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Attorney from South Fayette was advocate for city’s race relations |

Attorney from South Fayette was advocate for city’s race relations

| Friday, February 27, 2009 12:00 a.m

As director of Pittsburgh’s Commission on Human Relations, John Gabriel had the confidence of two mayors, Pete Flaherty and Dick Caligiuri, in improving race relations in the city.

During Sophie Masloff’s tenure as mayor in the 1990s, Mr. Gabriel, as president of the city’s Civil Service Commission, adjudicated the city’s Civil Service laws.

John E. Gabriel of South Fayette, a private practice attorney, died of cancer on Monday, Feb. 23, 2009, in UPMC Shadyside hospital. He was 63.

“Throughout his life, my father considered himself to be color-blind when it came to a person’s background,” said his son, attorney Deron Gabriel of South Fayette.

“That’s one of the reasons he was successful in improving race relations in the city during the tumultuous years of the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s.”

Born and raised in New Castle, Lawrence County, John Gabriel was one of four children in the family of market owner Anthony Gabriel and his wife, Mary John Gabriel.

In 1963, after graduating from New Castle High School, where he worked in his father’s market after school and on weekends, Mr. Gabriel enrolled in what is now Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he received his undergraduate degree in political science.

While attending IUP, he met Sharon Langford, a resident of Mt. Lebanon who also was an IUP student. They were married in 1967 while still in school.

After receiving his master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh, Mr. Gabriel, while employed by the city during the day, attended evening classes at Duquesne University Law school, where he graduated in 1985.

“My brother, Brian, and I followed in our father’s profession,” his son, Deron, added. “I joined my father’s law firm in 1994, after I received my law degree.”

Brian Gabriel of Highland Park is a member of the Downtown law firm of Campbell Durrant & Beatty.

“I learned a lot from my father,” said Deron Gabriel. “Dad would say ‘help a client first. They can be billed later. And don’t worry about being paid. If you do the right thing, everything will fall into place.’ ”

In addition to his sons, Mr. Gabriel is survived by their mother, Sharon Gabriel of Peters; his sister, Myra Cook of Warren, Ohio; and four grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his brothers, Kenneth and Thomas Gabriel.

Friends will be received from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. today at the Brusco-Falvo Funeral Home Inc., 214 Virginia Ave., Mt. Washington.

Visitation also will be held from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the Ed and Don DeCarbo Funeral Home, 941 South Mill St., New Castle.

A funeral Liturgy will follow at noon in St. John the Baptist Maronite Catholic Church, New Castle.

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