Bob O'Connor, mayor of Pittsburgh, dies at 61 of rare brain cancer

Friday, September 1st 2006, 9:36 pm
By: News On 6

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Mayor Bob O'Connor, who learned he had a rare form of brain cancer only seven months into his term, died Friday night, his spokesman said. He was 61.

O'Conner, hospitalized since July when he was diagnosed with four brain tumors, died shortly before 9 p.m. with family members present, said his spokesman, Dick Skrinjar.

His condition deteriorated throughout the week after brain scans Monday showed seizure activity, and tests indicated his spinal fluid and an implanted drain may have been infected, according to his medical team at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

"I can't just help but feel that this is an overwhelming tragedy for Pittsburgh," former mayor Sophie Masloff said. "Bob really loved Pittsburgh. ... It was too brief a time for Bob to be mayor, but in that time he demonstrated outstanding leadership."

City Council President Luke Ravenstahl was to be sworn in as mayor later Friday, Skrinjar said.

Ravenstahl had started Friday's city council meeting with a moment of silence. After the meeting, Ravenstahl, Deputy Mayor Yarone Zober and the mayor's spokesman attended an interfaith prayer service at a downtown church.

O'Connor, a former City Council president, became the city's 58th mayor in January. During his short time in office, he spearheaded efforts to promote downtown development and clean up the city of 330,000.

He pledged to restore Pittsburgh's financial stability after succeeding Tom Murphy, whose 12-year tenure saw the city sink to near bankruptcy.

O'Connor also was a Eucharistic minister, which allowed him to administer communion to residents of a personal care home.

He was initially admitted to the hospital after complaining of flulike symptoms. Diagnosed with an ulcer, he was released several days later, but subsequent tests revealed the mayor also had a rare form of primary central nervous system lymphoma. He was readmitted July 10, and began chemotherapy treatment.

O'Connor and his wife, Judy, had three children.