North Huntingdon woman saw Pittsburgh’s transformation from `Smoky City’
Lois June Drexler grew up on Mt. Washington in the 1930s and 1940s, when Pittsburgh was known as the “Smoky City.”
The steel mills were belching out smoke on both sides of the Monongahela River — the South Side and Hazelwood — and homes like the one young Lois Bressler lived in were burning coal in their furnaces to keep warm.
There were times when she would walk from her home to Downtown Pittsburgh, through the Liberty Tunnels and across the Liberty Bridge, said her daughter, June Robertson of Greensburg.
“You did not wear white because it would get dirty,” Robertson said.
Mrs. Drexler, 89, of North Huntingdon, died Sunday, April 14, 2019, at Canterbury Place hospice, Lawrenceville.
She was born in Pittsburgh on June 27, 1929, the daughter of the late John and Naomi Miller Bressler.
Tragedy struck the family when Mrs. Drexler was a teenager.
Her older brother, William, was killed in the Battle of the Bulge, said her son, Jonathan Drexler of North Huntingdon.
Robertson said her mother was home when soldiers bearing the telegraph of her brother’s death came to the house. She stopped them before they could reach Mrs. Bressler.
“It was traumatic,” Robertson said.
After her brother’s death, Mrs. Drexler’s family moved out of their Mt. Washington home to nearby Brookline in the South Hills.
She graduated from the former South Hills High School and then went to work for a bank in Downtown Pittsburgh. She worked there until she married Thomas Drexler in 1952.
She met her future husband while playing miniature golf in Erie, where she and some girlfriends had gone for a short vacation.
Thomas Drexler, a World War II Navy veteran, was from Erie and the couple spent a brief time there. They moved to Brookline, where they raised their three children until moving to North Huntingdon in 1975.
Mrs. Drexler had a beautiful singing voice, said her family. She sang in the high school chorus and was a soloist at many weddings while in her 20s. Robertson said the family has some 78 rpm records of her mother singing.
She also enjoyed bowling and playing cards. And, according to her son, she loved to collect paper weights.
She was a charter member of the former West Highland White Terrier Club of Western Pennsylvania. The family raised Westies and her husband was a former president of the national West Highland White Terrier Club, Robertson said.
She had recently joined the Phoebe Bayard Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Through genealogical research, Robertson said she learned one of her mother’s ancestors came to America in 1749 and fought in the Revolutionary War.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Thomas Drexler.
In addition to her daughter, June, and son, Jonathan, she also is survived by daughter Joan Ciardi of Penn Township, two grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.
Friends will be received from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the William Snyder Funeral Home, 521 Main St., Irwin, where a memorial service will follow at 2 p.m. with Dr. Ronald H. Wakeman officiating. Memorial contributions can be made to Family Hospice and Palliative Care, 50 Moffett St., Pittsburgh, PA 15243 (www.FamilyHospicePA.org).
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, [email protected] or via Twitter .