Arts lover a strong advocate of equal rights

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Tuesday, April 30, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Gloria McDermott Hickton spoke about equality and lived by that tenet.

The mother of five tried to make life better for those around her, especially women, those who knew her said. One of the first members of the Pittsburgh chapter of the National Organization for Women, she persevered to eliminate unfairness even when she made less money than male counterparts.

“My mother was a strong advocate for equal treatment,” said her son, U.S. Attorney David Hickton. “She was a pioneer in equal rights and equal pay, and helped bring the women's movement to Western Pennsylvania.”

Gloria McDermott Hickton, a resident of Castle Shannon, Bethel Park and Mt. Lebanon, and most recently The Pines of Mt. Lebanon, died on Saturday, April 27, 2013. She was 87.

One woman she inspired was Hickton's wife, Dawne, CEO of RTI International Metals in Pittsburgh. Mrs. McDermott Hickton often accompanied her daughter-in-law on business trips to places such as New York and China to help care for her grandchildren.

“Gloria was a career woman who supported working mothers like me,” said Dawne Hickton. “... She clearly was an anchor for me, and she was more than a mother-in-law. She was a friend and a mentor.”

Mrs. McDermott Hickton's wide-ranging career included on-air and voiceover work for WEEP radio; a job with DuPont's textiles and cookware divisions; and 35 years as a real estate agent in the South Hills.

She grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., where she attended St. Brendan's Catholic grade school and high school before studying at Tobi-Coburn School of Design.

A member of a New York theater group, she met her late husband Jack, a former Allegheny County district attorney, on stage. Married in 1949, they moved to Castle Shannon in 1956 and became some of the first actors in Pittsburgh Playhouse. Jack Hickton died in 2002.

Mrs. McDermott Hickton served on a board to build the Castle Shannon Library and participated in the Three Rivers Arts Festival. Always ready for spirited political debate, she was a delegate to the 1996 Democratic National Convention.

Throughout her life, Mrs. McDermott Hickton loved gardening, books and the arts, her son said, but she was most proud of her children.

“She always told me to treat every day as a gift and to live life to the fullest,” he said. “She taught me to not waste a moment and to be conscious of making a contribution and to be engaging in service.”

Her sister-in-law, Marie McDermott, whose husband James J. McDermott died in 2008, said when Mrs. McDermott Hickton faced challenges, “she was a gutsy fighter who always found the positive and got things done.”

In addition to her son David, Mrs. McDermott Hickton is survived by children Maren, Loran and Tony of Pittsburgh and Jake of St. Petersburg; 12 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

Friends will be received from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. Friday and 9 to 10:15 a.m. Saturday in Freyvogel-Slater Funeral Home, 112 Fort Couch Road, Bethel Park. A Mass of Christian Burial will follow at 11 a.m. Saturday in St. Anne Church in Castle Shannon.

Memorial contributions can be made to the Gloria McDermott Hickton Fund for Artistic Excellence at Pittsburgh Public Theater, 621 Penn Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15222 or the Mt. Lebanon Village Intergenerational Program, 710 Washington Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15228.

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at or 412-320-7889.

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