Richard H. Smith, who worked as a teacher and principal in Pittsburgh Public Schools and as an organist at several churches, died Sunday at the age of 77.
Mr. Smith, of Mt. Lebanon, died of congestive heart failure at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC.
Mr. Smith began his teaching career in the city schools at 1962 and retired as a principal in 1994. He started out teaching music at Pittsburgh Perry High School and went on to be an administrator or principal at McNaugher, Columbus, Knoxville and Washington Polytechnical Academy, said his wife of 51 years, Laverne B. Smith.
Born in Carnegie, Mr. Smith was a graduate of Pittsburgh Langley High School and earned a bachelor's degree in music from Carnegie Mellon University, where he studied the organ.
He was drafted into the Army at the end of the Korean War and served most of his time at Fort Riley, Kan., where he worked as a chaplain's assistant after he volunteered to play the organ.
"They had been out on bivouac. The chaplain brought an electric organ out and wanted to know if anybody could play it," said Mrs. Smith. "His hand shot up right away. He played for services and all the weddings."
After leaving the Army, he earned a master's degree in music education from Duquesne University.
His wife said Mr. Smith played the organ for a number of churches, the longest and most recent of which was Covenant-Community Presbyterian Church in Scott where he was the music director and organist for many years. He retired from there some time ago although he remained a church member.
Philip Kable, who sang in the church choir under Mr. Smith's direction, said the choir of about eight to 15 people included singers who could read music and those who couldn't.
"He taught us to do what we needed to do to be with him and sing our parts," said Mr. Kable, who described Mr. Smith as a gentle and patient man. "He knew music, and he directed us in some very, very moving kinds of religious music."
Mr. Kable said every now and then the congregation would applaud, but he said that would embarrass Mr. Smith.
The father of four children, Mr. Smith liked to go camping with his family in a camper they pulled behind their car to places such as Colorado, Maine, Virginia and Yellowstone National Park.
In retirement, the couple had a parked camper in the area of Knox, Clarion County, where they spent a good part of the summer.
He was a model railroad enthusiast, with HO scale trains that filled the basement and took three months to assemble and a week to take down around Christmas.
When he gave up trains, he turned to flying remote-controlled airplanes.
In addition to his wife, surviving are four sons: Richard H. Jr. of Basking Ridge, N.J., Gregory A. of Richland, Timothy W. of South Park and Steven J. of Bridgeville; a brother, Gary of Oakdale; and seven grandchildren.
The family suggests memorial contributions to the Covenant-Community Presbyterian Church.
Eleanor Chute: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1955.