The Jewish community mourns the loss of Steve Pitlor, who passed away Jan. 13. A private graveside funeral was held Jan. 15.
Steve was a graduate of Central High School, who returned to Omaha after college at the University of Arizona with his degree in mechanical engineering. He went on to become a professional engineer, held a master steamfitter license and served as president of the local Mechanical Contractors Association. For almost 40 years, he ran his 100-year-old family-owned mechanical contracting company, Pitlor Mechanical.
Steve held many positions of leadership, including president of the Omaha Public School Board, president of Beth El Synagogue, president of the Jewish Community Center, and served on the board of Heartland Family Service.
From 2001-2003, he was president of the Jewish Federation of Omaha. In that role, he worked closely with then-Executive Director Jan Goldstein.
“The first word that comes to mind when I think of the time we worked together,” Jan said, “would be ‘supportive.’ Every professional knows that when you work closely together with a lay leader who truly respects you and supports the work you are doing, magic happens. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have worked with many great JFO presidents, and Steve built on that legacy.”
Jan knew him before they began to work together and she remembers being excited when he agreed to serve as president.
“When he took on that role, I came to value and understand who he was as a leader and as an individual in a much deeper way. It’s apparent how involved he was in Omaha and how much he contributed both his time and resources to our Jewish community. He always stood up for me. I don’t think the value of that type of support can be overstated. He just had this massive respect for people and internalized that; it drove his every interaction. When truly good personality traits and excellent leadership skills overlap and interact, you end up with what his son David called ‘a lion in the community.’ He certainly was that, and so much more.”
“There are people who are quiet, modest and yet as full of kindness and love for their fellow men that they need not clamor to call attention to themselves,” Rabbi Steven Abraham said. “Steve was such a person. While not always quiet, Steve was always a kind person, a modest person, a person of character, who lived a fruitful life, whose deeds spoke louder than his words ever needed to. Steve also exemplified what it meant to treat people with dignity and respect. He was a loving husband, father and grandfather, and a devoted son both to Rose and Norman.”
Friend Steve Levinger added:
“When I think of Steve Pitlor, the word ‘mensch’ immediately comes to mind. Here’s a guy that gave so much of his time, talent and treasure to a community he loved, both to Jewish Omaha as well as the broad Omaha community. His volunteer service, however, never diminished the love and pride he had for his family as an adoring son, husband, and father. I got to know Steve several years ago during heated matches on the tennis court. He was a sharp-minded businessman with a competitive demeanor who would always share what was on his mind. I valued his input and guidance as it was always fair and insightful.”
“I’ve always subscribed to the theory,” Steve wrote in 2003, “that challenges and problems are a key ingredient to something being successful and our Federation is a true model of how success is bred from the way our volunteers and professionals address those challenges.” That lesson applied to his personal life as well, when in 2001, his wife Marcia donated a kidney to her brother. Out of that experience grew the Pitlor Family Transplant Support Endowment Fund at the JFO Foundation, which provided dollars to assist in transportation, temporary living costs and other costs related to transplant operations. Later, this became the Steve and Marcia Pitlor Family Fund.
“We have strong feelings about our roots in the Jewish community,” Steve said at the time. “Likewise, we have strong feelings about continuing to build the Foundation for the continued strength of the Jewish community of Omaha.”
Steve’s grandfather Nathan Pitlor immigrated from Russia and started his first plumbing business in 1908 at 24th and Lake. When Norman Pitlor, his son, returned from his service in WW II, he joined the business and it became ‘N. Pitlor & Son,’ located at 49th and Dodge and today at 109th and I.
Steve in turn earned his degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Arizona, worked for a while in Texas and came back to Omaha in 1978. The business grew exponentially over the years: now named ‘Pitlor Mechanical,’ it did the mechanical work for the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium as well as major hospital work, commercial buildings, schools, hotels and industrial projects throughout the city. Steve took great pride in running a four-generation business when his son David joined the business for ten years.
In his role as president of the Omaha Public School Board, he visited Israel in 1993 on an educators’ trip. It is telling that, when an article appeared in the paper, the first thing he mentioned was ‘I can’t wait to bring my family here.’ He did, in June of that same year, when the Pitlors led a UJA family mission to Israel.
Of the many roles in Steve's life, the ones that he cherished the most were devoted and beloved husband, Dad, and Saba, as he was affectionately and lovingly known by his grandchildren, according to the Omaha World Herald. In 2017, retirement beckoned and he sold the business to Helm’s Mechanical. He did not retire completely, until the time of his death he retained his office and continued to work part-time for the new owners in a consulting role.
“Steve was simply a mensch,” Rabbi Steven Abraham said. “He took care of his family, his friends, his community, his employees... in the end we were all his family and we have to thank Marcia, Lisa, Kym and David for sharing him with us.”
He was preceded in death by his parents, Norman and Rose Pitlor.
He is survived by his wife, Marcia Pitlor; daughters and sons-in-law, Lisa and Ian Abramson and Kym and Jay O'Meara, and son and daughter-in-law, David and Mindy Pitlor; and grandchildren: Zoey, Benny, and Eli, Derek and Oscar, and Bobby.