Obituary: Isaiah Dent / McKees Rocks activist who worked to end violence

April 30, 1951 - Jan. 28, 2013

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Whatever role he served in their lives -- brother, uncle, friend or neighbor -- there were similar refrains when people that knew Isaiah Dent paused to remember him.

He was a presence in the community. He was one of the good guys. He would give you the shirt off his back -- and he might have even made it himself.

"I would stand on top of the Empire State Building and shout out how great my brother is," said his sister, Carrol Dent, of Youngstown, Ohio.

A tailor, artist, community activist and cosmetologist, Mr. Dent, 61, of McKees Rocks was found dead Monday morning in his Hays Manor apartment. Mr. Dent, also known to advocate against violence, succumbed to that fate. Police believe he had been beaten to death and the death has been ruled a homicide.

A Beaver Falls Senior High School and Community College of Beaver County graduate, Mr. Dent grew up in Aliquippa and lived throughout the region before settling in McKees Rocks, his family said. He was a longtime resident of Hays Manor, where he also served on the tenant board.

Family asked police to check on Mr. Dent because they were concerned when they couldn't reach him over the weekend, Allegheny County police Lt. Andrew Schurman said.

Ms. Dent said the two talked every day, about her work, his plans for the day -- everything, no matter how routine.

Police have confirmed Mr. Dent was alive Saturday morning, as a couple of people reported seeing him between 10 a.m. and noon. County homicide detectives, who are investigating the death, have found no motive or suspects for the killing yet. Police initially looked into the possibility that the death was part of a robbery attempt but Lt. Schurman said the home didn't look "ransacked in an effort to steal things."

"We can't imagine what could have happened," friend Barbara Owens said. "Everyone is at a loss to think of who would want to hurt him."

Family and friends also remember Mr. Dent as a Renaissance man of sorts. His niece Regina Dent said in addition to his cosmetology work, event planning and activism, Mr. Dent enjoyed traveling and making and selling African clothes, which he had done as long as she could remember.

McKees Rocks police Chief Robert Cifrulak, too, remembered Mr. Dent's presence at community gatherings, including meetings aimed at curbing violence. "He was everywhere," Chief Cifrulak said.

Ms. Owens, a jewelry designer and receptionist at the Father Ryan Arts Center in McKees Rocks, said Mr. Dent was the "ultimate perfectionist" in his tailoring. "A lot of his designs came from his imagination. I don't even remember seeing him look at any books," she said.

Last year, Mr. Dent organized Hays Community Day for families at the apartment complex. His death came a week after another event there: the MLK Day Cotillion, which he planned with the group, Breaking Silence: Ending Youth Violence.

"Isaiah was a huge help and trailblazer for the girls event last Monday and was looking forward to helping to organize the boys event," Sto-Rox Middle School principal Melanie Kerber said.

Besides his sister Carrol, he is survived by two sisters, Laverne Jackson of Wilmerding and Mildred Nash Stratton of Beaver Falls.

A vigil for Mr. Dent is scheduled for 5 this afternoon at Hays Manor on Locust Street, Building No. 5, Apartment D. Funeral arrangements are pending.

obituaries

Ken Fisher contributed.


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