Elizabeth "Betsy" Gannon spent almost her entire life on Green Tree's Sheldon Avenue, a quiet, winding street of neat lawns and modest homes.
Yesterday, friends, neighbors and relatives struggled to cope with the 49-year-old woman's death in the Tuesday night shooting rampage at the LA Fitness center in Collier.
"It's going to hurt a lot of people in this neighborhood," said Carl Rady, who has lived next door to Ms. Gannon for 35 years. "I have three daughters of my own. She was like the fourth one."
Mr. Rady and his wife, Darlene, were home Tuesday when detectives arrived looking for family members. He agreed to go to the medical examiner's office to identify Ms. Gannon's body.
They had watched Ms. Gannon grow from a teenager to a confident adult who always kept a bright outlook, even in the face of life's difficulties, from the death of her mother from cancer two decades ago to her recent divorce.
"I loved that girl so much," Mrs. Rady said. "She was one of the most fantastic people."
A 1978 graduate of Bishop Canevin High School, Ms. Gannon had spent the last 13 years working as a radiology technologist at Allegheny General Hospital on Pittsburgh's North Side.
"Everyone at West Penn Allegheny Health System is extremely saddened by the loss of Elizabeth Gannon," Dr. Patrick J. DeMeo, chairman of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, said in a statement released by the hospital. "Betsy was not only a tremendous asset as a radiology technologist at Allegheny Orthopedics ... she was also a wonderful, caring person whose smile would brighten the day of both her colleagues and patients.
"I would like to offer my sincere condolences to Betsy's family during this difficult time. She will be greatly missed at West Penn Allegheny, where her life touched that of so many others."
Dozens of people gathered yesterday at the two-story brick home where Ms. Gannon was raised, including her boyfriend, Michael Interthal, and her sister, Peggy Klions, of Fairlawn, Ohio..
"You couldn't find a better friend," said Joanne Conte, crying as she spoke. "I don't know what I'm going to do without her."
Ms. Conte said she and Ms. Gannon met two decades ago, working at Pittsburgh's Eye and Ear Hospital. They both enjoyed attending performances at the Pittsburgh CLO.
Ms. Conte recently spent five months as a hospital patient, and Ms. Gannon had been helping take care of her children during that time.
"She was my biggest supporter," Ms. Conte said.
Ms. Gannon was a dog lover, and neighbors routinely saw her walking Lady, her red Labrador.
She also had an interest her Irish heritage. She and another friend, Mary McVay Fensel, were frequent patrons of Paddy's Poor House in Carnegie.
The pair got to know each other in an exercise class several years ago when Ms. McVay Fensel moved to the Pittsburgh area.
"She was one of the first people I met," Ms. McVay Fensel said. "She was loved by everybody."
Bob Stuart, 78, also a longtime resident of Sheldon Avenue, remembers Ms. Gannon as a "sweet" girl coming to play alongside his children in his backyard swimming pool.
Ms. Gannon's father died from a heart attack when she was 2 years old, Ms. Conte said.
When Ms. Gannon was in her 20s, she and her sister cared for their ailing mother. Her sister married and moved to Ohio, and Ms. Gannon remained in their childhood home.
Ms. Gannon married Joseph W. Michels in 1998. They divorced last year. The couple did not have any children.
Mr. Rady said Ms. Gannon had recently become involved with Mr. Interthal. The couple appeared to be happy together, he said.
"She always had a smile on her face," Mr. Rady said. "I don't think she ever had a bad day."
Visitation will be held from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. tomorrow at William Slater Funeral Home, Scott. A funeral Mass will be held at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at St. Margaret of Scotland Church, Green Tree.
Correction/Clarification: (Published Aug. 8, 2009) A Mass will be held for Elizabeth Gannon today, Aug. 8, 2009 at 11:30 a.m. in St. Margaret of Scotland Church, Green Tree. An incorrect time was given in this story as originally published Aug. 6, 2009.
Jerome L. Sherman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1183.