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Bob O'Connor, 61; Mayor of Pittsburgh

September 03, 2006|From the Associated Press

PITTSBURGH — Mayor Bob O'Connor, who learned he had a rare form of brain cancer only seven months into his first term, has died. He was 61.

O'Connor had been hospitalized since July when he was diagnosed with four brain tumors. He died Friday at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Shadyside with family members present, said his spokesman, Dick Skrinjar.

O'Connor's condition had deteriorated throughout the week after brain scans showed seizure activity and tests indicated his spinal fluid and an implanted drain might have been infected, medical officials said.

"Bob's death is especially tragic because becoming the mayor of Pittsburgh was his lifelong dream, and he was making incredible progress in revitalizing the city," Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said in a statement. "His passing seems so unfair and is such a loss for all of us."

City Council President Luke Ravenstahl was sworn in as mayor in a brief ceremony Friday night. Ravenstahl, 26, who in November 2003 became the youngest person elected to the council, will serve until an election can be held, in accordance with the City Charter.

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 in the city of 330,000.

He pledged to restore Pittsburgh's financial stability, after succeeding Tom Murphy. During Murphy's 12-year tenure, the city had sunk to near bankruptcy.

Born in the Greenfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh, O'Connor graduated from high school and was employed briefly as a steelworker before going into the restaurant business.

He started his political career in the early 1990s, winning a council seat. He first ran for mayor in 1997, losing badly to Murphy. But in 2001, he lost to Murphy by only 699 votes.

O'Connor left city government in 2003 to run the governor's office in southwestern Pennsylvania. But the lure of being Pittsburgh's mayor was strong and he ran again in 2005, winning with two-thirds of the vote.

Earlier this summer he was admitted to the hospital after complaining of flu-like 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.

O'Connor is survived by his wife, Judy, and three children.

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