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Beth S. Lewandowski: 1948-2014: Teacher gave back to Polish community

Beth S. Lewandowski, a retired school teacher who was an activist in her North Toledo neighborhood and its Polish community, died Sunday in her home. She was 66.

A resident of historic Polish Village for nearly 40 years, she died of complications from a brain tumor, daughter Adrienne Stevens said.

Mrs. Stevens said her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago and survived after surgery and radiation treatments. However, the cancer returned in August, she said.

Though of German and Welsh heritage, Mrs. Lewandowski adopted the traditions and customs of her husband’s Polish family after they were married Aug. 18, 1973.

About a year later, the couple moved to North Toledo, just a few blocks from where her husband, Michael, grew up.

She also became active in neighborhood and community groups, including the Lagrange Village Council, which she served as president. She was president of the board of directors for United North, a nonprofit neighborhood group in North Toledo.

“She was unselfish and one of those extraordinary people,” said Terry Glazer, executive officer of United North. “She was one of those people who become very rare in how much they dedicate themselves to the community and how much they give.”

Mrs. Lewandowski was instrumental in helping form the alliance of Lagrange Development and NorthRiver Development Corp in 2007 to support revitalization of North Toledo. She also was active in neighborhood campaigns and fund-raisers, including volunteering for the annual Lagrange Polish Festival and the annual pre-Lenten paczki sale.

She was an activist who stood up for residents in North Toledo neighborhoods.

After Kroger Co. announced in 2009 it would close its store in Manhattan Plaza, she took a delegation of residents to corporate headquarters in Cincinnati to meet with company officials and persuade them to keep the store open. In the end, their efforts failed, and the store closed.

“She gave so much of herself. Every time there was a problem in the neighborhood she addressed the problem. She understood the importance of working with people to resolve problems in the neighborhood. She respected what the neighborhood wanted,” Mr. Glazer said.

An educator, Mrs. Lewandowski was an advocate of “One School 4 One year,” which was a pilot program started by Lagrange Village Council to make it easier for students to stay in one building throughout the year and not move to different buildings in Toledo Public Schools.

She was born Aug. 30, 1948, in Muskegon, Mich., where she graduated from Reeths-Puffer High School. She attended Nazareth College in Kalamazoo, Mich.

She began her teaching career at Columbia Central Schools near Jackson, Mich. After she married, she moved to Toledo and commuted to teach in Jefferson Schools, north of Monroe.

Mrs. Stevens said her mother was an English teacher, then took a position teaching computer science to fifth though eighth-graders in the middle school. She retired in 2008.

“She loved being a teacher. Teaching was one of her passions,” her daughter said.

Surviving are her husband, Michael; daughter, Adrienne Stevens; parents, Robert and Beryl Mudget; sisters, Rhon Koch, Laurel Hamilton, Jan Deverman, Carol Norene, and Margaret Johnson; brother, Bob Mudget, and a granddaughter.

Visitation will be from 2 to 8 p.m. Wednesday in the Sujkowski Funeral Home Northpointe, where services will be at 10:30 a.m. Thursday. The family suggests tributes to a charity of the donor’s choice.

Contact Mark Reiter at: markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.

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