Obituary: Commitment to neighborhoods was Coleman’s pride


Left: Mike Coleman with his wife, Eleanor, at the Northside Leadership Conference’s annual award dinner in June 2010, where he was presented with a lifetime achievement award for his dedication and service to the Northside.  (Photo courtesy the Northside Leadership Conference)

If you could use only one word to describe long-time Lincoln Avenue resident Mike Coleman, it would be commitment.

Coleman, who passed away at the age of 67 on Oct. 23 after a long battle with cancer, never backed out of doing something he’d committed to, even after he grew ill.

In addition to his activism in the Allegheny West Civic Council, Coleman served on the board of directors for the Northside Leadership Conference and the Northside Community Development Fund and was active with the Allegheny City Society.

“The thing about Mike was, he had this deep commitment for it,” said Mark Fatla, executive director of the Leadership Conference. “He could have, in the last couple of years, pulled back because of the fight with cancer, and nobody would have begrudged him.”

Instead, even while Coleman lay ill in the hospital, he was signing papers for the Northside Fund and fulfilling his role as a board member.

“Once he said he would do it, he would carry it through,” Fatla said. “He was going to do it right to the end. You can’t expect that of a lot of people in this world.”

In June 2010, the Northside Leadership Conference awarded Coleman a lifetime achievement award for his 30-plus years of community service and dedication.

Coleman came to Pittsburgh from New Jersey by way of his career with Alcoa. He also owned and operated his own business, Allegheny R&D.

Neighbor and fellow Allegheny West Civic Council member John DeSantis said that Coleman championed The Northside Chronicle and the Fund during times of crisis. He was instrumental in keeping The Chronicle afloat after the death of long-time editor John Lyon, and wrote a column as “Northside Mike” for many years.

“We need a Northside-wide voice, because we need to think of ourselves as a place, not many places,” DeSantis said of Coleman’s philosophy toward The Chronicle and the Northside as a whole.

“There are relatively few of us who clearly see that we are all neighbors,” DeSantis said, but Coleman did.

Coleman’s ability to stand up for his beliefs and not alienate those on the other side of the argument also made him an excellent leader. One example, DeSantis said, was when he and Coleman fought the Rooneys on how Steelers fans were treating the neighborhood, and managed to remain friends with them.

Debra Caplan, senior vice president of Allegheny General Hospital and AGH coordinator for the Northside Partnership, worked with Coleman for 10 years on streetscape projects, education and many others programs.

“He had a great commitment to the Northside,” Caplan said. “He was there. He was always there.”

Another thing about Coleman that impressed Caplan was his ability to wrap his head around an issue and truly understand it. Through that, she said he was always a team player.

John Canning, a long-time Allegheny West resident who knew Coleman from the neighborhood and the Allegheny City Society, said Coleman was an avid preservationist. He and his wife, Eleanor, restored their home on Lincoln Avenue and collected memorabilia — especially postcards — from the days of Allegheny City.

Coleman is survived by his wife, Eleanor, his daughter, Jennifer Logue and one granddaughter.

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