Henry J. "Jack" Schellhaas IV loved welcoming people into his funeral home, comforting and embracing them, helping them realize they were not alone in their grief.
What sounds like anything but an enjoyable job was ideal for Mr. Schellhaas, who was drawn to people in need.
And though he was skilled at preparing funerals for other people, Mr. Schellhaas never wanted to discuss plans for his own post-mortem care.
Now, his relatives are planning for the funeral of Mr. Schellhaas, who died Thursday at age 91, after a five-month battle with colon cancer.
"Over the years he has just been so kind and so compassionate to so many families, and so many people remember him for that," said Mr. Schellhaas' daughter, Mary Gust of Naples, Fla. "It actually was the perfect job for him."
Mr. Schellhaas was a fourth-generation funeral home director, taking over the family business after his father died of a heart attack when Jack was in the Pacific, fighting in World War II.
A 1939 graduate of Allegheny High School, Mr. Schellhaas went to the Cleveland Embalming College, where he earned a degree in 1941.
He joined the Army Air Force shortly after the war began and was stationed on a ship with no military doctor aboard.
"Because he had knowledge about anatomy, my dad ended up being the one who stitched people up and gave out pills," Ms. Gust said.
Under his father's tutelage, Mr. Schellhaas planned to eventually take over the family business, started on E Street in Pittsburgh's North Side in 1855 by his great-grandfather and namesake, Henry J. Schellhaas, a German immigrant, cabinet maker and undertaker.
But his father's unexpected death meant Mr. Schellhaas would have to learn most of the trade on his own, not an easy task for a young man just home from war.
"I got the impression that it wasn't easy for him," said Matt Schellhaas, 33, who is helping to run the business with his father and uncle, Jack Schellhaas' nephews.
During the same period, on Sept. 21, 1947, he married his wife, Miriam Davis, who survives.
Mr. Schellhaas soon found running the business to be easier when he brought his two brothers, Charles and Robert, on board. The three brothers closed the North Side funeral home and opened one in West View in 1948, followed by a location in the Bakerstown section of Richland in 1971. Another location is planned for this year in Franklin Park. Mr. Schellhaas outlived his brothers, .
Mr. Schellhaas kept active through his church, the First Presbyterian Church of Bakerstown, along with his membership in various local clubs.
He was an old-school stickler for the rules of etiquette, Ms. Gust remembers.
"He was always a gentleman," she said. "I can't tell you how many people have said this to me."
But his true love was the 16-acre country home his family bought in 1930 in Richland.
"My dad loved that place," Ms. Gust remembered. "He loved it because he had great memories of summers there."
And so the couple decided to make the country home their permanent residence, where they raised two daughters, along with horses, ducks and sheep.
It wasn't easy raising a family, caring for a farm and working a job, Ms. Gust said.
"Those were the days when viewing hours went on a long time, usually till 10 p.m.," she recalled. "He didn't get home till late at night."
In 1992, Mr. Schellhaas and his wife bought a townhouse in Estero, Fla., where the couple spent six months of the year, until 2012.
Though her father was too ill to make it to Florida this year, Ms. Gust said he continued loving the farm, where he used a large red tractor to mow seven acres. He also enjoyed hunting, golfing and carving small wooden objects and toys.
Every year he would host parties at the farm, and he loved cooking on the grill and watching his four grandchildren and one great-granddaughter romp in the yard.
"He was so into family get-togethers," said his other daughter, Virginia Neiger of McCandless. "He loved cooking on the grill and eating at the picnic tables. He just loved being outdoors."
Mr. Schellhaas' nephews Robert and Charles Schellhaas now operate the business with some of their sons.
Though Mr. Schellhaas semi-retired in 1990, he still would work during summers or whenever he got the urge, Matt Schellhaas said.
"If he was feeling good, he would be here greeting people at the door," Matt Schellhaas said. "That was him. That was his livelihood."
Services will be held at 10:30 this morning in the First Presbyterian Church, Route 8 at Heckert Road, Bakerstown. Interment will follow at Union Dale Cemetery on the North Side.
The family suggests donations to the First Presbyterian Church, P.O. Box 127, Bakerstown, PA 15007, or Hosanna Industries, 109 Rinard Lane, Rochester, PA 15074.
Janice Crompton: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-851-1867.