Lachlan Pitcairn, 91, scion of PPG family

Lachlan Pitcairn
Lachlan Pitcairn
Posted: September 25, 2013

Lachlan Pitcairn's life revolved around family.

Born into a prominent Pennsylvania clan, he devoted his career to the family business and his leisure time to hosting gatherings full of music for his many relatives.

He was a proud patriarch, with 21 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren, when he died Wednesday, Sept. 11, at age 91. Six days later, that tally grew when a 19th great-grandchild was born.

Mr. Pitcairn died in his home in Bryn Athyn. The cause was pneumonia, his son Scot said.

Mr. Pitcairn's grandfather John laid the foundation of the family's fortune, and its local influence, when he became a cofounder of the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co. in 1883. PPG became one of the most successful glass manufacturers in the country.

John Pitcairn settled in Bryn Athyn, where he founded institutions of his Swedenborgian religion: the Bryn Athyn Cathedral and Academy of the New Church.

Mr. Pitcairn served as a flight instructor in the Navy during World War II and earned a bachelor's degree plus some law school credits at the University of Pennsylvania. Then he went to work for the family trust that John Pitcairn's three sons had created to protect the plate glass inheritance. He acted as the vice president, director, and treasurer of the trust from 1954 to 1986.

He also dedicated himself to the cathedral. He supervised improvements, working directly with stonemasons and woodcutters to design artful doors.

At home, he and his wife, Betty Jean Horigan, who died in 1979, led nightly candlelight prayer sessions for their seven children.

A fan of fishing and bird hunting, Mr. Pitcairn had a passion for music. He started playing the cello as a child, and took up trombone as well late in life. The Curtis String Quartet sometimes called upon him when it needed a fifth or sixth player for a piece, his son said. He also played at weddings and funerals, and taught music appreciation from 1981 to 1993 at Bryn Athyn College.

"Not only did he have so many varied interests and activities, but he just loved to share his interests with other people," Scot Pitcairn said. "He lived a very full life."

In addition to his son, he is survived by daughters Fawn Ferguson, Lark Walter, and Beth Jewell. Three other daughters are deceased.

Services were Friday, Sept. 20.


Contact Julie Zauzmer at jzauzmer@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter at @JulieZauzmer.

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