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April 17, 2008

Obituary: Mary Beth Merenick

Mary Beth Merenick, a secretary in the School of Education, died April 9, 2008, following a long battle with cancer. She was 50.

Merenick came to Pitt in 1990, working in the Department of Chemistry as a staff specialist II. Later she was promoted to secretary II and, after transferring to the Department of Psychology in Education (PIE) in 1999, Merenick was promoted to secretary III. She had been on sick leave from the University since November 2004.

Friends and colleagues remembered Merenick as pleasant and friendly, quick with a smile and courageous in facing her illness.

“Mary Beth and I became friends very quickly when she began working in chemistry,” said former chemistry department colleague Toni Weber. “She was always genuinely interested in what was going on in your life. Even when she was ill and battling cancer, she would smile and ask how everyone in the department was doing and she never complained.”

Weber said the pair shared many fun times over the years. Following a holiday shopping trip, the two women struggled to squeeze a large telescope into a tiny car trunk and each got conked on the head, Weber recounted. “The joke between us was always that we both turned a little ‘blonde’ when we were together. I always knew that whenever the visit, there would be a lot of laughter, and I will miss the times we spent together. Mary Beth never lost her sense of humor or caring nature. She was an amazing person and a personal hero of mine.”

Weber added that Merenick was part of a close-knit family. “Mary Beth loved her family and she especially enjoyed her grandchildren. She also loved her dog, Bessie, who passed away a few weeks ago,” Weber said.

Former co-worker Margie Augenstein, an administrative secretary who retired from the chemistry department in 2006, said that she and Merenick worked closely together in the Surface Science Center.

“Not only did we work well together, we also developed a wonderful and lasting friendship,” Augenstein said. “We laughed and cried together and were always there to support each other. She was liked by all who met her. I will miss her very much — especially her beautiful and warm smile.”

Angela Cheyne, Merenick’s fellow staff member in the psychology in education department, said, “Mary Beth was the pillar of courage and strength throughout her illness. She always welcomed visitors and loved to talk. Visits usually consisted of her wanting to know how PIE was doing, what was new with faculty and staff at the school, who had retired, etc. She rarely wanted to talk about herself.”

A native of Pittsburgh, Merenick grew up in Munhall and graduated from Munhall High School. Prior to coming to Pitt, she worked as a beautician.

Merenick is survived by her husband, Daniel James Merenick; her daughter, Quinn Lynne Horvwalt; her stepchildren, Jennifer Little and Danielle Merenick; her grandchildren, Ocean, Emerson, Nelson and Aubrey; her mother, Elizabeth Dorothy (Hudak) Derian; her sisters, Dorothy Jean “Gigi” Terranella, Karen Kronk and Cindi Brennan; her brother, Kenneth Hudak, and many nieces and nephews.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Forbes Hospice, 115 S. Neville St., Pittsburgh 15213.

—Peter Hart

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