Obituary: William M. Wycoff / Attorney with soft spot for troubled children

Jan. 1, 1941 - Oct. 21, 2013

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William M. Wycoff, an accomplished trial lawyer and avid outdoorsman who championed the cause of troubled children, died Monday of acute myeloid leukemia at West Penn Hospital. He was 72.

Mr. Wycoff was largely a corporate defense attorney, litigating cases for MetLife, Mellon Bank and other large companies during his career at Thorp Reed & Armstrong. The Pittsburgh firm merged this year with Detroit-based Clark Hill.

One of the highlights of his resume was representing construction worker Donald Hutchinson, who became a quadriplegic as the result of a 1986 accident at Mercy Hospital involving an elevator built by Westinghouse Elevator Co. An Allegheny County Common Pleas Court jury awarded Mr. Hutchinson and his wife a $20.9 million verdict in 1989, at the time the largest jury award in local court history.

"He was the face of our firm for many years," said Jeffrey J. Conn, managing partner of Clark Hill Thorp Reed's Pittsburgh office.

A native of Pittsburgh, Mr. Wycoff graduated from Shady Side Academy in 1959 and went to Cornell University, where he earned a degree in government in 1963. He received a law degree from Northwestern University in 1966 and joined Thorp Reed.

Longtime friend Daniel Booker, an attorney with Reed Smith, said Mr. Wycoff's "extraordinary credibility" made him an excellent trial attorney.

"A jury trusted him about what he was telling them about the evidence," Mr. Booker said. He frequently referred people in need of a business attorney to Mr. Wycoff "because I knew he'd make me look good for referring people to him," Mr. Booker said.

Mr. Wycoff was a board member since 1976 at Pressley Ridge, a Pittsburgh nonprofit that serves troubled children and families, as well as a director of the organization's foundation. He also served as a president and a director of the Children's Home of Pittsburgh, which provides adoption services and care for medically fragile children.

Pressley Ridge CEO Susanne Cole said Mr. Wycoff felt a responsibility to do something about the lives of troubled youth.

"For Bill, there was potential and possibility in all people and he had this inner, innate sense that if not us, who is going to help?" Ms. Cole said.

Mr. Wycoff was also a chairman of the Pittsburgh Dance Council, president of the Pittsburgh Golf Club, and trustee of the state chapter of the Nature Conservancy. He was an avid fly fisherman, skier and golfer who loved to travel and visited places such as Patagonia, Japan's Kuril Islands, the Galapagos, South Africa and Botswana.

Mr. Wycoff is survived by his wife of 50 years, Debby of Squirrel Hill; a daughter, Ann Wheadon of San Diego; son Pieter of Seattle; four grandchildren; his half-brother, Dan Wycoff of Bozeman, Mont.; and half-sisters Mary Wycoff and Julie Evans of Pittsburgh.

Family and friends can call Thursday from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. at John A. Freyvogel Sons Funeral Home, 4900 Centre Ave., Pittsburgh. There are no services.

Memorial contributions can be made to The Children's Home of Pittsburgh, 5324 Penn Ave., Pittsburgh 15224; Pressley Ridge, 5500 Corporate Drive, Suite 400, Pittsburgh 15237; or the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Donor Services, P.O. Box 4072, Pittsfield, MA 01202.

Len Boselovic: or 412-263-1941.


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