WILLIAMSTOWN -- Those who knew her say the legacy of dedication, excellence, enthusiasm, courtesy and compassion that became synonymous with retired Superintendent Helen Renzi will live on past her lifetime. Renzi, 88, died July 14 at her home.
Joelle Brookner, the current principal of Williamstown Elementary School, said Tuesday she was in sixth grade when Renzi was then-principal of the town's elementary schools. She remembers Renzi being present everywhere and having a strong, positive spirit.
"She was just so involved in the lives of the children and everyone in the school," she said.
Even after Renzi retired, she continued to be involved in the elementary school until the very end, she said.
"On a broad level, she was a pioneer for women in leadership roles," she said.
A memorial Mass for Renzi will be held at the Thompson Memorial Chapel at Williams College at 10 a.m. on Thursday. She is survived by her husband of 63 years, Ralph; four children, Mary Jo, Maggie, Marta and Mark; six grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.
Renzi began her career with the Williamstown School District as a reading teacher in 1961. She then taught fourth grade from 1962 to 1976. In 1976, she became director of instruction and principal of the elementary schools, and in 1980, she was named acting superintendent. She was appointed superintendent in 1981.
Shortly before Renzi's retirement in June 1986, the School Committee
Rose Ellis, superintendent of Wil liamstown and Lanes borough Public Schools, said Renzi was an active participate in bestowing the annual award to students.
"It was always a pleasure for her to personally meet these students and congratulate them on their exemplary behavior," Ellis said.
Marvin Gangemi, who worked with Renzi, said she was very supportive of the students and was a wonderful role model for young girls at the time.
"She directed a strong ship as far as the school system was concerned. She was very fair, and the students liked her a great deal, as well as her fellow teachers," he said.
Merry Anderson, an art teacher at Williamstown Elementary School, worked with, and then under, Renzi.
"She loved literature and really tried to instill that love of reading in students," Anderson said.
In addition, Renzi always encouraged people to aspire to a higher level, and was good at recognizing qualities she respected in teachers, she said.
Outside of the education field, Renzi will also be remembered for her commitment to the community, her dedication to her Catholic faith, and not being afraid to state her opinion.
The Rev. William Cyr, who met Renzi when he was pastor at Sts. Patrick and Raphael Parish, said Renzi definitely had her opinions, but she was always open-minded.
"Not everybody agreed with her politics or religion, but everybody liked Helen because she didn't force things down peoples' throats," he said.
After Renzi retired, she traveled the world, bringing her husband along with her, Cyr said.
"There were very few places of significance that she and Ralph didn't travel to. She wanted to get out and see the world as she had taught her students," he said.