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Problem solver poured energy into community

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Elbert S. Hatley, of Pittsburgh’s Hill District, died July 26, 2013.

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Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Elbert Hatley didn't just live in his community; rather, the longtime resident of the Hill District took an active role to better it, some of his many acquaintances said.

“You really didn't know all the gifts and talents Elbert carried until you stood next to him and were involved with him in something. He really had a special influence on The Hill that will be sorely missed,” said the Rev. Mark S. Tookes, executive pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church.

Elbert S. Hatley of Mt. Washington died Friday, July 26, 2013, during a long battle with cancer. He was 70.

He was a member, trustee, deacon and choir member at Macedonia, where Tookes first met him in 1994. Tookes was interning in the church while a student at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, and both sang in the choir.

“I never realized he had such a wonderful voice and, oh, how he loved to sing. But that's a lot like his life ... you just did not recognize all the gifts and talents he had until you stood next to him,” Tookes said.

“I heard people mention him as the unofficial mayor of The Hill, and that's just what he was,” Tookes said. “One of Elbert's greatest gifts was he was able to influence people to get involved.”

Mr. Hatley served on the board of Small Seeds Development Inc., a faith-based nonprofit in Pittsburgh that works to strengthen and support families, particularly single-mother households.“Words really can't describe him. He was one of my mentors, and I could call him any time of the day with any problem,” said Small Seeds CEO Andrew Cheeseboro. “He was a very smart, practical person and extremely energetic. He always had a smile on his face and had a way to turn a negative into a positive.”

Cheeseboro said Mr. Hatley was very involved in strategic planning and the financial committee.

“He was a go-getter and problem-solver. He believed in training and mentoring people to better themselves,” Cheeseboro said.

Mr. Hatley was executive director of the Hill Community Development Corp., served on the board of the Hill District Consensus Group and ran a development consultant group, Hatley Associates. A North Carolina native, he earned a bachelor of arts degree in geography and political science at North Carolina Central University.

He is survived by his wife, Josephine Hatley; son, Elbert S. Hatley Jr.; daughter Melita Hatley Terry and husband, Frank; seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Visitation was held in Samuel J. Jones Funeral Home, 2644 Wylie Ave. A celebration of life service will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday in Macedonia Baptist Church, 2225 Bedford Ave., Hill District.

Donations may be made in his name to the Small Seeds Development Inc., 204 N. Highland Ave., Second Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15206, or to the family.

Paul Peirce is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-850-2860 or

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