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Tuesday essay: Sophie

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Contact Colin McNickle (412-320-7836 or

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Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, 3:39 p.m.

To many on the “outside,” Sophie Masloff was a most improbable mayor for Pittsburgh. A woman. A grandmother. Jewish. And, oh, that voice.

But for Pittsburghers living in that proverbial enclave of a “whole world of people,” she was a natural, a never apologetic “one of us.” Compassionate and inclusive? Of course. But this “old Jewish grandmother,” as even she was wont to characterize herself, was no pushover. She became the best ambassador the city ever had. And when Sophie died on Sunday morning at 96, more than a bit of each of us died with her.

Sophie, the epitome of a public servant, also was the kind of pol who never met a buffet she didn't like. That's not to say she was gluttonous. Sophie merely appreciated a good spread. Her trips to “the tables” at Democrat convention parties were the stuff of legend.

Neither did Sophie shy away from speaking her mind. A few years ago, upset that one of her friends had been, in her view, unfairly taken to task on the Trib's editorial pages, she telephoned to protest. And she quickly followed up with a typewritten note. “Dear Mr. McNickle: As per our 'phone talk. I hope you can see the error of your way.”

It was sent on Sophie's classic “A Yiddish saying and translation” notepad. The saying that day: “ Gnadim (heaven) is a machia (pleasure), but getting there is most of the fun.”

None among us can question that Sophie had the greatest fun getting there.

— Colin McNickle

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