John DeSantis provided the best advice.
“Growing up, my friends would always ask my dad for advice and my sons always asked him for advice. They felt comfortable around him – and he gave great advice. They would talk to him in confidence and know he wouldn’t tell anyone what they talked about,” said DeSantis’ son, Mark Moore.
Those words of wisdom will carry on through DeSantis’ memory.
DeSantis, who was the founder of the Pittsburgh Home & Garden Show, a marketplace that has been around for 39 years, passed away Saturday from brain cancer. He was 69.
The arrangements are being handled by Slater Funeral Service, Greentree Road. Viewings will be held on Friday and Saturday. The funeral will take place on January 10 at Calvary United Methodist Church, North Side.
His death comes two months before the show will celebrate its 40th anniversary – March 4-13 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown. The show was much more than a place where you could find the latest kitchen appliances and bathroom fixtures.
It was his passion.
DeSantis managed the over 1,800 vendors who filled the convention centre. He hosted the event in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic. However, the event closed a few hours early due to the spread covid-19.
“It will be so difficult doing the show without him,”Moore, who is the associate director, will be the executive director. “The show will keep me immersed and consume me the next few months, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s a living legacy and a tribute to my dad.”
He, his wife Kimberly and their sons, Shane, 18, and Riley, 16, were DeSantis’ world, his son said.
Courtesy Mark Moore
John DeSantis (back), the creator of Pittsburgh’s Home & Garden Show, is pictured here with his grandsons, Shane, and Riley. Jan. 1 was the date that DeSantis passed away.
The spring show will be a celebration of the event’s 40th anniversary and will include some form of a memorial to DeSantis, Moore said.
They plan on continuing the fall show. Moore stated that DeSantis had never intended to retire from the show.
“He always wanted this show to continue,”Moore stated. “He had a deep love for the show and said he would do it without getting paid – he loved it so much.”
Moore, 52 years old, was from the North Side and spent the last few days caring for his father, who lived nearby. He said his dad didn’t want people to know he was ill because he didn’t want to ruin their holiday. He loved celebrating the new year, so a friend of Moore’s said his dad dying on Jan. 1 means that he made sure every year there will be a “toast to John.”
He had three weeks of radiation prior to the fall show but didn’t tell anyone at the event. This was his second battle with cancer. In 2018, he was in remission after suffering from kidney cancer.
Moore and DeSantis attended 88 Jimmy Buffet concerts across the globe.
“My dad was a ‘Parrot Head,’”Moore stated. “We saw concerts in Paris and London and Dublin.”
Moore noticed his dad losing his balance during a August trip to the Bahamas. After they returned from the Bahamas, a scan revealed brain lesion. Surgery was not an option.
Moore stated that his father put on the show to help homeowners connect with contractors and other businesses. Moore, president and CEO of Home & Garden Show Executives International – an organization of show producer, stated that Pittsburgh was the preferred show.
Moore stated that condolence calls, emails, and text messages have been flooding in from all corners of the globe offering condolences.
“One of the vendors left a message saying ‘Your father cared about us, and always treated us fairly,’”Moore stated.
The convention center reached back and said “it has our back with the upcoming show”Moore could be assured that they will do everything he needs. Moore has received messages from people claiming that the company lost a “true talent.”
Moore stated that he picked up many things from his dad. Moore’s oldest son is also part of the business.
Moore stated that he hopes to teach his son the same things as his father.
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop | Tribune-Review
John DeSantis was the founder of the Pittsburgh Home & Garden Show. He died Jan. 1.
Matt Hillebrand, one of the co-owners of Don’s Appliances, a home show vendor, said via email that he met DeSantis and Moore during the first year he had a booth at the home show in 1998.
“What I found very memorable was how he wanted us to succeed in our display and carry that momentum through the year. He cared about us, and how our show was,”Hillebrand said. “As the years passed, I grew to know John and Mark on a personal level and found that his life focused around his kids and grandkids. John is a person this city will truly miss.”
Linda Barnicott is a Brentwood artist who is well-known for her portraits from Pittsburgh. She has been a vendor for 26 of those years. She recalled the first time she spoke with DeSantis and asked to be part of the show.
“He was so welcoming,”Barnicott recalled that she had a dream about DeSantis at her home show on Sunday night, after hearing the news of his death. “He gave me an opportunity that changed the trajectory of my career. I wasn’t sure I would sell much but I sold enough to pay for the cost of being there in the first two days. I am so grateful for him. When he stopped by during the show, he always made me feel like I was the best person in the world. He made me feel special. He was such a good man.”
She said on a North Side house tour she was invited to see DeSantis’ home, including the train display. She said it was amazing.
“Our hearts are with the DeSantis family during this difficult time,”Hollie Geitner is the director of communications at Duquesne Light Company. She was a title sponsor for the home show via email. “John’s energy and enthusiasm brought so much life to everything he planned. We enjoyed working with him over the past two decades on the annual Home and Garden Show. He will be greatly missed in the region.”
DeSantis enjoyed taking his grandsons to vacations. They would often go on walks together, where they would pick up sticks and pretend to be sword fighters. Moore saw one of the sticks near his fireplace right after his dad died.
DeSantis took the boys to Gus & YiaYia’s for an ice ball treat in West Park. DeSantis, a train enthusiast, took his grandsons to the Carnegie Science Center to observe. “The Polar Express.”
In his final days, the three of them watched it on his iPad. “Tears rolled down his face,”Moore spoke of DeSantis while he sat next to his grandsons.
“My dad is irreplaceable,”He said. “There is a huge void that can never be filled. After hearing all of these kind words, I pulled my phone out to call my dad because I wanted to tell him that there has been such an outpouring of love.”
DeSantis was appointed by then-Mayor Sophie Masloff to lead the city’s Historic Review Commission.
“The North Side is such an unbelievable neighborhood thanks to my dad’s enthusiasm for preserving it,”Moore stated.
DeSantis helped restore Moore’s house. DeSantis said that on Thanksgiving, he looked around and saw Moore’s house. “What a great room,”Moore. “It was like he was taking it all in for one last time.”
DeSantis was too weak and weak to speak in his final days. They communicated via whiteboard. Moore answered questions.
“I would ask what he thought about this and that concerning the home show and he would answer write an answer because he always had so much to share,”Moore stated. “He was always ready to tell me what he thought. When I asked about doing the home show without him, he wrote, ‘Son, you’ve got this.’”
These were his last words of advice.
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