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Obituaries

Restaurateur shaped by his time in the service

| Thursday, Feb. 26, 2009

On any given afternoon, Richard Handler could be found holding court at the parking meter in front of the Gazebo, the restaurant he owned on Walnut Street in Shadyside.

"Dick knew just about everyone in Shadyside," said his wife, Anne Handler. "He enjoyed chatting with his friends and waving at friends and customers who drove by."

Richard M. Handler of Shadyside, a past president of the Shadyside Chamber of Commerce, died of cancer on Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009, in the Forbes Hospice in Oakland. He was 88.

Mr. Handler was a respected entrepreneur who was involved with such popular restaurants as Humphrey's and the Raspberry Rhino in Shadyside, Weinstein's in Squirrel Hill and Canter's in Oakland, in addition to being a recognized commercial real estate developer.

One of the keys to his success was his belief in producing a quality product at a reasonable price in whatever business he undertook, said his son, Rick Handler of Squirrel Hill.

"Another of Dad's keys to his success was his respect for his customers and workers," said his son, a marketing consultant. "He had many good people that worked for him for years."

Herb Schwachter of San Francisco, who worked the deli counter at the Gazebo for more than 25 years, recalled Mr. Handler as a terrific boss who treated his workers very well.

"He used his mind in the operation of his Gazebo and knew how to hire key personnel to run the business," Schwachter said.

As an active member and president of the Shadyside Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Handler, along with Will Shiner and Walter Blattner and others, was instrumental in creating the upscale shopping area Shadyside is known for today.

With the help of the East End Women's Club, Mr. Handler was a supporter of the Shadyside Boys Club, which enabled young men to participate in a number of sports and character-building activities.

"Our women's club held a number of fundraisers during the year to help finance many of the activities of the Shadyside Boys Club," said Mrs. Handler, who also was a member of the Women's Club.

Born and raised in Oakland, Mr. Handler was an only child in the family of shoe salesman Samuel Handler and his wife, Edith Handler.

Following a short stint as an employee in the publicity department of the Warner Bros. movie studio in Hollywood, Mr. Handler entered the Army during World War II and saw action as a combat engineer during fighting on the islands of Leyte, Saipan and Okinawa.

Mr. Handler also was involved in booking entertainment for the troops during pauses in fighting. It began a longtime friendship with comedian Henny Youngman, who came to entertain the GIs.

"My husband was proud of the fact that he had the opportunity to fight for his country," said Anne Handler, whom he married in 1959. "The time he spent in the service really shaped his life.

"It brought out one of Dick's strongest traits, that of being courageous in everything he did in life," she added.

"I never had any doubts about marrying Dick, especially after my Irish-Catholic mother approved of my marrying a Jewish boy. She loved Dick and the qualities that he exhibited throughout our marriage: integrity and love of family."

In addition to his wife, Anne, and son, Rick, Mr. Handler is survived by his children: Howard Handler of Oakland, Melinda Sue and David Handler of Squirrel Hill and Steven Handler of Portland, Ore.

A private ceremony for family will be held on Friday at Ralph Schugar Chapel in Shadyside.

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