Shirley A. Pechter

10/28/1920 - 01/20/2023


Obituary For Shirley A. Pechter

Shirley A. Pechter October 28, 1920 – January 20, 2023

We celebrate the life of Shirley A. Pechter, loving wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother who peacefully passed away on Friday, January 20. A noted philanthropist and lifelong resident of Altoona, Shirley was in her 103rd year.

Shirley was the glue of our family, fiercely loyal and proud, prioritizing her relationships with her many extended relatives, and always there to provide support for those in need. A gifted musician, her early years as a concert pianist instilled in her an appreciation of education and the arts, the foundation on which she built her role as a leader of the Altoona community.

A multi-faceted woman who was ahead of her time, Shirley was devoted to numerous causes, and was admired for her abilities to galvanize others into action, for bravely voicing her opinions, and for generously contributing to the many charities close to her heart.

Born on October 28, 1920, Shirley was the daughter of Meyer and Fannie (Silberstein) Abelson. She graduated Hollidaysburg High School in 1938, where she was the valedictorian, and attended Goucher College and the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Md.

Shirley was a college student and home for Thanksgiving when she met Fred A. Pechter after setting him up with her roommate. Fred was more interested in Shirley, however, and the pair married in 1940, enjoying a loving, 54-year marriage until his death in 1994.

Their youngest daughter, Melissa, was diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor at age nine, and Shirley became active in the American Cancer Society, serving as a board member and three-time president of the Blair County American Cancer Society. She was a recipient of the American Cancer Society Outstanding Volunteer Award, and in 2005, received the chapter’s inaugural Pinnacle Award, which was named in her honor.

Shirley was deeply committed to Penn State and in 2004 helped fund a multipurpose music room, Pechter Studio, at Penn State Altoona’s Hawthorn Building. In 1999, she established the Fred A. Pechter Endowed Scholarship at Penn State Altoona in honor of her late husband, Class of ‘33, to assist students in the engineering program. In 2004, Shirley was inducted into the Platinum Category of the Penn State Altoona’s Ivyside Society.

Shirley served on numerous other boards, including the Bon Secours Holy Family Hospital, the Southern Allegheny Museum of Art, the Altoona Symphony Orchestra, and the Home Nursing Agency, where she helped found the Healing Patch Children’s Grief Program, which provides grieving families with free access to support. Shirley also served on the board of Temple Beth Israel, where in 1970, she became the first female president in the temple’s 125-year history and only the fifth female president for a reform temple in the United States.

Among her many awards is the Blair County Philanthropy Award; the YWCA Tribute to Women Award for Community Service; the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Allegheny Mountains Chapter for Outstanding Individual/Family Philanthropy; Hollidaysburg High School Distinguished Alumni Award; Pennsylvania Council of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations Scroll of Honor; Penn State Altoona Honorary Alumna Award; Penn State University Honorary Alumna Award, and University of St. Francis Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. Shirley was Chairman Emeritus of Altoona Pipe and Steel Supply Company, founded by her grandfather Abe Abelson in 1885. She is survived by her daughters Donna and Joanne and her son Richard; sons-in-law Philip and Richard and daughter-in-law Kayla; nine grandchildren, and 16 great-grandchildren.

Friends will be received from 9 a.m. to noon, Tuesday, January 24, 2023 at E. Merrill Smith Funeral Home, Inc. 2309 Broad Avenue, Altoona, PA 16601. A private family graveside service will be held at the convenience of the family.

In lieu of flowers, donations should be directed to the Healing Patch at: 20 Sheraton Dr. Altoona, Pa. 16601

Condolences may be made at or Stevens Family Funeral Homes Facebook.

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  • 01/25/2023

    Pat and I have delightful memories of our interactions with Shirley over the years. When Shirley contacted me to test an idea, I felt privileged to be consulted on one project or another. Always something interesting and unexpected! Our sympathy to the bereaved family.--Pat & Joe Silverman

  • 01/24/2023

    Our family sends our sympathy to the Pechter Family, I was grateful to Shirley offering me words of comfort and support when I was a young mother. She was an inspiration to so many and we will remember her in daily prayer. Renee' & Rob Pettenati Family

  • 01/24/2023

    Our sincerest condolences go out to the family of Shirley Pechter. ~Mellott Company

  • 01/23/2023

    My deepest sympathy to the family. Shirley was an exceptional woman and very caring to all. She was also fun to play golf with as she made us all laugh!!! Maxine Weinberg

  • 01/23/2023

    My deepest and heartfelt sympathy to the family. My mother DorothyPoust and my Aunt Norma HANN both worked for the Pechter's many years ago and I remember meeting them both, I saw Shirley many years later after my mother passed and she remembered me and my mother. She was a kind and lovely woman.

  • 01/22/2023

    A wonderful, kind, caring, talented, loving person. Her very long life positively touched so many. It was an honor to know her and her loving family for many years. A long life, so well lived.

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Funeral Director

Joseph J. Stevens III


Joseph J. Stevens III