When Ann Magovern and her husband, pioneering heart surgeon George J. Magovern, moved from New York to Pittsburgh in 1958, the field of cardiology was relatively young.
"The first 10 years they lived in Pittsburgh was hard," Dr. George J. Magovern Jr. of Sewickley said of his parents. "My father would start an operation on Monday and stay at the hospital through Wednesday to make sure the patient would survive. The difficulty in developing the field led my father to often say he would just as soon move back to New York City.
"My mother was very convincing that he should stay and develop the field. She didn't mind the sacrifices of him literally working day in and day out."
Mrs. Magovern -- who supported her husband and Allegheny General Hospital as Pittsburgh became a world-renowned center for cardiac surgery and was a strong member of the city's philanthropic community -- died of heart failure Thursday at her home in Fox Chapel. She was 86.
Born in Brooklyn, Mrs. Magovern graduated from the College of New Rochelle in New York with a mathematics degree in 1947. She married Dr. Magovern, whom she had known in high school, in 1951, when he was a resident at King's County Hospital in Brooklyn.
Several years later, a surgeon at Allegheny General Hospital contacted Dr. Magovern with an invitation to join him in Pittsburgh.
"Pittsburgh was not a particularly attractive place to live in 1958. An old industrial city," their son said. "But they were a very good team in that she believed in him and was willing to take a risk and make a lot of sacrifices to see something through."
In an effort to improve the results of the cardiac field, Dr. Magovern developed an artificial heart valve in 1961. Mrs. Magovern, whose family had money, financed the start of the company to develop the instrument, which was implanted for the first time in 1962.
"It revolutionized the treatment of patients with heart valve disease, and really put Pittsburgh and Allegheny General on the map as a leading center of heart surgery for decades," their son said.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Magovern was home raising six children.
"She handled all the homework, education, discipline, finances. It was very challenging, but she made it look easy," said her daughter, Frances M. O'Connor of Hampton. "She was truly interested in what our father did, saving of lives. She understood and respected that. So she never felt like she was taking a back seat to that. She was very understanding, very patient."
"She was very much an advocate of my father's," Dr. Magovern Jr. said. "She enjoyed his success, seeing him prosper. They both enjoyed the challenge of taking on responsibility and seeing it grow into a successful practice and a successful family."
Mrs. Magovern served as president of the Allegheny General Hospital Auxiliary from 1979-81 and president of the Women's Board of the Western Pennsylvania Heart Association from 1974-76. She was a champion of the annual Heart Ball, which started in 1974, honoring those in the local health field and raising money for research.
"She was always a gracious and relaxed hostess," said longtime friend Lisa Egan of Fox Chapel. "But she was always down to earth. She was a prominent person, but it didn't change her one single bit. It was always fun. She was never uptight.
"But her happiest moments were when she was surrounded by her family. She was very proud of her children and grandchildren and their accomplishments."
Mrs. Magovern also served on the board of directors of La Roche College from 1979-92. She and her husband established the Ann and George J. Magovern Chair in Science at Shady Side Academy.
Besides her son and daughter, survivors include her husband; her other daughters, Mary P. Scott of Fox Chapel, Susan F. Magovern of Millbrook, N.Y., and Ann Margaret Magovern of San Francisco; and 15 grandchildren.
Visitation is from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. today at John Freyvogel Sons Funeral Home, 4900 Centre Ave. in Oakland. The funeral will be at 10 a.m. Monday at St. Scholastica Church in Aspinwall.
Dan Majors: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1456.