Philanthropist set example of civic service
When they were young, the five children of leading Pittsburgh businessman and philanthropist Thomas J. Hilliard Jr. each would spend one pre-Christmas day cutting down an evergreen in the woods of Ellwood City. One child went each year, said eldest child Thomas (Tim) Hilliard III, for a special day with a well-known and highly regarded father who spent much of his time and energy building a better Pittsburgh.
“It was a very wonderful one-on-one with Pops,” said Tim Hilliard.
Thomas J. Hilliard Jr., of Squirrel Hill, died in his sleep on Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, at 94.
Mr. Hilliard’s sister, prominent Republican Party leader and philanthropist Elsie Hilliard Hillman, said her brother made tremendous contributions to Pittsburgh and her own life.
“He was so respected,” she said. “He was my oldest living sibling. I used to go to him for advice and counsel. He was a wonderful big brother and a wonderful friend.”
Mr. Hilliard was born in Fox Chapel, graduated from St. Paul’s School in 1939 and went on to Princeton University, where his children said he studied business and finance. Immediately after graduating in 1943, said Tim Hilliard, his father went to San Francisco to serve in the Pacific Theater of World War II with the Army Air Corps, the predecessor of the Air Force.
He returned to Pittsburgh, and over time, bought American Steel in Ellwood City and Keystone Brass Works in Erie. He held several patents, said Tim Hilliard, including for fasteners called cotter pins.
He is remembered for an array of civic interests. He was chairman of the board for Shadyside Hospital before it was purchased by UPMC, and for Chatham University, the Frick Art Museum and the American Respiratory Alliance.
He was a vestry member and senior warden for Calvary Episcopal Church. And he was involved with the boards of the Carnegie Hero Fund, the Pittsburgh Golf Club and Dollar Savings Bank.
Frank Brooks Robinson, who was on the boards of many Pittsburgh organizations, including the Carnegie Hero Fund, said Mr. Hilliard was a remarkable man.
“He really was a great civic leader in that he was very unassuming. Both our parents were,” said Peggy Martin, Mr. Hilliard’s fourth child.
Audrey Hillman Hilliard, Mr. Hilliard’s wife, died in 2011. Their children said the two met through Mr. Hilliard’s sister, Elsie Hillman.
“My mother was his sister’s best friend,” Tim Hilliard said. “It was quite the romance.”
Peggy Martin and sister Connie Hilliard, the second child, said that the three daughters, including Elsie Humes, were hospital volunteers in the 1950s. The children were part of the Hilliards’ voting outreach efforts during their youth.
Their parents led by example, said Connie Hilliard.
“There were probably at least two of us in tow,” she said. “He just thought it was his responsibility.”
Mr. Hilliard is survived by his sister and brother-in-law, Elsie and Henry Hillman; his five children, Thomas J. Hilliard III, Constance C. Hilliard, Elsie H. Humes, Peggy H. Martin and James F. Hilliard; 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
The family will receive visitors from 1 to 3 p.m., followed by a memorial service at 3 p.m. Monday in Calvary Episcopal Church, 315 Shady Ave., Shadyside. Interment in Homewood Cemetery will be private.
Remembrances can be given in lieu of flowers to Calvary Episcopal Church or Shadyside Hospital Foundation, 532 S. Aiken Ave., Suite 302, Pittsburgh, PA 15232.
Megha Satyanarayana is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7991 or firstname.lastname@example.org.