Former state Rep. Thomas C. Petrone, a Democratic legislator known for his sense of humor and old-school devotion to constituents, is dead at 77.
Mr. Petrone represented the 27th District, which includes Pittsburgh’s West End and neighboring suburbs, for nearly three decades.
“Tom always had a smile on his face, always had a laugh,’’ said Rep. Dan Deasy, D-Westwood, who succeeded Mr. Petrone after his 2008 retirement. ”He was small in stature, but personality-wise, he was enormous.’’
A longtime colleague and friend, Rep. Nick Kotik, D-Robinson recalled that Mr. Petrone’s wit was often on display in his bantering relationship with colleagues on the House floor in Harrisburg. Referring to Rep. Anthony DeLuca, a Penn Hills Democrat known for his prismatic sartorial style, he recalled: “He’d razz Tony DeLuca over his ties and sports coats. When he came onto the floor, he’d say, ’Don’t adjust your television sets at home folks; it’s just Tony DeLuca and his sports coat.’ ’’
“One of the reasons he was so well-liked in Harrisburg was that he wasn’t overtly partisan. He had a fresh outlook and was always a lot of fun,’’ Mr. Kotik said.
Mr. DeLuca said Mr. Petrone was at the center of a group of legislators who would get together for home-cooked meals at his Harrisburg apartment.
“He was a fun-loving guy,’’ he said. “He loved cooking and I loved cooking ... he used to love to tell stories. He was an Italian, always talking with his hands.’’
In his district, the veteran Democrat was focused on constituent services, such as a longstanding program for tax preparations for seniors.
“Whenever anyone walked through that [district office] door, he was treated like a member of their own family,’’ said Mr. Deasy. “I had very big shoes to fill when he stepped aside.’’
Mr. Petrone’s approach to policy reflected a district that faced economic challenges, particularly in the early decades of his tenure. He was a longtime chairman of the House Urban Affairs Committee. According to his official House of Representatives biography, he was central to the enactment of Allegheny County’s Regional Asset District, which steered sales tax revenue to parks, cultural institutions and economic development projects. He also worked on Strategy 21, which helped establish a development blueprint for the region’s changing economy.
Rep. Frank Dermody, D-Oakmont, the House Democratic leader, issued a statement calling Mr. Petrone, “a mentor to me and all of the Allegheny County members who joined the House after he did.’’
“He was an outstanding public servant and we are going to miss him,’’ Mr. Dermody continued. “He understood that a legislator has to combine personal attention for individuals with awareness of many larger issues.’’
According to his House biography, the longtime Crafton Heights resident was born in Pittsburgh and attended Carnegie Tech, now Carnegie-Mellon University, and took classes at the Pittsburgh Playhouse. He was a U.S. Navy veteran.
He is survived by his wife, Marlene Ricchiuto Petrone; a daughter, Christa Petrone; and a sister, Adeline Kruppa. He was predeceased by his son, Dean T. Petrone.
Funeral arrangements are private and are being handled by the Anthony G. Staab Funeral Home Inc.