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Heyl: Masloff's vibrancy endured

| Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, 10:30 p.m.

Jenny Bradshaw was the only person spotted at Sophie Masloff's funeral wearing a stethoscope.

“I'd stop by to see her every Tuesday,” Masloff's home health nurse recalled. “She used to kid me that she'd never forget my name because I had the same last name as (Steelers Hall of Fame quarterback) Terry Bradshaw.”

Bradshaw's final Tuesday journey to visit Masloff took her to Temple Sinai in Squirrel Hill. She was among more than 300 friends, admirers and elected officials who came to bid farewell to the former Pittsburgh mayor, who died on Sunday.

Masloff's departure at 96 robbed the city of not only its only female and Jewish mayor, but also one of its most vibrant personalities. She was living proof that extraordinary achievements hardly are exclusive to youth.

Masloff was City Council president when she ascended to the mayor's office under the most difficult of circumstances, the death of Mayor Richard Caliguiri in 1988. The anticipation was that the then-70-year-old grandmother would be little more than a caretaker and perhaps frequently dust the office furniture until the next mayoral election.

Masloff defied expectations, something she often excelled at as mayor, and won a full four-year term. For two decades after that, she was the well-respected elder stateswoman of Pittsburgh politics.

But you probably already know that.

What perhaps you did not know is that Masloff was frustrated by her increasing reliance on a wheelchair. That's understandable for anyone, but particularly so for this fiercely independent woman whom I recall seeing driving her Cadillac down Forbes Avenue near her apartment well into her 80s.

“She told me, ‘I'm 96, I'm old, my time is coming,' ” Bradshaw said. “I asked her what would make her happy. She said she was happy back when her hair was red. I told her we could make it red again if she wanted.”

Bradshaw said that besides suffering some chronic back discomfort, Masloff was in reasonably good shape until her hospitalization several weeks ago and remained mentally sharp.

“She'd share stories with me from her childhood all the way up until when she was mayor,” she said. “Every time I left, I left with a story I hadn't heard before.”

Bradshaw said the friendship she forged with Masloff drew her to the funeral more than any sense of professional obligation.

“I'm not here on behalf of my company. I'm here for me,” she said. “Sophie was just so insightful. Her life didn't end when she stopped being mayor. She set quite an example for all of us on how to live.”

Never one to take herself too seriously, Masloff probably would have dismissed such talk with a wave of a hand and roll of the eyes.

Then, when no one was looking, she probably would have smiled.

Eric Heyl is a Trib Total Media staff writer. He can be reached at 412- 320-7857 or eheyl@tribweb.com.

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