Obituary: Carolyn J. Wirth / Caring volunteer with Make-A-Wish

Sept. 22, 1933 - Sept. 19, 2013

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For years, Carolyn Wirth helped children with life-threatening conditions as a volunteer with the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Greater Pittsburgh.

Even after her professional obligations to the families ended, she took great care to stay in touch with them, remembering Christmas cards and birthdays and all the little things worth celebrating, said Ann Hohn, the nonprofit's chief financial officer.

"She stayed in their lives and was aware of other milestones that would happen that are so important to a sick child and their family," she said.

A yearslong volunteer with that and other Pittsburgh-area organizations, Ms. Wirth died Thursday at Sherwood Oaks retirement community of complications from dementia. She was 79.

A native of Chicago, Ms. Wirth studied psychology at the University of Wisconsin, where she met her husband, Jim, who went on to serve in the Army finance corps. The pair settled in the Pittsburgh-area in 1966 and raised two sons.

Although she lost another son, 7-year-old Kent, to leukemia, her volunteer work with Make-A-Wish "filled a void," her son, Steve, said.

In that role, she would meet with the child's family, learn his or her wish and communicate it to the organization's officials to make it happen.

"It was her job to set up the details," Mr. Wirth said. "I think she enjoyed helping other children about that age with [life-threatening conditions]."

When you've suffered an enormous loss of your own, Ms. Hohn said, that's no small feat.

"It's amazing that these parents who have gone through such profound loss have found a way to give back through something that could be very painful," she said.

In addition to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Ms. Wirth volunteered at the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. She visited elementary schools to talk with students about music and let children try their hand at strumming guitar or banging bongos, her son said.

Active into her golden years, Ms. Wirth also enjoyed sailing, skiing, tennis, golf and traveling with her family.

She is survived by two sons, Steve of Bradford Woods and Glen of Sewickley, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Friends are welcome Sunday from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. at Schellhaas & Sons Funeral Home, 1600 Stone Mansion Drive, Sewickley. A service in Ingomar United Methodist Church is scheduled for Monday at 11 a.m.

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Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1944 or on Twitter @borntolede.


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