Marsha Hinton's world shattered when a drive-by shooting took the life of her only child, Tyrell, in April 1996.
The pain was etched on her face for the rest of her life, said Common Pleas Judge Edward J. Borkowski, a former assistant district attorney who successfully prosecuted Tyrell Hinton's killer, James E. Mitchell Jr.
"Despite the emotional devastation of losing her only son, she displayed remarkable fortitude and courage in raising her granddaughter and devoting her life professionally to helping others in the court system," Judge Borkowski said.
Ms. Hinton, an inaugural member of the Pittsburgh Citizen Police Review Board and a former population control coordinator for Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, died Tuesday at UPMC Presbyterian after a sudden illness, relatives and former colleagues said. The East Liberty native was 64.
Ms. Hinton, a 1968 graduate of Wilkinsburg High School, earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Pittsburgh in 1972 and also was a longtime supervisor with Allegheny County's Program for Female Offenders, an alternative housing program now just called the Program for Offenders.
"She was a remarkable human being. She had a tremendous wit and she had a strength and endurance that was just admirable," said Elizabeth Pittinger, executive director of the Citizen Police Review Board, which Ms. Hinton served on from 1997 to 2010, including 11 years as chairwoman. "She was calm, she was sensible, very practical and held no animus toward anybody."
Ms. Hinton left the board in 2010 after a push by then-Mayor Luke Ravenstahl to install five new members amid a legal fight over the board's demand for records related to police conduct during the 2009 G-20 summit.
"Marsha left her imprint on the values of the CPRB and certainly encourages us to maintain the objectivity that we're expected to maintain," Ms. Pittinger said.
Ms. Pittinger said Ms. Hinton had long struggled with her health and her grief.
"There's a sense of peace with it in an odd way, knowing Marsha and knowing how much she missed her son," Ms. Pittinger said.
In a 1997 interview with the Post-Gazette, Ms. Hinton deplored the senselessness of the street violence that had taken her son and its devastating toll on families.
She took out a yearly billboard and hosted a block party on Tyrell's birthday, her relatives and friends said, and became the sole caregiver to her granddaughter, Tyra, who was a toddler when her father was killed and is now 20.
"If it wasn't for her I would just waste away," she told the newspaper in 1997.
Sue Just, a case manager with the Allegheny County Drug Court, knew Ms. Hinton for 20 years and described her as a "very beloved person."
"She could be with the governor and then sit down with an inmate at the jail," Ms. Just said. "She would be just as comfortable and they would be just as comfortable."
Ms. Just and Michele Morris, who worked under Ms. Hinton in the Program for Female Offenders, said she impacted countless lives by helping offenders into transitional housing and served as a mentor for her employees.
Ms. Hinton's elder sister, Gail Rasheed of New York City, said Ms. Hinton was also a devoted daughter and an attentive aunt.
"She never married. But she was a very jubilant, giving person. She was very neighborhood conscious. She helped a lot of people in Pittsburgh," Ms. Rasheed said. "She was committed to trying to stop the gang violence and the drive-by shootings."
Ms. Rasheed said White Memorial Chapel in Point Breeze is in charge of arrangements and added that a service will be scheduled for either Friday or Saturday at Ms. Hinton's church, Mt. Ararat Baptist in East Liberty.
Robert Zullo: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-3909 or Twitter: @rczullo.