The Late John W. McCarter

Memorial Service
October 5, 2013, 10:30 am
First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh
605 Morewood Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
followed by a reception at the church

(Also see Blog Obituary.)

By David Tessitor, Co-Founder of the

John W. McCarter, age 81, of Dormont, passed away Aug 8, 2013 from hospital-acquired, antibiotic resistant infections. Son of the late Mary Creahan McCarter and the late Robert J. McCarter, John was born in Pittsburgh on October 24, 1931 and grew up to become a mentor and friend of many.

As a youth, John frequented Buhl Planetarium where he gained a lifelong interest in astronomy and the sciences. He eventually built his own telescope and often used it to share with others the joy and sense of presence within the universe that it gave him. John graduated from Oliver High School and turned down a scholarship to study history at Pitt to instead study music at Indiana University in Bloomington. When told that to become a concert pianist he would need to have a piano custom built to accommodate his large hands, John chose instead to take up music education -- a decision which, after he began teaching, he was always glad he had made.

John was drafted into the US Army after college. He served two years with time in Germany during the Korean War and was a proud veteran the rest of his life, Following his discharge, John earned a Masters in Music Education from Duquesne University and went on to teach music for 30 years at various City of Pittsburgh Schools, including Thadeus Stephens and John Morrow. Sharing his own love of music, and especially of classical music, John was most proud of his making sure that every student knew and understood all of each lesson before the class would proceed to the next. Near the end of his teaching career, John served as president of the Pittsburgh PSEA leading it during its unsuccessful battle with the American Federation of Teachers for representation of the City of Pittsburgh teachers.

John was a devoted member and pillar of the First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh for half a century. He was a member of the choir and served on the Board of Trustees for 4 years, twice as its president. John was the official local representative, until recently, of the Unitarian Universalists for Social Concerns (UUSC), an organization which provides aid to meet human needs internationally. As a proud Unitarian, John firmly believed in the inherent worth of every human being and became a leader and life-long champion of human rights.

Concerned with civil rights and racial equality, John was a member of First Unitarian's Anti-racism Committee (now called the Matters Of Racial Equality Group or MORE Group). He was a founding member and the secretary of Speak with One Voice Against Racism, a multi-denominational effort which for a number of years developed and provided churches in the Pittsburgh region with curricular materials for services during Black History month. He was also a participant with the Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP) and the Black and White Reunion and was a founding member of the Alliance for Police Accountability.

Working for women's and gay rights, John was a founding member of the Gertrude Stein Political Club of Greater Pittsburgh, gave it its name, and served for years as its Chair. Through the 1970's and 80's, John organized a regularly scheduled GLBT Coffeehouse at First Unitarian Church to offer a healthy alternative for social activities away from the bar scene. John was one of the founders and the treasurer for the Fairness Campaign which successfully defended Pittsburgh's Gay Rights Ordinance when it was challenged.

An active proponent of democracy and the democratic process, John served for decades as parliamentarian for church and group meetings throughout the region. During the past decade John helped to develop and promoted a still proposed Open Government Amendment to the Pittsburgh City Charter (OpenPgh.Org), which if ratified by a voter referendum would greatly expand citizen oversight and public participation in City governance. At the amendment's heart is an adaptation of a public participation process which John helped develop in 1994 for regional planning; used nationally as a model of excellence in public participation, that process was eliminated by the agency in 1998 subsequent to its exposing a series of falsifications and a cover-up which mis-allocated billions of federal dollars in southwestern PA.

In 2004, faced with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh shutting down its Three Rivers Free-Net, John co-founded and financed PittsburghFree.Net. Starting with 40 websites from TRFN closing, PghFree.Net grew through John's support to now provide free website hosting for approximately 150 community oriented websites of various groups and individuals.

Finally, during his extensive hospitalization, John became aware of the lack of coordinated cancer treatment in our region, along with a number of other systemic inadequacies. At the time of his death, he was planning a new health advocacy network to bring about health care reform and help caregivers better protect their patients within the health care system -- an effort that must now be left to others.

John was outraged by injustice and spent most of his life working to assist the disadvantaged, yet he was known for his persistent sense of humor and for his loving kindness toward all -- even toward those with whom he disagreed. John is survived by his many friends, his former colleagues, and by thousands of former students,

A memorial service will be held at the First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh October 5, 2013, 10:30am, followed by a reception in the church. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the John W. McCarter Fund, c/o First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh, 605 Morewood Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15213 -- to continue his efforts.

2013 October 2

Also see:

Walsh, Glenn A. "Sat. Memorial Service for John McCarter, Buhl Planetarium Supporter." Blog Obituary.
SpaceWatchtower 2013 Oct. 3.