, they'd give him zucchini from their garden. One time, a woman who owned a bar offered him chicken wings that we had for dinner."
Tarentum Borough Council President Tim Rapp said Mr. Strellec "wasn't in it for the money. He was in it to help people. He was an upstanding guy. He gave people breaks on legal services when they couldn't pay. And I could go up to his house or call him about a borough issue and he wouldn't charge us ... because he cared about the town.
"I'm going to miss him as a friend, big brother and solicitor. We'll never be able to replace him."
So giving was her father as a lawyer that Ms. Simpson said he reminded her of Atticus Finch, the socially conscious fictional attorney in Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, "To Kill a Mockingbird."
The comparison to a literary figure seems apt because of Mr. Strellec's love of reading and his background as an English teacher, which was his first career. His daughters said he could always be found reading a book, whether it was a Tom Clancy thriller, a Robert Frost book of poetry or a law book. He wrote poetry himself.
An avid golfer, Lionel train collector and Pittsburgh Pirates fan, Mr. Strellec not only donated his legal acumen but his skills as a cook. He'd regularly make a large pot of soup or some other meal and shared it with the poor, neighbors and friends.
He was born in Harrison and graduated from Tarentum High School, where he played football. He earned a bachelor's degree in English from Slippery Rock University and a master's in English at the University of Arkansas, where he taught English classes.
He returned to the area and from 1970 through 1984 he taught English at Lower Burrell High School, during which time he attended night law school at Duquesne University.
He earned his law degree in 1983, and after finishing up at Lower Burrell the next year, he joined the Allegheny County district attorney's office as an assistant district attorney.
He held that position for about a year and then went in to private practice. He has been Tarentum solicitor since the mid-1980s.
In addition to his daughters, he is survived by his wife of 28 years, Pamela S. Strellec; his mother, Margaret "Peggy" Strellec of Tarentum; two sisters, Judith Charlson of Pittsburgh and Kathy Jo Vargo of Leechburg, Armstrong County; a brother, John Kevin Strellec of Franklin, Venago County; and a grandson.
Friends will be received from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. today in Duster Funeral Home, 347 E. 10th Ave., Tarentum.
A Panachida will be held there on Saturday at 9 a.m., followed by a Divine Liturgy at 9:30 a.m. in SS. Peter & Paul Byzantine Catholic Church, Tarentum. Interment will be private.
Contributions may be made to the David P. Strellec Memorial Fund through the funeral home for the benefit of Tarentum.
Michael A. Fuoco: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1968.