Thomas O. Hornstein, retired general manager of Allegheny Cemetery in Lawrenceville whose idea launched a first-of-its-kind association for the purpose of saving and restoring the historic cemetery's structures and serene and scenic grounds, died Friday at his home in Moon from complications following a stroke. He was 85.
"He was a superb head of [Pittsburgh's] most historic cemetery. He recognized the architectural and landscape values and worked hard to restore and retain them," said Arthur Ziegler, president of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation and a longtime acquaintance of Mr. Hornstein's.
Mr. Hornstein, who was general manager at the cemetery from 1961 to 1989, worked with the foundation to establish in 1980 the Allegheny Cemetery Historical Association, a nonprofit arm through which people could make donations. The effort raised money to restore the Penn Avenue Gateway and Butler Street Entrance buildings, among other structural and landscape features at the nearly 170-year-old cemetery.
Mr. Hornstein was a foundation trustee for many years, remaining active with the group until his death, Mr. Ziegler said. "He was really devoted to historic preservation."
Born and raised in Aliquippa, Mr. Hornstein's father and grandfather were both in the funeral business.
A graduate of the forerunner to the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science, Mr. Hornstein was trained as a U.S. Marine during World War II, which ended before he was deployed overseas.
After the war, Mr. Hornstein operated the cemetery arm of the family business, transitioning out of the business to a position with Allegheny Cemetery, where he oversaw construction of its first mausoleum and crematory.
After retiring from Allegheny Cemetery in 1989, he worked part time as a cemetery consultant.
A nationally recognized expert, Mr. Hornstein wrote and lectured about sales, administration and maintenance of cemeteries, said his wife of 16 years, Catherine.
Perhaps a quality nurtured by his upbringing, Mr. Hornstein possessed a special gift for comforting people in times of grief, his wife said.
"Where there was death and grief, he would transform into the person who knew exactly what to do, where to be, what to say," Mrs. Hornstein said. "He knew when to say something, or not to say something."
In 1998, Mr. Hornstein established a charitable fund in his name at the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation. A fund also was established in his wife's name.
In a 1999 interview for the foundation's newsletter, Mr. Hornstein said his charitable work was a habit instilled during childhood.
"I went to school in Aliquippa during the Depression and my father always gave me 56 cents so I could buy one milk for myself and help one other student buy milk," he said.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Hornstein is survived by a sister, Patricia Ford of Huntington Beach, Calif.; four children from his first marriage, Thomas Jr., Dale and Richard, all of Syracuse, N.Y., and Betty Anne Hornstein of Destin, Fla.; and seven grandchildren.
Visitation is set for Monday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. at Huntsman Funeral Home and Cremation Services, 1522 Coraopolis Heights Road, Moon. A service will be held Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. at the funeral home, followed by private burial at Allegheny Cemetery, Lawrenceville.
Patricia Sabatini: email@example.com or 412-263-3066. First Published October 19, 2013 8:00 PM