Today we lost one of the greats. Spencer Dell Hirshberg Esq., 80, passed in his sleep Wednesday, May 25, 2022. Born July 8, 1941, Spencer was the eldest son of Pitt football hero and Carnegie Tech coach, Edward J. Hirshberg, of McKeesport; and businesswoman, Dorothy Dell, of Duquesne. A graduate of Shady Side Academy, Spence captained the 1959 varsity golf team and lettered in football and (allegedly) squash. Ever the cut-up, Spence was inordinately proud of manufacturing a fictitious Shady Side student, “Casper Schnootz,” who achieved passing grades in english and science until faculty learned that Schnootz did not exist; Spencer and friends had been ghost-writing his reports and papers. At Shady Side, Spencer met Christiana McMahan Hoffman, eldest daughter of renowned ophthalmologist, Dr. Franklin D. Hoffman, and Mrs. Frances Cordes Hoffman. Set up on a blind date, Spence and Christy spent the rest of their lives together and had a remarkable marriage of nearly 60 years. His father’s athletic reputation clinched Spencer’s admission to Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. However, upon arrival at Dartmouth, the head football coach immediately recognized that Spencer was 5-foot-6 rather than 6-foot-5; likely a purposeful transposition by the senior Hirshberg to pad Spencer’s application. Spencer graduated with honors from Dartmouth, a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity and golf team, but not a football star. Shortly after graduation, Spencer enlisted in the Navy during the Vietnam war. His father, a Marine veteran of the Pacific theater of WWII, advised him that “you’ll be drafted, so join the Navy and they’ll put you on a boat. The Viet Cong doesn’t have much of a fleet.” Spence married Christy in 1965. The young couple welcomed their first daughter, Lindsay, shortly before Spencer shipped off to the Gulf of Tonkin aboard the U.S.S. Arlington. LTJG Hirshberg completed his service in the Navy and returned home. He then began selling advertising space at WEDO, the McKeesport Radio station owned by his father. After welcoming son, David, and daughter, Amy, Spencer enrolled in the Duquesne University School of Law evening program. Graduating among the top of his class, Spencer began his practice in 1975 with the Pittsburgh law firm Meyer, Darragh, Buckler, Bebenek and Eck. Surprise son, Edward, arrived in 1980. In 1986, Spencer became a founding partner at Pietragallo, Bosick and Gordon, hosting many a firm picnic at the Hirshberg generational home in North Huntingdon, a sprawling civil war-era colonial set in the middle of Lincoln Hills Country Club. At PB&G, Spencer managed the firm’s real estate law practice. He was instrumental in conceiving and founding Barristers Land Abstract Co., a title insurance company affiliated with Howard Hanna Financial Services and Howard Hanna Real Estate Services. Combining title, mortgage and sales under one umbrella was a revolutionary concept at the time, and one that became standard in the industry. In 1996, Spencer formed his own firm, Hirshberg, Gustine, Straka and Orie, and founded several other businesses, including a successful private real estate investment firm. By rough estimate, Spencer closed or oversaw more than one hundred thousand real estate transactions. He was known far and wide as the “Velvet Hammer” for his ability to close a deal. An avid lifelong golfer, Spencer played many of the finest courses in the country and played them well. He also owned most every golf gimmick and gadget in the industry, including a six-foot driver that a foursome of Japanese businessmen dubbed “Godzilla.” A principled man, he saw blue jeans as the decline of civilization and once chained himself to a tree to stop a developer’s bulldozer. His beloved wife, Christiana, recalls many years of Hilton Head gatherings, “Monster Sin at Sea Island,” weeks of annual Christmas festivities, cocktail parties, tennis, birdie putts and friendships. A treasured member of Allegheny County Bar and Lincoln Hills Country Club, Spencer was renowned for his work ethic, unparalleled quick wit, kindness and charm. Preceded in death by his parents and young brother, Kent Hirshberg, whose memory ripples through generations, Spencer leaves his wife and four children, Lindsay Hirshberg (Mark), David Hirshberg (Beth), Amy Kegg (Vince), and Edward Hirshberg (Samantha). Known as “Dukie,” his legacy carries on with seven grandchildren, Amy (fiance, Andrew), Spencer, Annie, Matt, Juliette, Helena, and Esme. “Uncle Sumps” to his nieces and nephews, he was a wonderful brother to Cindy Hirshberg (Clark, deceased) and the Rev. Craig Hirshberg (Dominick), and an example to all. A private memorial will be held in Fox Chapel, just a mile or so from that first blind date with the love of his life. All inquiries can be made to Edward Hirshberg at [email protected] For online condolences, please visit www.snyderfuneralservices.com.
Published by Norwin Star on Jun. 9, 2022.