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Master plumber worked hard, helped others

Dawn Law
| Monday, Dec. 31, 2001

Although John Lannis did not graduate from high school, it was in the classroom that he established his lifelong work ethic.

At lunchtime, he left his grade school to watch a neighborhood shoe store while the owner was out. His duties included taking in shoes that needed repair.

John J. Lannis, a former master plumber and resident of West Mifflin, died Thursday, Dec. 27, 2001, in West Penn Hospital after a lengthy illness. He was 87.

He was born in Hazelwood, son of Marie and Nicola Lannis.

During World War II, he worked as burner in a Baltimore shipyard. That's where he met 18 year-old Dixie Joe Harbin, a metal marker just off a train from South Carolina. Together they helped build ships; she marked the metal and he cut it.

Even though Mr. Lannis was 10 years her senior, she found she liked him.

"I thought he was pretty nice," Mrs. Lannis said. "I'd never find anybody better than him."

They married before a justice of the peace in South Carolina in 1943.

After brief ownership of a general store in Maryland, the couple returned to Pittsburgh in the late 1940s. By then, their only child, John Jr. was born.

They settled in Hazelwood, and Mr. Lannis formed a partnership with his brother, Joe. They fixed up and rented as many as 17 residential properties and ran a plumbing business that serviced areas that included Hazelwood, the South Side and Braddock.

Even though the Lannises moved to West Mifflin in 1971, Mr. Lannis enjoyed returning to see his friends who remained in Hazelwood.

"He looked after anybody in the neighborhood, he believed in helping others," his wife said. "He was a good man, a hard worker, an honest man. He'll be missed by a lot of good people."

Mr. Lannis was preceded in death by his sisters, Minnie Vitullo, Rose Rustic, Elizabeth V. Ruffner and Roxy Lannis and his brother, Joseph A. Lannis.

He is survived by his wife, Dixie Joe (Harbin) Lannis; a son, John J. Lannis Jr., of Hazelwood, a grandson, Walter E. Lannis of Shadyside; a granddaughter, Aimee Lynn Lannis of West Mifflin; a brother, James Robert Lannis of Squirrel Hill; and two sisters, Angie Murphy of Ford City and Irene Barkley of Jamestown, Pa.

Visitation will be from 9 to 10 a.m. today at the John D. O'Connor and Son Funeral Home Inc., 5106 Second Ave., Hazelwood. A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated in St. Stephen Parish at 10 a.m.

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