Hugh Coughanour / Banker who believed in neighborhood service

Nov. 3, 1929 - Jan. 14, 2013

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Hugh Coughanour grew up in a family with limited financial means, but his mother always gave him a few coins to keep in his pocket, so he said he never felt poor.

When he was just 15 years old, his father died, forcing him to go to work. He helped build old Highway 51 and later worked at a steel mill.

But his humble beginnings eventually gave way to a career as a bank executive and foundation president.

Mr. Coughanour, of White Oak, died Monday at UPMC McKeesport from complications of prostate cancer. He was 83.

His daughter, Lesley Gradone, of Cincinnati, said after her father graduated from high school, he attended Duff's Business School and joined the Western Pennsylvania Bank as a night posting clerk in 1950.

He took a three-year leave from 1951 to 1954 when he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in England, where he witnessed the coronation of Queen Elizabeth.

He returned to the bank in 1954 and joined its college program for veterans.

He attended the University of Pittsburgh school of business and after graduation was promoted to the position of branch manager of a newly constructed bank in New Eagle in 1959. He was married that same year to Marleen Sutter.

Mr. Coughanour continued his career at the bank, which later became Equibank, which later became National City.

He retired as a vice president in 1994 and was heavily involved in community service throughout his career.

Mr. Coughanour served on the board of directors of what is now UPMC McKeesport from 1971 to 2003 and served as its president from 2003 to 2012.

He was one of the founding members of the McKeesport Hospital Foundation in 1976.

Michele Matuch, the executive director of the foundation, described him as a good leader, not only with the nonprofit but in the community.

"He was a man of integrity and honesty," she said. "For me, it has been a challenge and great pleasure to work for a man of his caliber."

Mr. Coughanour also was involved in a number of other local service groups, including the Kiwanis Club, Lions Club and McKeesport Chamber of Commerce.

In recent years, he and his wife would deliver food for Meals on Wheels.

"He enjoyed serving people," Ms. Gradone said.

Among his other interests were gardening -- he raised cannas, a tropical flower -- and golfing.

Ms. Gradone credited her father with teaching her and her sister the value of hard work and integrity.

The daughters often called him for advice.

"He was a good listener. He was not very judgmental," Ms. Gradone said. "He always took the high road."

She described him as a "calming, guiding force."

Although he wasn't the loud person at a party, Ms. Gradone said, he was funny and comfortable in any setting.

"He was a better listener than a talker," she said.

He enjoyed spending time with his family, and his grandchildren, ages 16, 18 and 20, used to trick him into eating tofu.

"They'd go to P.F. Chang's, and he'd eat a big dish and think it was chicken, and then find out at the end he enjoyed a big plate of tofu," Ms. Gradone said. "He hated tofu."

Besides his wife and daughter, Mr. Coughanour is survived by another daughter, Lisa Dorsey of Marshall, and brother, Raymond Coughanour, of Belle Vernon.

A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. today in Jefferson Memorial Funeral Home, 301 Curry Hollow Road, Pleasant Hills.

Donations may be made to McKeesport Hospital Foundation, 1500 Fifth Ave., McKeesport, PA 15132.


Paula Reed Ward: or 412-263-2620.


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