The courthouse didn't have an estate record for him? If nothing else it would help to tie down exactly when he died. Of course it is possible he died out of the area if not out of the state, perhaps on a trip. However, I would imagine his obit would still be in the local newspaper.
It's your kind of story and frustration that we are trying to gain better access to the state death certificates and have them online. Even the Division of Vital Records would benefit as all the death certificates from before 1960 do not have a comprehensive index. They still depend on the original indexes which were filed by county and year. Vital records could even have the death certificate and not even know it Here's the website about this grassroots effort: http://users.rcn.com/timarg/PaHR-Access.htmhttp://users.rcn.com/timarg/PaHR-Access.htm