Obituary: Joe Wertheim / Multitalented volunteer devoted to family, service

March 20, 1950 - Aug. 11, 2012

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Several years ago, at a meeting of volunteers dedicated to restoring the Denis Theatre in Mt. Lebanon, Realtor Conrad Waite listened as Elaine Wertheim kept repeating a particular phrase.

"Whenever we needed something done, Elaine said, 'Oh, Joe will do it,' " Mr. Waite recalled. "She always was just volunteering him" for putting up posters for Last Saturday Cinema or painting the theater's back doors.

A civic-minded stockbroker and multitalented volunteer, Mr. Wertheim died Saturday of liver cancer at Allegheny General Hospital. He was 62 and had lived in Mt. Lebanon since 1986.

Mr. Wertheim often introduced himself as "Elaine's husband," said Bill F. Lewis of Mt. Lebanon, who served with his friend on the boards of the Mt. Lebanon Public Library and the Friends of Mt. Lebanon Public Library.

"He was selfless. He didn't want his name out in public," Mr. Lewis said.

Cynthia Richey, director of the Mt. Lebanon Public Library, said Mr. Wertheim, who served numerous terms as a trustee, "strongly believed in the mission of the public library. No volunteer activity was too big or too small for Joe. He was always thinking of ways to raise money for the library and bring the community into the library."

Mr. Wertheim sorted books for the library's used bookstore, known as the Book Cellar, made chili for an annual winter fundraiser, tended bar at the annual Garden Party and gardened on the grounds.

He served four terms on the library board and also lent his financial acumen to the Friends of the Library for 20 years.

At the time of his death, he was president of the Friends' board and a trustee of the library board.

The son of a U.S. Navy rear admiral, Mr. Wertheim was born in Van Nuys, Calif., but grew up in suburban Washington, D.C., where he graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in Annandale, Va., in 1967. In the 1970s, he earned a bachelor's degree in political science from George Washington University, where he met his wife. They married in 1974.

Initially, Mr. Wertheim worked in a bank but moved to A.G. Edwards in Alexandria, Va. When his wife wanted to return to Pittsburgh, he kept many of his clients but relocated to his company's office in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Starting in the 1990s, Mr. Wertheim spent 12 years running the South Hills Food Pantry, which is based at Southminster Presbyterian Church in Mt. Lebanon and delivers food to people who cannot get to other pantries.

"I got him involved. He was so willing to do it," Mrs. Wertheim said, adding that her late husband coordinated a group of 20 volunteers, food donations and deliveries and coordinated the schedules of a team of 20 drivers.

Ben Wertheim, 29, of Mt. Lebanon, said his father was always supportive.

"When I said I wanted to move to New York, he helped pack up the car."

After a snowstorm, the duo began driving to New York early on a January morning in 2010.

"I actually moved to New York without a job. He said, 'Here's how much money you have. Here's how long you can survive without a job,' " Ben Wertheim recalled, adding that his father always had a plan.

Ellen F. Waite, who serves on the board of the Denis Theatre Foundation, said Mr. Wertheim's wide range of talents were invaluable.

"He organized the office. He also learned our software and edited the donor software. There wasn't anything in there he couldn't do. He took chairs out that you have to unbolt from the floor. I don't think there was a job that we ever asked him to do that he didn't jump in and do," Mrs. Waite said.

Besides his wife and son, Mr. Wertheim is survived by his father, Rear Admiral Robert H. Wertheim of San Diego, and his brother, David, of South Park.

A funeral service was held Wednesday. Memorials may be made to Brother's Brother Foundation, the Mt. Lebanon Public Library, Sojourner House or Barrow Neurological Foundation (ALS Research).


Marylynne Pitz: or 412-263-1648.


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