Emile Terrenoire lost both of his legs in a train accident at just three years old. It was the turn of the century – 1902 – and without the necessary support to care for him, Emile’s future looked bleak. Mary Irwin Laughlin, the wife of a wealthy Pittsburgh industrialist, was inspired by Emile’s story. Upon learning that there were other children facing similar dire circumstances, she worked with a group of friends to find a solution. Soon after, the “Memorial Home for Cripple Children” opened, with Emile as its first resident.
Our entire family is so proud of Pup Pup and the role he played in the founding of The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh,” explains his granddaughter, Robin Lasich. “I love that place. The Home made our family possible.”
By the end of its first year, eight children were living at the Home. They received an education, instruction in useful skills, and comprehensive medical attention, as well as the experience of living in a family. Emile grew strong and capable, and after he left the Home, he found a job he loved and raised a family of his own.
Emile and his wife, Margaret, settled in Homewood. He worked as an elevator operator for Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. They raised four daughters: Peggy Richey, Dorothy Lundy, Joan Ludchak, and Laraine Ehrlich (who used to argue about who would get to hammer his socks onto his wooden legs). He adored his 12 grandchildren. Today, Emile’s family includes dozens of great-grandchildren, and even more great-great-grandchildren. Many relatives in this close-knit family still live locally, and one great-granddaughter even worked at The Children’s Institute.
I was young when he died, but I have vivid memories of him,” Robin reflects. “I loved hugging him from behind, feeling the strength in his arms and chest. He often used his arms to ambulate, and he had the biggest, strongest hands.”
Emile’s legacy lives on through the large, loving family he created and the caring and compassionate community that came to be The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh. We are grateful for Emile’s story and all the stories that make up our unique history – it is the stories of our amazing kids and families that make The Children’s Institute an amazing place.