Obituary: Jack B. Hoey / Dedicated Peoples Gas president, volunteer who led by example
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Former Peoples Natural Gas president Jack B. Hoey, who guided the company during times of volatile energy prices and steel industry distress, collapsed and died at his home in Hilton Head, S.C., Monday. He was 85.
Family members and business associates said Mr. Hoey was a devout Christian without being overbearing, led by example and was dedicated to community service -- whether it was helping economic development organizations or doing missionary work in India.
"He was a spiritual force of nature in Pittsburgh," said Roger Wright, the executive who succeeded Mr. Hoey as president of Peoples.
Mr. Hoey was born in Murrysville, the youngest of nine children. His father died before he was born. The family later moved so Mr. Hoey, a promising football prospect, could get a higher profile by playing for the Clairton High School team. He earned a scholarship to the College of William and Mary, where he played halfback and cornerback on what was later voted the school's greatest team, the 1947 squad that went 9-2 and played in the Dixie Bowl.
He graduated in 1948 and went to work for Peoples a year later as a clerk.
"He started in one of their branch offices as the low man on the totem pole," said his son Daniel of Sewickley. "When I look at what he accomplished, I can't even imagine how he did it."
Mr. Hoey's career was interrupted when he was drafted during the Korean War, during which he served with the Army in Germany. Upon his return, he rose in the ranks of Peoples' sales and marketing staff. He was named vice president of marketing in 1973, executive vice president in 1976 and president in 1977.
His tenure was marked by the decline of the region's steel industry, one of the gas industry's largest customers. Moreover, volatile energy prices and high inflation and interest rates presented challenges on the regulatory front and elsewhere for Peoples and its competitors. A shortage of pipeline capacity put further constraints on the utility, Mr. Wright said.
"It was a tough time to be in business and he was a very strong leader," he said. "We came out just fine."
Mr. Hoey retired in 1988 and moved to Hilton Head with his wife, Mary Jane, whom he met at a Dale Carnegie course and married in 1955.
In retirement, he was active in Pioneers, a missionary organization. Mr. Hoey took a month-long trip to India, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea in 1989 that inspired a passion for missionary work that lasted the remainder of his life. His efforts focused on India, where Pioneers has established more than 300 congregations said his son, Jack Hoey Jr. of Charleston, S.C.
Mr. Hoey said his father was essentially the U.S. fundraising arm of the organization.
"It was very important to him that other people got to hear about God," he said.
Nephew John Fletcher, who accompanied Mr. Hoey on the 1989 trip, said his uncle "was a model of someone who had a strong faith and was able to integrate it into his life and business without being offensive.
"The trip to India kind of lit the fire," said Mr. Fletcher, who is senior vice president of the Orlando, Fla.-based U.S. arm of the missionary organization.
Mr. Hoey also served as a director and interim president of Westminster College, was chairman of the regional United Way's 1983 fundraising drive, chairman of the board of Northgate Church in Pittsburgh, and an officer of the Duquesne Club and Oakmont Country Club. He was named the American Gas Association's marketing executive of the year in 1987. Mr. Hoey was also active in the Regional Industrial Development Corp. and the Pennsylvania Economy League.
In addition to his sons Jack and Daniel and his wife, he is survived by four other children: Susy Rardon of Hilton Head; David of Cranberry; William of Atlanta; and Anne Edmondson of Charlotte, N.C. He is also survived by sisters Lois Schwader and Twila Mercer, both of Murrysville; a brother, Edmund of Sarasota, Fla.; and 21 grandchildren.
Visitation is today from 3 to 6 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at Grace Community Church in Hilton Head, where a memorial service will be held Friday at 11 a.m.
Plans for a memorial service in Pittsburgh are incomplete. The family suggests contacting David Hoey at 412-953-4320 or David_Hoey@yahoo.com for information. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions to Pioneers -- India (Account #150500), 10123 William Carey Dr., Orlando, FL 32832.
First Published August 16, 2012 12:00 am