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Obituary: Thomas Lawry Sr., Star Pitt basketball player in early '30s

Thursday, September 23, 1999

By Phil Axelrod, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Often when friends came to the house to visit and the conversation turned to sports, Thomas "Tim" Lawry Sr. would rush up to his office in the attic and return with his scrapbook.

"Anytime anybody would ask, he'd bring it down," Robert Lawry of Shaker Heights, Ohio, said of his dad, whose numerous athletic exploits were chronicled in pictures and stories. "Dad was very outgoing, a lot of fun.

"I don't think I've ever known anyone as passionate about athletics. He passed it on to us."

Mr. Lawry, who grew up on the North Side and lived much of his life on Mount Washington and in Baldwin Borough, died Sunday at the age of 88 in Cleveland after a long illness.

Mr. Lawry, a 5-foot-8-inch, 120-pounder, led Allegheny High School to the City League basketball championship in 1928 and then starred for the University of Pittsburgh. He was a member of the mythical 1930 national championship team and was the team's leading scorer in 1931 and 1932.

Lawry, 58, a professor of law at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, recalled one of his father's proudest moments.

"Pitt was playing Notre Dame at the field house and the Panthers were down by four points with 25 seconds to go. Dad threw up a hook shot from the corner that went in," Lawry said. "In those days they had a center jump and Pitt got the ball back, and dad takes another hook shot from the corner. It bounced high off the rim and went in.

"He scored the first basket in overtime and Pitt went on to win, 35-32."

The son paused and then added, "That was his favorite story."

He said his dad was his biggest fan even though he didn't always show it. Robert Lawry was a senior and his brother, Edward, was a freshman on the St. George High School basketball team that won the Catholic League B championship in 1958-59.

After a victory in the semifinals in which Robert had scored 23 points and made all nine of the free throws he attempted, he walked out of the gymnasium and was greeted by his dad.

"I thought dad was going to congratulate me, but all he said was that some of those foul shots didn't go through so cleanly," he said. "He was serious. But that was dad. He analyzed everything we did."

Lawry shot his free throws underhand, the way his dad taught him.

"We were the last of a breed," he said with a laugh.

In addition to being a outstanding basketball player, Mr. Lawry was an standout baseball player. He signed a minor-league contract with the New York Yankees and played at Johnstown and Zanesville from 1932-35. In the late 1930s he played semi-pro baseball and basketball in Western Pennsylvania and later became an official in both sports. Mr. Lawry was named to the Western Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 1981. He was a longtime member and former president of the Pitt Varsity Letter Club.

Mr. Lawry was a salesman with Shea's Sporting Goods in Oakland until he retired in 1980. He and his wife of 63 years, the former Ruth Jack, lived in Baldwin Borough until they moved to Cleveland in 1995.

In addition to his son, Mr. Lawry is survived by his wife; three other sons, Thomas Jr. of Cincinnati, David of Indianapolis and Edward of Stillwater, Okla.; two brothers, Edward and George, and a sister, Jean, all of the North Side; 14 grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.

A Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. today in St. Wendelin Church in Carrick.

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