Jack Weiss

It has come to our attention that Associated Artists of Pittsburgh artist member and Advisory Board Member Jack Weiss passed away this December. His obituary can be found below and online at https://www.post-gazette.com/news/obituaries/2018/12/20/Jack-H-Weiss/stories/201812190208.

The family suggests memorial contributions to Community Day School, 6424 Forward Ave., Pittsburgh, Pa. 15217 or online at www.comday.org/give or do a good deed in Jack’s name.

Jack Weiss
Home furnishing retailer and painter

July 13, 1933 -- Dec. 17, 2018
BY JANICE CROMPTON, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

DEC 20, 2018 10:30 AM

When other kids his age were fretting over their baseball card collections or whether their mother remembered to cut the crust from their peanut butter and jelly sandwich, 8-year-old Jack Weiss worried about where his next meal would come from and whether he and his mother would still have a home at the end of the week.

“He lost his dad when he was 8 and he and his mother lived in apartments until they would get thrown out,” said Mr. Weiss’ son, Lou Weiss, of Squirrel Hill. “They were so poor that he was working two jobs and none of his shirts fit him. He had to roll up the sleeves because they were all second-hand.”

Though he came from the humblest of beginnings, Mr. Weiss built a successful home furnishing business and became a property developer and well-known artist in his later years.

“He was a self-made man,” said his son, who described his father’s story as “a rags to riches tale come to life.”

Mr. Weiss, 85, died Monday at his Squirrel Hill home after a two-year battle with lung cancer.

As a boy, Mr. Weiss spent the early mornings working his enormous newspaper route for the Pittsburgh Press -- he once delivered more than 1,000 papers in a single day when the other paper boys took the day off for a Kennywood picnic.

When he got older, Mr. Weiss worked nights babysitting neighborhood kids. When he fell asleep in school one day, the teacher interrupted class so he could get some much-needed rest, his son said.

“The teacher, rather than wake him, silenced the class because he had so much sympathy for how hard my father was working. And he knew why,” he said.

In high school, Mr. Weiss met Ann Doris “Andy” Goldstein. The two married in 1953.

“They were inseparable,” Lou Weiss said of his parents. “They just had this incredibly deep, magical kind of relationship. They so completed each other.”

Mr. Weiss put in extra work to graduate a semester early from Allderdice High School in 1951 so that he could work more, Lou Weiss said.

“He would work six days a week and even when he was older, my dad would take appointments at night,” Lou Weiss said. “He just had an incredible work ethic. He had no choice.”

After high school, Mr. Weiss went to work as a packer and shipper at Modern Curtain & Rug Co. but his career was interrupted in 1953 when he was drafted into the U.S. Army.

Mr. Weiss served two years at Fort Sill in Oklahoma as a supply sergeant during the Korean War. When he returned to his job, he was promoted.

“He took some initiative and became a salesman,” Lou Weiss said.

And he developed a close relationship with the owner, Norman Arluck, who lost two sons in the World War II. The fatherless Mr. Weiss looked to Mr. Arluck for advice and the older man began to rely more and more on his young protege to run the store for him.

By 1958, Mr. Weiss had saved enough to become a partner in the business and by the following decade, he owned the store.

As a business owner, Mr. Weiss sought to right some of the wrongs he’d experienced as a young man. He started a profit-sharing program for his employees and gave a special discount to widows.

“He saw how badly his own mom was treated,” Lou Weiss said. 

A handshake was always good enough for Mr. Weiss, who shunned the formality of contracts and deposits from customers.

“It would blow their minds, when someone was ordering $20,000 worth of carpet and my dad would say that a deposit wasn’t required,” his son remembered. “And in the 25 years that I worked there, I don’t think we were ever stiffed once.”

Mr. Weiss used his position to help bring about social change as well.

He paid tuition costs for disadvantaged neighborhood kids and even stood up to the threat of a 10-day boycott on his store after he expressed support for school integration and busing of students in the 1970s.

“It was a big, contentious issue,” Lou Weiss said. “But my parents stood up for what they believed in. They had no intention of backing down.”

One of his father’s most cherished possessions was a letter written in 1962 by a black family who owned a beer distributing company in the Hill District, thanking him for treating them “royal,” and like “just another customer.”

Even as an older man, Mr. Weiss could never tolerate racial injustice, nearly coming to blows with a fan at a Steeler game who used a racial epithet in referring to then-quarterback Kordell Stewart.

“This guy was a thug,” Lou Weiss said. “But my dad would not let it go. He called the guy out and the guy backed off. He probably would have taken my dad apart, but my dad was so courageous when he knew something was the right thing to do. He would stick to his guns.”

Mr. Weiss loved spending summers at the vacation home he designed and had built in Cape Cod and in 1978 he put his inspiration to canvas and began painting.

“I had no art education. I just put down the things I liked the most,” such as lighthouses and cottages at the Cape, or the abandoned steel mills at home in Pittsburgh, Mr. Weiss said in an April 1993 story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about his upcoming one-man art exhibition.

Mr. Weiss had several shows and his precisionist pieces were exhibited in local galleries and at the Carnegie Museum of Art. Selling his paintings or being recognized with awards during juried shows was especially gratifying for his father, Lou Weiss said.

“When he won prizes from out-of-town jurors, he was over the moon,” his son said. “He’d rather sell a painting than a carpet job any day of the week.”

Mr. Weiss retired in 1992 and turned the business over to his children, though he stayed with the company -- which was renamed Weisshouse -- largely because his children built him an artist’s loft on the second floor of their store.

“He stuck around for 10 more years, we just didn’t pay him,” his son said, laughing.

In his free time, Mr. Weiss played handball and dabbled in real estate development, where he enjoyed major success.

“He really showed what a meaningful and important life is all about,” his son said. “He was so generous of spirit, and generous with advice and money.”

Along with his son and wife, Mr. Weiss is survived by his daughter Stacy Weiss, of Shadyside, 12 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his daughter Ellen Kander, his sister Shirley Kwall and brother Marvin Weiss.

Services were held Wednesday.

The family suggests memorial contributions to Community Day School, 6424 Forward Ave., Pittsburgh, Pa. 15217 or online at www.comday.org/give or do a good deed in Jack’s name.

Janice Crompton: jcrompton@post-gazette.com.

Madeline Gent