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O'Hara woman remembered for dedication to community

| Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Jan Pakler | for The Herald
Elaine and Fred Mitsch at the Celebrate the Center event that Elaine planned at the Boyd Community Center.

Many will remember Elaine Mitsch as the smiling and ever-present face behind the welcome counter at Boyd Community Center, but her reach was far greater, friends said.

Mrs. Mitsch died Sunday after an extended illness. She was 51.

“She had a great sense of humor,” said Stephanie Flom, executive director of Boyd. “Her office was down the hall from me, and I could hear her laugh down the corridor.”

Mrs. Mitsch is survived by her husband, Fred; sons, Connor and Henry; mother, Eva Chojnicki; and brother, Eric Chojnicki.

Visitation was Wednesday. Burial Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. today, Thursday, at St. Scholastica Catholic Church, on Brilliant Avenue in Aspinwall.

Born in Munhall, Mrs. Mitsch graduated from Steel Valley High School and earned a bachelor's degree from Duquesne University. She was a resident of O'Hara.

Mrs. Mitsch worked for nine years as the marketing and development director of the community center before resigning last fall. Flom credits Mrs. Mitsch as being “the genius” behind the annual “Celebrate the Center” fundraiser, a themed gala that brought in a packed house and thousands of dollars to help fund a new $8 million facility planned to break ground this year.

“She turned our tired old building into a phenomenally elegant and festive social venue for that fundraiser every year,” Flom said.

Mrs. Mitsch was best-known for her dedication to Boyd, but her energy was far-reaching in various other Lower Valley organizations.

She served on the board of Volunteers of America of Pennsylvania's All of Us Care, a Sharpsburg-based group that provides a safety net for local children.

“Elaine was truly committed to children and youth at risk that we serve,” said Pat Serey, vice president, southwestern region Volunteers of America of Pennsylvania. “We are saddened by her passing.”

Mrs. Mitsch, a former president of the O'Hara Elementary PTO, Fox Chapel Area High School PTA and District Forum, was instrumental in organizing the school district's fundraising gala.

“Elaine Mitsch was a wonderful woman who always had a smile and a supportive and kind word for everyone,” said Bonnie Berzonski, district coordinator of communications. “She gave so much to the school district and its students.”

Mike Rowe, O'Hara principal, said Mrs. Mitsch was one of the first people he met when he joined the school community.

“She was so welcoming,” Rowe said. “She did so much to help our school and she surely will be missed.”

Friend Kirsten Powell said she first met Mrs. Mitsch during their time on the O'Hara PTO but grew to respect her after serving as a community center board member and volunteer for both the Boyd and district fundraisers.

“She was the face of Boyd but her dedication to our community was reaching and tireless,” Powell said. “Her enthusiasm and sense of humor were bigger than life. It is truly tragic that such potential has been lost to us.”

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or tpanizzi@tribweb.com.

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