PITTSBURGH -- Mark Schneider was remembered Saturday for having the audacity to think that an Allegheny River island that once was infested by rats and decay could become a luxury residential enclave that today is better known as Washington's Landing.
He was celebrated as a pivotal real estate developer whose strong will, relentless optimism, and grand vision helped Pittsburgh, the city he loved, erect new sports stadiums, a convention center, and other projects where people live, work, and play.
But in a memorial service that drew 400 people to a sweltering PNC Park, the 55-year-old who died a week ago after a bike crash in Maryland also was recalled for attributes less likely to make the newspapers: his spontaneity, an adventurous spirit, and love and loyalty for those closest to him in life.
Mr. Schneider was born in Pittsburgh, and his family moved to Toledo when he was 4. He graduated from St. John's Jesuit High School in 1974 and studied philosophy and political science at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
At the memorial service, former Gov. Ed Rendell, former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy, and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald were among those to pay final tribute in the stands behind the Pirates dugout, their sweeping view of the city's downtown skyline courtesy of an 11-year-old major league ballpark that Mr. Schneider helped bring to fruition.
"It just so happens that the Pirates start to win and play good baseball, and Dad has to leave," said his son, Max, who was master of ceremonies. "I just don't think he could fathom that: a winning baseball team at PNC Park."
Mr. Rendell said one of Mr. Schneider's defining traits was that he dreamed big.
"Most developers use the term 'sustainable development' but they don't really mean it," the former governor said. "They say it either because it's required, or they think it will strengthen their bid. … Mark lived and breathed sustainable development. He wanted everything he did not just to make money but to make things more beautiful, to make life better, and increase the quality of life."
Mr. Schneider, former chairman of the Sports and Exhibition Authority and the Stadium Authority, proved pivotal in developing Heinz Field, the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, and PNC Park. As president of Rubinoff Co., he advanced Washington's Landing and other riverfront projects and transformation of a slag heap into the residential Summerset at Frick Park.
He was an avid cyclist and strong advocate for bike trail development in the city and beyond. His death came after his bike ran off the road July 28 during a 100-mile charity ride near Frederick, Md.
Mr. Murphy noted how much he will miss his longtime friend and told Max and his sister, Ryan, how proud they made their father.
But the former mayor drew laughter as he referred to Mr. Schneider's ability to muster dollar support for what might have seemed unlikely development efforts. "The fundamental lesson he taught me is that you can build those things, and you don't need any money as long as you have Ed Rendell or someone else."
Even if his organizational skills at the office were lax, said business partner John Watson, his colleagues could always count on something more important: his loyalty. "He loved biking, baseball, politics, and a good bottle of wine," he said. "We all know, not necessarily in that order."
Erie Mayor Joseph Sinnott lauded Mr. Schneider's role in his city's renaissance but said many other successes he learned of only after Mr. Schneider died because he didn't discuss them. "He talked about his passions. He talked about his family. He talked about bicycling. He talked about the things that he loved," Mr. Sinnott said. "But he never told you how successful he was. He just did it."
The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bill Schackner is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.
Contact Bill Schackner at: email@example.com or 412-263-1977.