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September 26, 2002

OBITUARY: Janet McCarthy

Janet McCarthy, chief administrative assistant for the Department of Communication, died Sept. 12, 2002, in a fire at her Beechview home. She was 55.

McCarthy started at Pitt in 1978 as a temporary employee. She was hired as senior secretary in the Department of Speech and Theatre Arts in 1979 and a year later was promoted to administrative secretary in the department, where she was responsible for the preparation and oversight of the budget, payroll and personnel files. She also supervised three secretaries and was secretary to the department's chair.

A position reclassification in 1983 made her administrative assistant in the newly reorganized Department of Communication and in 1987 she was named administrator II there, where she handled administrative duties including payroll.

The Arts and Sciences dean's office gave her a "Pitt Umbrella Award" for excellence in processing payroll documents, according to Kelly Lloyd of that office.

"When you work in the dean's office, you get to know a lot of the Arts and Sciences administrative assistants," Lloyd said. "Janet was thoughtful, caring, meticulous and she had a great sense of humor. I remember that when she would go Christmas shopping she'd always come back with new clothes for herself. We'd all tease her about it. Whenever I saw her in a new outfit, I'd say: 'Did you get that Christmas shopping?'"

McCarthy's long-time co-worker and friend Regina Renk, a secretary in the department, said the food service workers in the Cathedral Cafe referred to McCarthy as "the soup lady," for her daily habit of ordering two containers of soup for lunch.

"Everybody got along with her," Renk said. "Jan was really an upbeat person, truly one of those people with a positive attitude. It's like there's a light out in the department."

Renk said when McCarthy first came to the communication department she was responsible for reorganizing departmental files. "It was something she was very proud of," Renk said. "And she was excited that her office had just been remodeled. She was just great to work with."

Communication chair John Lyne said, "Janet was at the core of all our operations and her death has created quite a void."

She is survived by her children, James McCarthy, Denise Clark and Brian McCarthy; seven grandchildren; her mother, Dorothy Fedorowicz; siblings Jerry Fedorowicz, Laurel Gardner, Stanley Fedorowicz and Bernard Fedorowicz, and her former husband James McCarthy.

William Wilkomm, McCarthy's companion, also died as a result of the Beechview fire.

The communication department is establishing a memorial fund.

–Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 35 Issue 3

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