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April 17, 2008

Obituary: Robert L. Digby

A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. April 24 in Heinz Memorial Chapel for Robert L. Digby, who died April 8, 2008, from liver cancer. Digby, docent/coordinator at Heinz Chapel since 2000, was 76.

Known simply as Digby to his many friends and acquaintances, he coordinated up to 200 weddings a year at the chapel. An expert in wedding etiquette, Digby blended history and anecdote with humor and warmth. He kept many a bride and groom from losing composure as part father-confessor, part calming voice of reason, his co-workers said.

Albert J. Novak Jr., vice chancellor of Institutional Advancement, the chapel’s responsibility center, said, “Digby was just one of those larger-than-life personalities. Just like Hollywood stars, Digby pulled off a one-word name with aplomb.

“He had an energy and enthusiasm about him that picked people up and made people happy. He made brides feel wonderful and special while getting them through the details of the rehearsal and the rush of their wedding day.”

Novak added he had received numerous letters from wedding participants and visitors to the chapel who said that meeting Digby was an experience they will not forget. “I will miss him,” Novak said.

Pat Gibbons, director of Heinz Chapel, said, “Digby was an incredible human being and knowing him was a truly extraordinary experience. I will remember him forever.”

Digby had eclectic interests, including collecting costume jewelry and subscribing to some 60 magazines, said his long-time friend Audrey Roth. “He used to go to flea markets all the time and look for antiques,” Roth said. “Though he was a crazy quilt of interests, he was a man who will forever be remembered as a master of kindnesses, large and small. What I’ll remember most is how he was such a very thoughtful friend.”

Roth said that even though Digby was very sick he made it to her annual holiday party in December. “But he had to stop at a flower shop on the way to get gardenias for all the ladies at the party. That’s just the kind of thoughtful man he was. His extraordinary talent for friendships, which he tended with care and grace, will be his true legacy.”

Prior to coming to Pitt, Digby served as stage manager for Don Brockett Productions, where he was an aide to established and aspiring performers. His culinary skills were an added bonus for cast and crew, Roth said.

A Pittsburgh native, Digby also was a docent at the Frick Art and Historical Center, the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation and Phipps Conservatory. He was volunteer coordinator for the Senator John Heinz Regional History Center. He also served as treasurer of the Historical Glass Club of Pittsburgh.

Digby is survived by his life-long friend Howard Pettibon. He was preceded in death by his parents, Winifred and Harold Digby.

Memorial contributions may be made to Heinz Memorial Chapel, 1212 Cathedral of Learning, or Family Hospice and Palliative Care, 103 Yost Blvd., Pittsburgh 15221.

—Peter Hart

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