Last month, William Marra went to lunch with Roger Glunt, and the two real estate executives stopped by a subsidized housing complex in the North Hills that Mr. Marra had built.
It was not your typical subsidized housing: It had a community room and a greenhouse with flowers blooming. It was just another example of the extra touches that had come to characterize Mr. Marra's work over several decades in the building business.
"Whatever Bill did, he did it top-drawer," Mr. Glunt said. "The home building industry is a series of peaks and valleys -- Bill could always look across the valley."
Mr. Marra, who will be remembered as one of Western Pennsylvania's real estate kingpins, died Friday after an extended illness. He was 78.
Mr. Marra graduated from West View High School and joined the Army, becoming a sergeant in the 3rd Armored Division in Fort Knox, Ky.
After his service, he began his life's work: building homes and apartment buildings in a career that would make him a legend in the business.
Mr. Marra's work in multi-family developments led to him spearheading the creation of the Apartment Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh, a subsidiary of the Builder's Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh that brought together real estate competitors working toward common interests.
His work was marked by a consistent level of excellence, Mr. Glunt said. It didn't matter whether the tenants who eventually would occupy the apartments were paying exorbitant monthly rents or getting help from the government.
"I was a builder in the East Hills, and when I moved into the North Hills, I soon realized that Bill Marra was a force to be reckoned with," Mr. Glunt said.
That formidable name -- although hidden in a pun -- would also adorn one of the region's most beloved grocery stores. The Amarraca Supermarket in Ross sold one-of-a-kind items such as butter pecan gelato and artisan breads from 1984 to 2000.
It was just the kind of risk-taking, visionary move that Mr. Glunt had come to expect from Mr. Marra, and a vision that hadn't wavered even in his final weeks.
The competitor-turned-friend was on oxygen and in a wheelchair at that lunch last month, but his attitude hadn't faded, Mr. Glunt said.
"He was still Bill Marra," Mr. Glunt said. "He was still looking to the future."
Mr. Marra is preceded in death by a wife, Marjorie Ann Wurdack, and a son, Donald Marra. He is survived by Debera Kramer, his wife of 19 years; five children -- Marty Marra, Donna Marra, Dean Marra, Renee Bosmans and Ed Marra; and nine grandchildren.
Friends will be welcome from 2 to 5 and 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at T.B. Devlin Funeral Home, 806 Perry Highway, Ross. A funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday in Hiland Presbyterian Church, Ross. Entombment in Sewickley Cemetery will take place immediately following the funeral.
Memorial contributions may be made in Mr. Marra's name to the Salvation Army, P.O. Box 236, Pittsburgh 15230-0236 or the Avow Hospice, 1095 Whippoorwill Lane, Naples, Fla. 34105.
Erich Schwartzel: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1455.