Obituary: Robert Stumpp / Devoted himself to those in need

June 23, 1947 - May 6, 2013

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Robert Stumpp, who showed his love for Jesus in care for the poor through a career in Allegheny County government, died Monday from a rare cancer. The Highland Park resident was 65.

"He was one of those people who you wish you could put in a copy machine and run off 1,000 of him," said former Allegheny County Executive Jim Roddey. "He was sincere, humble, hard-working and really cared about the community. He was a professional who had no ego."

His goal, said his widow, Rosemary, was to be "a voice for the people who didn't have a voice."

A native of Meadville, Mr. Stumpp lost both of his parents when he was in his late teens. He had considered himself an agnostic, but their deaths led him to commit his life to Jesus in 1971, said Mrs. Stumpp, who met him in 1970 when both were students at Slippery Rock University.

In 1976, he became Catholic.

They had married in 1972 and moved to Philadelphia, where he finished his degree in health and physical education at Temple University. He worked for Philadelphia's parks department, supervising recreation centers.

"There were a lot of tough kids, and he kept a lot of them out of jail," said his son, Peter, of Shadyside.

He moved to Pittsburgh in 1987, becoming program director at Citiparks. In 1995, he met newly elected Allegheny County Commissioner Bob Cranmer.

"I could feel the compassion emanating from him. It was clear that he was a guy who would be a bridge-builder," said Mr. Cranmer, who hired him.

An early problem was a policy dispute over county services to children with severe disabilities. Mr. Stumpp arranged for Mr. Cranmer to meet a group of parents.

"They were terrified that their children were going to be put back in the institutions," Mr. Cranmer said. "I was still very new at my job. I came away from that meeting saying this has got to change. We can't be terrifying people. Bob Stumpp helped me to understand what the concerns at the grassroots level were."

He led prayer groups in his home, mentored aspiring converts to Catholicism and helped with church programs to strengthen marriage.

He was devoted to his family.

"I hope I can be half the husband and father that he has been," Peter Stumpp said.

A newspaper account of the 1991 Medallion Ball, when one of his daughters was honored for volunteer work, said he was so proud that he tried on his tuxedo nightly for two weeks beforehand.

In 1999, he earned a master's degree in public policy and management from the University of Pittsburgh. In 2000, he joined the Allegheny County Department of Human Services as a senior planner.

"But he did so much more than that," said Mark Cherna, director of the department.

"He mentored and trained all of our young folks. He was so sincere and had so much integrity and so believed in our value system that he was a great salesperson for what we do."

When Mr. Roddey took office in 2000, Mr. Stumpp advised him on human services.

"He had a lot of recommendations and I probably implemented most of them," Mr. Roddey said. "They were mostly about streamlining services and getting rid of some of the bureaucracy. ... He is very smart. He had a deep, intellectual capacity."

Mr. Stumpp became an adjunct professor of public policy at Pitt, focusing on ethics and accountability. In 2003, he ran in the special election for a city council seat. A former Democrat who had registered Republican in 2000 to vote for John McCain, he ran as an independent, finishing fifth in a six-way race.

In 2005, evacuees from Hurricane Katrina were housed at the Pittsburgh Project, a North Side Christian service organization. There he set up a one-stop service shop so people could do everything from open a bank account to register children for school.

"I don't remember a day that he wasn't here," said Saleem Ghubril, then director of the Pittsburgh Project and now head of the Pittsburgh Promise.

"His faith was never compartmentalized where this is the realm of religion and this is the realm of business or politics. Faith was the lens through which he saw the world."

In 2010, Mr. Stumpp was diagnosed with urachal cancer. He retired from the county in 2011 and from teaching last year.

"He handled his illness with more grace and dignity than almost anyone I've known," Mr. Roddey said.

In addition to his wife and son, he is survived by two daughters, Jennifer Stumpp of Stanton Heights and Julie Walls of West Deer; and one grandson.

Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. today in St. Paul Cathedral, Oakland.

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Ann Rodgers: or 412-263-1416.


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