Obituary: Dorothy Devine / Singer with the Pittsburgh Banjo Club

Aug. 8, 1940 - Oct. 5, 2013

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On Wednesday evenings, when Frank Rossi would call Dorothy "D.J." Devine to the stage to sing, she would lift slowly out of her chair, dangle her boa around her neck and walk to the microphone to hearty applause and hoots.

She lit up the crowd at the Pittsburgh Banjo Club on those weekly rehearsals at the Allegheny Elks Lodge on the North Side, where a cult audience has grown in recent years, in part to hear her belt out old tunes a la Sophie Tucker.

This Wednesday, the Banjo Club will perform a tribute to their chanteuse, who died Saturday at 73 at Jefferson Regional Hospital.

"It was a shock to everybody," said Mr. Rossi, the leader and founder of the club. "She really sparked a lot of life into the audience and the banjo club."

A resident of Baldwin Borough, Ms. Devine had a kidney transplant nine years ago and missed some sessions recently but always came back, he said: "She was a real trouper."

Ms. Devine was born and raised on the South Side and was a nursing student when she met Richard Devine, whom she married 51 years ago in August, said her son Jim Devine of Erie.

Ms. Devine worked as a psychiatric nurse at West Penn Hospital until her oldest son, Rick, was born.

"She remained a homemaker from that point on," said Jim Devine, whose mother took in stray cats and stopped to talk to people who looked to be down on their luck, whether in a grocery store or on the street.

"Some of the fondest memories I have were of quirky little tunes or parody songs she sang to us when we were kids," he said. "There was always a radio on. She listened to the 1920s and '30s music she ended up singing at the Banjo Club. She also liked outlaw country, Waylon and Willie, and would belt those out, too. She liked listening to the Beatles, too."

The banjo club, which rehearses to crowds of young and old on Wednesdays at 8 p.m., was formed 25 years ago. Ms. Devine would attend and mouth the words to every song. When someone suggested she could sing, the club made an exception.

"We don't usually let people come up and sing, but we did for her, and her voice was tremendous," Mr. Rossi said. "We made her an official member" in 2006.

She had a husky, raucous voice that thrilled audiences on the classics "All of Me," "Am I Blue?," "How Come You Do Me Like You Do Do Do?" and "Some of These Days," the song that she accompanied with bump-and-grind movements that brought the house down.

"We would be at a performance when the audience wouldn't be paying much attention, and when we brought her up, the place lit up," Mr. Rossi said.

Besides her son, Jim, Ms. Devine is survived by her husband, Richard Devine; sons Rick of Arlington, Bill of West Mifflin, David of Leverkusen, Germany, and Neal of Abilene, Texas; and11 grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. today at the Jefferson Memorial Funeral Home, 301 Curry Hollow Road, Pleasant Hills. A blessing service will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the funeral home.

obituaries

Diana Nelson Jones: djones@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1626. First Published October 7, 2013 8:00 PM


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