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North Side Woman Remembers Landmarks

by Jack Miller
Director of Gift Planning
September 1, 2007

When Ethel Belcher learned about Landmarks in 1977 she immediately became a member. While she didn’t attend any events or volunteer her services, she appreciated Landmarks’ efforts to preserve western Pennsylvania, especially her beloved North Side.

Ethel lived most of her life in a working-class North Side neighborhood in a house that she inherited from her parents. The fact that the long-time dedicated secretary for the White Westinghouse Corporation never married gave her time to pursue personal interests. “She was far ahead of her time,” said neighbor and close friend Jan Wachter. “She was one of the first women to graduate from Robert Morris College. Ethel developed a keen interest in the environment and historic preservation before it was fashionable to do so.”

Mr. Wachter was so influenced by Ethel’s interest in preservation that he went on to earn his doctorate in environmental health science and is currently a professor in that field at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. “Ethel saw it as a community responsibility to preserve our significant buildings and environment,” said Mr. Wachter. “Ethel always led by example and now I just practice what she preached.”

Over the years, Ethel methodically invested part of her meager salary in the stock market. In addition to her savings, she set aside another part of her income for travel, annually visiting one or two different countries. “I believe that’s how she developed a greater appreciation for western Pennsylvania,” said Mr. Wachter. “She’d often comment on how Pittsburgh’s architecture was reminiscent of something she saw in Europe or some other far-off place.”

On March 12, 2006, Ethel passed away and was laid to rest less than a mile from her home. In July, Landmarks was notified that it was one of nine charitable beneficiaries Ethel remembered in her will. Her generosity will result in a bequest of more than $15,000.

Landmarks will use her bequest to establish the Ethel M. Belcher Preservation Fund, the income from which will be used to support important projects with a focus on the North Side. “Ethel’s life was a testimony to her belief that people should embrace and care about the things around them,” said Mr. Wachter. “Her bequest is proof that she trusted Landmarks as an organization that would carry on that work.”

For more information on how to establish a similar fund through your will or living trust, please contact Jack Miller at or 412- 471-5808, ext. 538.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633