Thursday, July 1, 2010

Obituary: Lisa Styles/ being a mom was Mt. Lebanon woman's true calling

Jan. 1, 1974 - June 29, 2010

Thursday, July 01, 2010
By Kaitlynn Riely, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Lisa Clay Styles planned princess birthday parties, made cakes with smiley faces and filled each weekend with activities and field trips for her three young children.
"Her sails were most full when she became a mother," said Brett Styles, her husband.
She would call in the middle of the day to tell him when one of their children accomplished something, even if it was a small thing. Not long ago, she called him to say that their son Nate, 3, who has autism spectrum disorder, was able to put his first two-word, simple sentence together: "Turn page."

"She made every day like that," Mr. Styles said. "She looked at being a mother as these sequential triumphs, so excited about every single step."

On Monday, Ms. Styles, who was training to do the Chicago half-marathon with her brother in September, was running with a double jogging stroller along Washington Road in Mt. Lebanon, where the family moved in December. As she crossed Beadling Road, she was struck by an SUV that failed to stop at the stop sign as it turned onto Washington Road. Ms. Styles died at UPMC Mercy the next day from a severe head injury. She was 36.

The stroller carrying Nate and Ms. Styles' daughter Evelyn, 14 months, turned on its side into Washington Road, but the children were not injured. Another daughter, June, 4, was at a play date.

Ms. Styles, born Jan. 1, 1974 to Ellen and Carl Clay, was the first baby born in Cobb County, Ga., that year. Her family lived in Atlanta until 1983, then moved to Wexford. She attended North Allegheny High School, then went to Tufts University near Boston, where she received a bachelor's degree in English, with a minor in Mandarin. She became practically fluent in the language after she spent her junior year of college in Hong Kong.

Traveling became a hobby, and over the next several years she lived in Ireland for a few months, and traveled to places such as New Zealand, Portugal, French Guiana, and then closer places like Canada and the Caribbean once she had children.

She spent a few years after college living in San Francisco, where she waitressed and bartended and developed a talent for cooking.

She decided she wanted to get into child advocacy work, so she moved to Cleveland to attend Case Western Reserve University. Her initial plan was to do a 5-year program at Case Western and get a master's in social work and a law degree.

But she ran into Brett Styles, a high school classmate, on a visit to Gooski's bar in Polish Hill in 2002, and they began dating. After she earned her master's, she decided to get her law degree at the University of Pittsburgh.

They bought a house in Brookline and married in 2004. She continued to attend school while June was an infant and while she was pregnant with Nate.

"She sat for the bar and she passed the bar while she was eight months pregnant," her brother, Kevin Clay, of Omaha, Neb., said. "She had to get special bathroom privileges."
Her son was born prematurely and spent weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit. Ms. Styles would take him for 25 hours of therapy a week, Mr. Styles said, and put off pursuing a career so she could take care of him and his sisters.

"She dropped everything for her family," Mr. Styles said.
The last six years of her life were her happiest, her brother, Mr. Clay said, and the part that defined her the most.

Ms. Styles planned to pursue child advocacy work once her children were all in school.
"She was brilliant, and I think the main act of her life, it started now," Mr. Styles said.
In addition to her husband, brother and three children, Ms. Styles is survived by her mother, Ellen Clay of Cleveland.

Visitation will be Monday from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. at Beinhauer Mortuary on West Liberty Avenue in Beechview. Funeral services will be held Tuesday at noon at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Mt. Lebanon, with a private interment.

The family suggested that memorial donations be made to groups supporting autism research.Read more: