At age 12, Pasquale "Pat" Navarro delivered water to thirsty laborers employed by his grandfather, also named Pasquale, a stone mason who immigrated to America during the late 1800s from Siano, a village east of Naples, Italy.
As he rose to the presidency of Navarro Construction, Mr. Navarro developed a reputation as a friendly, gracious man who could negotiate successfully with architects, contractors or trade unions.
As a young project manager during the 1960s, Mr. Navarro oversaw the construction of Washington Plaza in Uptown, a 22-story luxury apartment building completed in 1964 and designed by architect I.M. Pei. On that job, Navarro Construction became the first firm in the region to use a tower crane. During that era's building boom, Mr. Navarro negotiated with the Black Construction Coalition, which had threatened to shut down major construction projects unless the city's African-Americans had the chance to learn skills that prepared them for jobs in the building trades unions.
Mr. Navarro, formerly of Squirrel Hill, died Friday of pulmonary hypertension at his Shadyside home, said his son, Nick Navarro of Pine. He was 87.
Joseph Burchick, owner of Burchick Construction Co. Inc., was in his late 20s when he left a job in Houston, Texas, to return home to Pittsburgh. During an interview with Mr. Navarro and his son, Mr. Burchick admired a life-sized portrait of George Washington in the company's offices. The two men connected easily because Mr. Burchick is the son of a military man.
"Pat's heart was in the military. He had integrity out the ears. He just commanded respect," Mr. Burchick said. "He was always well-dressed, well-kept, well-spoken. Architects loved him. Owners loved him. People trusted him."
In 1985, Navarro Construction landed a $20 million contract to transform Downtown's Stanley Theater into the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts, the largest auditorium in the 14-block Cultural District. It was one of Mr. Burchick's first jobs.
"We took the back of the house off and rebuilt the proscenium," Mr. Burchick said. "Pat was the kind of guy who gave you the freedom to do your thing. I really grew working for him."
Nick Navarro said his father grew up in Larimer, an East End neighborhood with a street that still bears the family name. Family members recall that during the 1920s or '30s, Pasquale Navarro, the stone mason, won some property in a card game, then built a home for his family and others. Later, he successfully petitioned the city to change the street's name to Navarro.
Pat Navarro attended Lemington Elementary School on Lemington Avenue, then graduated from Shady Side Academy in 1944. He attended Carnegie Tech for a while and enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving for a year and a half during World War II.
In 1946, he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he earned a bachelor's degree in military engineering and graduated in 1950 as a second lieutenant. That same year, he married Marie Antoinette Delli Gatti, with whom he shared a love of gardening and helped to tend gorgeous hydrangeas. The couple moved to Regensburg, Germany, so Mr. Navarro could fulfill a tour of duty required of all West Point graduates.
In 1953, Mr. Navarro resigned from the military and returned with his family to Pittsburgh. He worked for his father, Dominic, who ran the family's company.
"He resigned because my grandfather wanted him to come back," Nick Navarro said. "He was a project manager. He oversaw jobs and made sure materials were there. He made sure manpower was available. We did our own concrete work, our own brick work and our own excavation work for a number of years."
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, the company restored the historic Brown Hotel in Louisville, Ky. -- Mrs. Navarro and son Pat Jr., both interior designers, were hired to decorate -- and turned the old city hall in Richmond, Va., into commercial space. Navarro also renovated the rooms at the Omni William Penn and later, its grand lobby.
Navarro Construction dissolved in the late 1980s, liquidated its assets and paid its creditors. Mr. Navarro then managed projects for his son, Pat Jr., who runs Navarro Design Associates, based in East Liberty.
In addition to his sons, Mr. Navarro is survived by two daughters, Mary of the North Side, and Patricia of Aspinwall. Also surviving are two sisters, Prudence of Oakmont and Mary of Cheswick.
Visitation is 6 to 8 p.m. Monday and 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at John A. Freyvogel Sons Inc. 4900 Centre Avenue at Devonshire Street, Oakland. A Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. Wednesday in St. Paul Cathedral, Oakland. Interment will be Friday at West Point Cemetery, West Point, N.Y.
The family requests memorials to The Woodlands Foundation, 134 Shenot Road, Wexford, PA 15090.
Marylynne Pitz: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1648. First Published August 11, 2013 12:00 AM