Longtime Pittsburgh firefighter stayed active in service to city
Robert P. Ravenstahl Sr. was an “old-school” Pittsburgh politician who grew up hauling coal on the streets of Manchester and went on to head a powerful North Side family that includes a former city mayor.
Mr. Ravenstahl, known as “Pap” to his family, died Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015, in the Arbors at St. Barnabas assisted living center in Gibsonia. He was 90.
“I cherished his wisdom,” said son, Robert P. Ravenstahl Jr., who has been a North Side magistrate for more than 20 years. “If I had a question, he was always sure to guide me in the right direction.”
Although he thought grandsons Luke, 35, who became the country's youngest big-city mayor at 26 in 2006, and Adam, 30, who is a Democratic state representative from the North Side, were too young to enter politics, he was proud of them.
“He was very proud of Luke and Adam after they became elected officials,” Robert Jr. said. “At the time when they first got involved, he just didn't think it was the right thing to do.”
The elder Ravenstahl spent 21 years as a city firefighter before retiring as a deputy chief. He was chairman of the 26th Ward Democratic Committee, as an alderman, today's equivalent of a magistrate, and spent several terms as a state representative from the North Side before being defeated in 1978 by Tom Murphy, who later became Pittsburgh's mayor.
He was a contemporary of political heavyweights such as David Lawrence and Joseph Barr, two previous mayors. Lawrence later was a Pennsylvania governor.
He remained active long after retirement, Councilwoman Darlene Harris of Spring Hill said.
“He was always active in the community,” she said. “I've always had a lot of respect for him and his wife.”
He was a World War II veteran of the Marine Corps aboard the USS Anderson, a destroyer. Ravenstahl said his father was a gunner.
He loved hunting and shot many deer, once bagging a 13-point buck in Elk County. He traveled to watch his grandchildren play in sporting events.
“It wouldn't be uncommon for him to drive to Cleveland or drive to Sharon,” Robert Ravenstahl said. “He was always driving somewhere for the kids.”
Additional survivors include his wife, Joan, of Allison Park; two sons, Kurt of Omaha, Neb., and Daniel of Baldwin Borough; two daughters, Joanne Feeney of Sharon and Linda Gruss of Cleveland; 16 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be noon to 3 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. Friday in Devlin Funeral Home Inc., 806 Perry Highway, in Ross.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated 10 a.m. Saturday at Incarnation of the Lord Church, 4071 Franklin Road, Observatory Hill.
Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or email@example.com.