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Memorial for Hill District legend a 'fitting' service

| Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Justin Merriman | Trib Total Media
Thelma Lovette Morris speaks at a memorial service in memory of her mother, Thelma Lovette, the namesake of the YMCA in the Hill District on Friday, August 1, 2014.

When Eric Mann met Thelma Williams Lovette, he remembers her talking about two things ­— her love for the Hill District and the YMCA.

“Its sole purpose is to serve the community, and that's what her sole purpose was,” he said during a memorial service for her on Friday afternoon.

Hundreds of people — young and old — filed into the gymnasium at the Thelma Lovette YMCA on Centre Avenue to pay their respects. The longtime civil-rights activist died May 24 in Arizona. She was 98.

Lovette was the first woman to serve on the boards of the then-Centre Avenue YMCA and the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh. The YMCA bearing her name opened in 2012.

“When you think of her,” said Mann, former CEO of the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh, “there's no better place her legacy will live on.”

Friends and family spoke of their favorite memories of Lovette.

Daughter Thelma Lovette Morris talked about the wisdom that Lovette gave to young people ­— where you start out may not be where you end up.

Lovette was a living example of that wisdom, Morris said. Her mother started out as a dishwasher and retired as supervisor of social works at Mercy Hospital in Uptown. She was a president of the board of the Hill District Community Development Corp., in addition to other involvement and activism in the neighborhood.

“It's very fitting and proper that we do this for a lady who gave so much to the community and life,” the Rev. Johnnie Monroe, who officiated the service, said beforehand. “It's a good tribute to her and to her family and to the work she has done.”

Some attendees had little connection to Lovette other than recognizing her name.

Tracey Jennings, 54, of the Hill District, said she met Lovette once at the YMCA and was “so honored to be in her presence.”

“I'm so glad to be a part of this,” she said. “She was the Hill District.”

Megan Henney is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7987 or mhenney@tribweb.com.

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