Obituary: Irving 'Irv' Gruber / Churchill man remembered for his stories

April 11, 1915 -- June 6, 2013

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If there is one thing Irving "Irv" Gruber will be remembered for, it is his stories. From business transactions to family adventures, the lifelong Pittsburgher didn't go a day without recollecting a favorite anecdote. But the tale Mr. Gruber's family and friends will always love most is a long one: his life of nearly 100 years.

Mr. Gruber of Churchill died Thursday following complications from a fall. He was 98.

After growing up on Oakland Square, he was educated at Schenley High School and Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University). It was during Mr. Gruber's college years that he met the love of his life, the late Aaronel deRoy Gruber.

"He was at a fraternity party when he saw her," said Mr. Gruber's daughter, Jamie deRoy. "He walked up to the man who she was with and said, 'Who is this pretty lady?' "

"The man replied, 'I'm not introducing you. You'll end up marrying her!' "

And he did. Mrs. Gruber went on to become a famous Pittsburgh artist through her work with sculpture, painting and photography. At a time when husbands ran the show, Mr. Gruber always chose to support and assist his wife with her art.

But Mr. Gruber found his own success in the steel business. After working at National Tube Works during World War II, he became the co-owner of American Forge and Manufacturing Co. Later, he went on to succeed in the mergers and acquisitions business.

"My dad was a great negotiator," said Jon Gruber, the eldest son. "Once, during labor negotiations, he even flipped a coin to settle a contract. After he won, a financial adviser walked up to him and said 'Sir, did you realize that was $30,000 you were flipping for?' He was brave."

His negotiation skills were an important asset to Mr. Gruber's other passion: poker. Up until his death, Mr. Gruber played poker every other Monday night with a group he started in 1950. Jeff Astley, 57, joined the group when some of its original members passed away.

"I only knew Irv for a fraction of his life, but he will forever be a very big part of mine," Mr. Astley said. "We can all say our lives have been bettered by knowing him."

Those who helped Mr. Gruber through his last years feel the same. The family's housekeeper, Frieda Cushing, and medical assistant, Jan Franklin, said he was always a compassionate boss and friend.

"Whenever we would go out for drives, he would point out the history of the places and neighborhoods we passed through," Ms. Franklin said. "I learned so much just from being with him."

Mr. Gruber liked to tell his family and friends of his own history, too. In his late 80s, Mr. Gruber wrote down the many stories of his life on index cards and then transcribed them onto a computer. In 2004, he self-published more than 500 copies of the stories in a memoir titled "Rear View Mirror."

"There was a whole section of the book called 'true funny stories,' " said Terry Gruber, the family's middle child. "That just shows what kind of guy he was."

In addition to his three children, Mr. Gruber is survived by his three siblings, Stanley Gruber, Adeline Tabor and Saundra Grobstein; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Memorial contributions can be made to Carnegie Museums Development Office, 4400 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15213; Westmoreland Museum of American Art, 221 N. Main St., Greensburg, PA 15601; or Rodef Shalom Temple, 4905 Fifth Ave., Pittsburgh 15213.

obituaries

Jessica Contrera: jcontrera@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1458.


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