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Munhall officer brought compassion, calm to job

| Saturday, May 18, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
News obituary for Thomas J. Hilla, retired Munhall police officer, who died on Wednesday, May 15, 2013.

Retired Munhall police Officer Thomas Hilla always told his comrades that once they made an arrest and did their job, they had to let the rest of it go.

“If something doesn't work your way, if the person you arrested is released or the charges are dropped, you can't get depressed about that. That's the way the court system goes.” Munhall police Sgt. Joe Cibula said.

Thomas J. Hilla of Munhall Gardens died on Wednesday, May 15, 2013, in UPMC Shadyside. He was 75.

He had been suffering health problems, including a stroke.

Mr. Hilla served as a Munhall police officer for 37 years, retiring in December 2001.

“He never complained about work,” said his daughter, Elaine Cannon of West Mifflin. “He just cared about the community and the people. He wanted to make sure that people remained safe.”

Cannon added that when responding to domestic calls or other tense situations, her father was usually the peacemaker.

“He was the calm one. He was always able to be the one to go to,” Cannon said.

In July 1986, Mr. Hilla and his partner Paul Gyurina responded to a domestic dispute in Munhall.

A man shot at them through an apartment door, and they tumbled down the stairs, according to press accounts at the time. A bullet grazed Mr. Hilla in the head. Gyurina suffered a neck wound. The man held four people hostage over a 17-hour span before surrendering.

“It was a very dramatic situation, hearing that your father has been shot,” Cannon said.

Cibula said Mr. Hilla would give advice to other officers and assist in writing up criminal charges.

“He was always cracking jokes and always made everyone laugh around here,” Cibula said. “He made the department nice to come to work.”

Cannon said she always dreaded the day that a black wreath would adorn the door of the Munhall police station marking her father's passing. She saw the wreath there on Thursday.

“He just cared about people. He didn't look for what they had on or what they looked like. He was just there for them,” Cannon said.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Hilla is survived by his wife, Patricia; sons Thomas Hilla, of Monroeville, and Michael Hilla of Mercer; brother William Hilla; and two grandchildren.

Mr. Hilla was preceded in death by his parents, John and Mary Hilla; and four brothers.

Friends will be received from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Sunday in Savolskis-Wasik-Glenn Funeral Home, 3501 Main St., Munhall. A funeral liturgy will be said at 11 a.m. Monday in St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Munhall.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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