A voice is silent.
The familiar voice of Irene Mindzak, a business women actively involved in professional and community service activities in Weirton for more than 50 years, went quiet on Wednesday when she died at the age of 78.
Mindzak gave of her time, effort and energy to many community endeavors and that personal commitment led others to follow. She served as a mentor to many and a mother to two.
Mindzak is survived by Colleen Mindzak of Weirton and Stephen Mindzak of Columbus, Ohio, and for a significant period of time raised her children as a single parent. Her work history is a varied as it is extensive receptionist, secretary, tin plate sorter, telephone operator, and working her way up the ranks at the First Choice America Community Federal Credit Union to the position of business development coordinator.
Scott E. Winwood, president and chief executive officer of the credit union, paid her tribute, "There are few people who have exemplified the credit union philosophy of 'people helping people' more so than Irene Mindzak. Irene was very proud of her long career with our credit union. She pursued her job responsibilities with a tenacious spirit that was second to none. Throughout her many years of visiting our Select Employee Groups, Irene was the face of our credit union to countless numbers of our members. Her commitment, devotion and pride in our organization were always first and foremost in everything she did. We can all learn and take inspiration from her great work ethic. Irene worked tirelessly for a better community, imparting her positive attitude and recruiting others to volunteer their time and talents for the benefit of all. I was privileged to call her my friend."
Her co-worker, Charles R. Cronin, director of marketing and public relations, added, "My friend and co-worker, Irene, was an exceptional person. I was always impressed by her downright fiery enthusiasm passion, really for her job, for the opportunity to make a contribution, for the chance to help someone else. That passion helped make her unique. Her unquenchable spirit was the quality that I loved most about her. She could turn a dark, dreary day into the joy of sunbeams. She was uplifting to me no matter how much I was down. I valued our friendship and will remember her always with a special fondness."
Her path to success led to Mindzak being recognized in the International Who's Who in Professional Management, as well as being awarded the title of "Woman of the Year" in 1989 by the Weirton Business and Professional Women's Club. Mindzak felt strongly about women's roles in business. What kept her going was the opportunity to mentor younger women. Her time spent with the BPW's "Young Careerist" competition helped many women gain confidence and become better public speakers.
She held membership in the BPW since 1976 and served as scholarship, membership and Young Careerist chairman, and trustee of the Rick Kucan Memorial Scholarship. She consistently worked on the BPW's National Business Women's Week celebrations and served as the club's second vice president, and both the recording and correspondence secretaries.
"She was a remarkable lady and will be greatly missed," said Debbie Coletti-Pearce, president of the Weirton BPW.
Mindzak was a graduate of the Weirton Area Chamber of Commerce's Leadership Weirton Program. As a member of the chamber's Special Projects Committee, Mindzak provided advice and feedback on the Weirton Christmas Parade, Ladies' Day at the Chamber and the Chamber's Annual Membership Meeting and Banquet.
"Not only did Irene love this community, but she loved being on various committees in many clubs an organizations; one, of course, being our Special Projects Committee. Irene rarely missed a meeting and she always gave input. But beyond that, she gave of her time. Irene didn't believe in being on a committee and not 'stepping up to the plate.' She was a lady who gave back to everything that she was a part of. She did this because she cared. She will be missed tremendously," said Brenda Mull, president of the Weirton Area Chamber of Commerce.
In 1996, Mindzak joined the West Virginia Community College Weirton Campus' Friends of the College organization. She held positions of vice president of the board of directors, second vice president and president.
Mindzak valued the importance of education and simultaneously served on the Friends' scholarship committee and was the membership chairman.
In paying tribute, Cathy Ferrari, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Hancock County Savings Bank and a long-time member of Friends, said, "Irene Mindzak was instrumental in the organization, advancement and success of the Friends of the College. She was a remarkable woman who worked passionately to promote the Friends organization. She is one of the reasons WVNCC is what it is today. Irene was about making a difference, doing the right thing and helping others. She cared deeply about her family, her friends and her community."
Mindzak had been a member of and an advocate for the American Association of Retired People since her eligibility, and belonged to the Four Seasons Senior Club and the FunSeekers.
She was an active member of the Weirton Kiwanis Club and held the offices of membership chairman, scholarship chairman, first-vice president, second vice-president and a member of their board of directors.
Mindzak was "Kiwanian of the Year" in 1997; received the Award for Outstanding Service, Loyalty and Dedication in 2002; and an International Kiwanis Award in 2004.
"Irene was a loyal Kiwanian for 13 years, and a true friend to all of us. She always had compassion and respect for everyone she met. Irene participated in many projects throughout the years, and always gave 100 percent even when we knew she wasn't feeling well. She especially enjoyed times with the clients of the Hancock County Sheltered Workshop and Opportunity Center. The Kiwanis hosted a picnic in the summer and a dance in the spring she never missed one. Irene will always live in our hearts, we have been fortunate to have known her," said Sue Shank, current president of the Weirton Kiwanis Club.
Fellow Kiwanian Duke Horstemeyer added his thoughts.
"I've know her for 40 years and if there was ever a 'Ms. Weirton,' she was it. She quoted this so often, 'One thing that I have in common with the president, we both live on Pennsylvania Avenue,'" Horstemeyer said.
Mindzak also always enjoyed communicating her ideas with and sharing her political views through her participation and membership in the Hancock County Democratic Women where she served as scholarship chairman.
Fred Marsh, friend, neighbor and councilman, said, "She was a neighbor at both the old and new locations of Marsh's. I helped her whenever she needed it."
Mindzak's strong faith was demonstrated in memberships in both St. Mary's Byzantine Catholic Church and St. Joseph the Worker Church, where she belonged to the Parish's Christian Mother's organization.
The family is requesting contributions in Mindzak's memory be made to the Irene Mindzak Scholarship Fund, c/o Steel and Wolfe Funeral Home Inc.; and to the Weirton Community Bread Basket.
(Winkler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)