John Howard Hill, a gregarious attorney in the field of labor law and ardent backer of the city's classical music organizations, died Saturday at UPMC Shadyside. He was 72.
Mr. Hill, who retired in 2006 after 16 years with the Jackson Lewis law firm, spent 25 years previously with Reed Smith Shaw & McClay. The resident of the Summerset at Frick Park development in Squirrel Hill had been in declining health during much of his retirement.
A lifelong Pittsburgher who grew up in a successful businessman's family, he became skilled at practicing law and was long known for his sociable nature. His zest for both helping and hosting others made him popular among clients and a large circle of friends. Mr. Hill enjoyed giving large-scale parties, whether at home or renting out a special site like Phipps Conservatory.
"When John was in a room, you knew he was there," said Lynn Outwater, a senior partner at Jackson Lewis. "He was very charming, very charismatic."
Mr. Hill's clients were primarily employers, whom he would advise on workplace law, "with an eye toward compassion for employees and compliance ... beyond the requirements of the law, by engaging in best practices," Ms. Outwater said.
Two of Mr. Hill's passions were cars and music. He had an extensive collection of automakers' car catalogs dating to the middle of the 20th century, and he was a model car hobbyist with scores of them. For his own driving around, he favored convertibles. No wallflower, he was also reliably seen wearing bright clothing for most occasions.
He played piano when younger, a talent his mother also had. As an adult, Mr. Hill became a devoted fan and generous supporter of both the Pittsburgh Opera and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and he served on the boards of both.
Mr. Hill ended 25 years of service on the opera board last year. The opera's general director, Christopher Hahn, said he was known both for expressing strong opinions and maintaining a loyalty to the organization, regardless of whether his opinions carried the day.
"If he disliked something he would speak up, but it never, ever rocked his very strong conviction that in our case the opera was an essential part of the community," Mr. Hahn said, noting that Mr. Hill was effective in introducing other potential financial contributors to the organization as well.
Mr. Hill grew up in Point Breeze as the son of PPG Industries President David G. Hill, one of the city's prominent businessmen at the time. Mr. Hill graduated from Shady Side Academy and earned both his undergraduate and law degrees at Yale University.
He is survived by his longtime partner, William J. Shanley of Shadyside, and his brother, William F. Hill of Harmar.
Private funeral arrangements were by John A. Freyvogel Sons.
Gary Rotstein: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1255.