Edgar Michaels was one day shy of 90 when he died Sunday, but he didn't miss much else in his expansive life.
A native of Troy Hill who earned a Purple Heart in the United States Army Air Forces in World War II, he retired last year as president of the Hinkel-Hofmann Co., where he spent 63 years developing a business acumen that served him on city council, the city's planning commission and on various boards, including that of ACTION-Housing.
Mr. Michaels of Point Breeze died at UPMC Shadyside.
His sons, Jim and Gary, said he had suffered a stroke in May.
During his career at the North Side-based Hinkel-Hofmann, a building supply company he and several business owners established the now defunct Northside Civic Development Council.
Tom Cox, one of the council's executive directors, said the group's goal was "to build a North Side equivalent to the Allegheny Conference. They were all very civically engaged."
In 1976, Mr. Michaels hired Tom Murphy, a young returnee from the Peace Corps, to be its executive director.
"We were all involved in urban renewal issues, trying to stop all the demolitions" on the North Side, Mr. Murphy said.
"Ed cared deeply about the North Side. It was not what it is today, but I remember Ed as having a relentlessly cheerful and optimistic approach to life."
Larry Swanson, director of ACTION-Housing, remembers him as "one of those people in life who take care of everyone else."
Mr. Michaels served on ACTION-Housing's board for 25 years off and on with a strong interest in housing for the poor and elderly.
His knowledge of mortgage finance and connections through his business helped the organization, Mr. Swanson said.
"He brought a rich practical experience to the board," he said.
"He always had a big thoughtful view on things."
His sons remember a lighter side.
"Our dad loved to tell stories and he would tell them to total strangers, waitresses, anyone," Gary Michaels said. "We'd go to a Steelers game and he had six people say hello before we got to our seats."
He said that late in life, people often mistook his father for Steelers chairman Dan Rooney.
"We didn't see it until we went out to dinner with him one time and people wanted to get their photos taken with him," Jim Michaels said.
In 1969, a Democratic committeewoman called Mr. Michaels to ask him to serve out a term on city council, which he agreed to do but only after being shocked.
"He was not a politician," Gary Michaels said. "He told my mom, 'It's as if I was called to be on the Apollo moon shot.' "
He was elected in 1970 but declined to run in 1974.
"My dad was one of the more outspoken opponents of [Mayor] Pete Flaherty as chairman of the finance committee," Gary Michaels said.
"He was also frustrated by the way city government ran. I remember he said that we'll never solve our problems with all these school boards and all these municipalities" in the county.
When Richard Caliguiri became mayor, he appointed Mr. Michaels to serve on the planning commission, which he did from 1980 to 1986.
Active in numerous community service organizations, he helped start the food pantry at Rodef Shalom.
Besides his sons, he is survived by a daughter, Laura Rubinoff. All three siblings live in Potomac, Md.
Services at Rodef Shalom Temple, 4905 Fifth Ave., Shadyside, will be at 11 a.m. today, with visitation one hour prior.
Contributions in his name may be made to the Rodef Shalom Food Pantry, 4905 Fifth Ave., Pittsburgh 15213, or to ACTION-Housing, 425 Sixth Ave., Suite 905, Pittsburgh 15219.
Diana Nelson Jones: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1626.