Obituary: Charles D. Horne / Retired U.S. Steel executive who 'always had a smile'
Will Rogers said he never met a man he didn't like, but odds are good there was never a man Charlie Horne met who didn't like him.
His personal warmth and Irish charm were as legendary as his sense of humor, and that was enormous. Many a dull moment was enlivened by one of Mr. Horne's quips, whether it was during a board meeting, an evening spent with friends, or a gala he attended with his wife, retired Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Fanfare columnist Jean Horne.
"Charlie was a happy guy, a hard-working guy, a guy you really enjoyed being around," said his good friend, Floyd Ganassi. "He was such a great storyteller he'd have you rolling on the floor. He was very bright and knew how to get along with people. In his negotiations he wasn't tough, but he got everything he wanted. He'd make you think you were getting a hell of a deal no matter what it was."
Mr. Horne's favorite holiday was Christmas, and he died on Christmas Eve from throat cancer in his Shadyside home. The former U.S. Steel executive was 83.
He first met Jean, his wife of 30 years, just a few blocks away when they both owned condos in the same building. She had organized a meeting of residents to address some building issues and put forth a game plan. "He stood up in the back of the room and said that's not going to work," Mrs. Horne remembered. So began a romance that was apparent to all who knew the couple.
"It seemed that Charlie sprinkled stardust on my life," Mrs. Horne said. "Our life together was magical. It might sound smaltzy, but it's true. We laughed about that magic and felt so very blessed.
"I loved his charisma with people, the way they warmed to him. He never lost that sparkle in his eye. And I loved his integrity. This was a man whose word you could take to the bank."
Mr. Horne grew up in Friendship, the son of Catherine and John Horne and the youngest of four siblings. He attended Central Catholic High School, where he played varsity football and was named center on the All-City Football Team in 1947. A football scholarship took Mr. Horne to the University of Kentucky, where his studies were interrupted by the Korean War. He served in the Army as a first sergeant, 28th Division Artillery, and went on to earn a bachelor's degree in finance from Duquesne University before completing graduate studies at Dartmouth College and Columbia University.
"My dad was one of those people for whom the glass was always half-full," said his son, Jack Horne of Naperville, Ill. "He always left us with a smile, left us laughing. The sun was always coming up with him, regardless of the weather. And he had a great sense for business. I could always rely on him for his perspective on what I was going through in my business. He was very sharp, very supportive."
Mr. Horne joined U.S. Steel in 1954 and held various positions during the next 30 years, including a 14-year assignment at its financial headquarters in New York as director of international finance. In 1980, he was named president of U.S. Steel's real estate division in Pittsburgh. In that post, he oversaw the implosion of the former Carlton House Hotel that was owned by U.S. Steel and supervised the construction of the BNY Mellon headquarters Downtown. He orchestrated numerous other construction projects, including office buildings, condominiums, golf courses and shopping centers throughout the country.
Following his retirement, Mr. Horne was hired as president of Allegheny International Realty Development Corp.
His professional expertise was an asset to Duquesne University, where he was an emeritus member of the board of directors, president of its Century Club for outstanding alumni and former chairman of the Development and Construction Committee that built the A.J. Palumbo Center.
"He was extremely positive and congenial," said John Connelly, retired senior vice president of U.S. Steel and former chairman of Duquesne's board of directors. "He worked hard for solutions in a collegial manner and wanted everyone to work together ...
"When I was a trainee at U.S. Steel in New York, Charlie was an executive and he always took the time to search me out and inquire how I was doing and teach and mentor me. When we reunited at Duquesne 30 years later, he was the same man."
Mr. Horne also served as CFO of the board of the Pittsburgh Blind Association (now Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh) for 30 years.
"Charlie would always provide the light touch at meetings," said Dennis Huber, retired executive director of the association and a longtime friend. "He got things done. Part of it was just his style. He knew what was going on and you couldn't get anything past him. I don't think I ever saw him angry. He just had a smile and a joke for everyone."
Mr. Horne also served on Central Catholic's advisory board for 15 years and spent eight years as chairman of the board's finance committee. Attorney Jimmy Dunn, his friend since 1945 and a fellow Central graduate, recalled that Mr. Horne would do anything for his alma mater.
"When we called him, he was the first to say what do you need?" Mr. Dunn said. "Charlie would never turn anybody down. ... He was gracious to everybody and never said a bad word about anybody."
In addition to his wife, Mr. Horne is survived by his children from a previous marriage, Jack Horne, Kate Horne of Dallas, David Horne of Fairhaven, Mass.. and stepson Josh Estner of Pittsburgh; his brother, Robert Horne; and several grandchildren.
Friends will be welcomed from 4 to 7 p.m. today at McCabe Bros. Funeral Home, 6214 Walnut St., Shadyside. A Mass will be celebrated at St. Paul Cathedral, Oakland, at 10 a.m. Saturday. Burial at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies will be private.
The family suggests memorial contributions be made to the Central Catholic High School Scholarship Fund, 4720 Fifth Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15213.
First Published December 28, 2012 12:00 am