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Published: Wednesday, 2/9/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Marci Dvorak, 1953-2011: Mental health leader earlier sold Ohio Bell systems

BY CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Marci Dvorak, a longtime mental health executive and advocate, died Jan. 31 in her Ottawa Hills home.

She was 57 and had undergone successful surgery and rehabilitation for a brain tumor and was released from the hospital two days before she died, her husband, Robert Dvorak, said.

She died shortly after falling down the stairs. "She was conscious for a while. We were talking and I was trying to help her get up, and all of a sudden she just nodded off," he said.

Mrs. Dvorak was well known in area mental-health circles. She served since 1994 as executive director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Greater Toledo, or NAMI, a nonprofit organization focusing on advocacy, education, and support for those with mental illnesses and their families.

Mrs. Dvorak was dedicated and effective, said Dr. Victoria Taylor, the organization's board president.

"She was always on top of everything. She was enthusiastic," said Dr. Taylor, a psychiatrist. "She just seemed to take everything and make it look easy. She was a voice for so many people who would be afraid to speak about the issues. Her advocacy made a difference in the lives of many people."

As the head of the advocacy group, she saw the daily struggles that families of the mentally ill go through. She had experienced many of those struggles herself, she told The Blade in 2000.

"My mother was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. It took me years into my adulthood to understand what was going on with her," she said.

Mrs. Dvorak recalled growing up in Findlay with her mother, who kept the apartment curtains drawn shut so "they" couldn't see in. She listened to her mother's rambling accounts of phone calls that never happened, letters never received. She watched her mother put away the television to escape its "bad messages."

Mrs. Dvorak entered the mental health field in the mid-1980s, after selling telephone systems for the former Ohio Bell Telephone Co., her husband said.

She returned to school and received a master's degree in social work from Case Western University. She also held a master's degree in public administration from the University of Toledo and a bachelor's degree from the University of Findlay.

She and her husband met at the former Toledo Mental Health Center in South Toledo, where both were social workers. They married in 1987. Her previous marriage was to Robert Mosqueda, with whom she adopted two children.

She was born in White Plains, N.Y., the only child of Beulah and William Colton.

Surviving are her husband, Robert, daughter, Gabrielle Baker, son, Eric Mosqueda; stepsons, Rob and Steve Dvorak, and nine grandchildren.

Services will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at the University Church. Arrangements are by the Bersticker-Scott Funeral Home.

The family suggests tributes to NAMI.

Contact Carl Ryan at: carlryan@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.



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