Webster Builder Harley E. Orr Dies


(June 27, 1935-April 13, 2001)


Harley E. Orr spent 47 years at Pike Construction Co., building everything from hotels to museum additions.

He also spent some time working on his house in Webster, expanding it to more than 4,000 square feet for one reason: children.

Mr. Orr and his wife of 47 years, Ina, had five children. They adopted four others, including two infants from Vietnam in the mid-1970's.

They also invited numerous foster children in Monroe County to stay with them. And they even welcomed a refugee family living in squalor to stay with them for more than a year. That family included a small child.

"The more kids that came, the more he built," said his son, Ted.

Mr. Orr--builder of structures, of families, of lives--died April 13, of prostate cancer. He was 65.

Mr. Orr was born on June 27, 1935, and spent his youth in Henrietta. He graduated from Rush-Henrietta High School and had an interest in all kinds of activities, from sports to music.

"With whatever he did, he was always in the center of activity," said his brother, Tom.

It was at a high school singing competition that Mr. Orr met Ina. The relationship blossomed while they worked together at the Hickok Belt Co. in Rochester. They married in 1953 and soon moved to their Webster home.

Meanwhile, Mr. Orr went into the building trade as a carpenter's apprentice. He joined Pike early on, eventually becoming a vice president. Steve Shuckra, president at Pike, said Mr. Orr had a solid reputation for being thorough and honest.

"He was a man of honor," said Shuckra, who worked with Mr. Orr for more than 17 years.

Shuckra said Mr. Orr oversaw construction projects at the Lodge at Woodcliff and at the George Eastman House.

But family and friends point to the work Mr. Orr did to build the Ronald McDonald House on Westmoreland Drive in Rochester. The facility, which opened in 1990, is a home away from home for children dealing with life-threatening medical problems and for their families.

The project was the perfect marriage of Mr. Orr's vocation and his love of children, said Bonnie Vahey, executive director of the Ronald McDonald House.

"He was delightful," Vahey said. "His personality jelled with the volunteers who worked at the house."

Friends and family say he was a giant of a man with unruly gray hair and a hearty laugh. He was fun-loving and warm. He played guitar and sang with zest.

"While he had a lot of responsibility, he had a lot of child in him," said Jack Heister, a good friend.

And while Mr. Orr never lost the child inside, he often reached out to help children in the community.

"My father always made room for one more," said his oldest daughter, Melanie Steenhoff.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Orr is survived by his mother, Mildred Orr of Rochester; two brothers--Don of Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Tom of Long Prairie, Minn.; five sisters--Jean Sparks of Conesus, Livingston County, Roberta Maxwell of South Carolina, Shirley Etheridge of Lynchburg, Va., Elaine Jacobs of Dansville, Livingston County, and Linda Reuther of Livonia, Livingston County; and nine children--Melanie Steenhoff of Webster, Michelle Spencer of Mansfield, Pa., Ted Orr of Webster, W. Tony Orr of Atlanta, Jason Orr of Webster, Tirzah Orr of Washington, D.C., Emily Kelly of Syracuse, Robert Key of Sodus, Wayne County, and Pauli Orr of Irondequoit.

Memorials may be directed to Ronald McDonald House, 333 Westmoreland Drive, Rochester, NY 14620. (Michael Caputo)


(Taken from the Saturday, April 21, 2001 edition of the Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, N.Y.)


(Note: Harley E. Orr was the son of Mildred Morgan Orr and Walter Orr. Mildred was born in Norwood, the daughter of Edson and Alta Morgan).