Irene J. Pendzick, 89, of Riverhead died June 12, 2021, at Peconic Bay Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Riverhead. She suffered a stroke on April 23 and was in rehabilitation at the time of her death.
Irene’s energy, enthusiasm and efficiency benefited her community throughout the years. She entered politics in 1963. She wasn’t supposed to win, but no one told Irene that. She won election as Riverhead’s tax receiver and spent 28 years at Town Hall, retiring as Riverhead’s town clerk. She started the Suffolk County Tax Receiver Association and the Nassau/Suffolk Town Clerks Association, serving as the first presiding officer of both groups.
Irene loved Town Hall and serving the people of Riverhead. Always with a smile, she made time for everyone while also projecting a hard work ethic and “we can do it” attitude. Retirement was not in Irene’s vocabulary. She continued to work in local real estate after retiring as a politician.
She started and organized the Polish Town Civic Association, serving as their first president. The first Polish Town Fair was in 1975 and, except for last year due to the pandemic, the fair has been held every year since. She was a member of the Town of Riverhead Ethics Board for 11 years. She was also a member of the St. Isidore’s Altar Rosary Society for over 60 years.
Irene was born on Sept. 27, 1931, in New Jersey but the family moved and eventually settled in Northport, where Irene and her brother, Anthony Jr., were raised. Irene’s parents, Anthony and Mary Damulewicz, were both born in the United States but emigrated back to Poland when they were young. Both returned to the United States when they were teens, leaving their families behind to make a new life and to find each other. Anthony Sr. was a baker, and times were especially hard during the Depression. Irene would tell stories of her early days when their home had no electricity and she and Tony would walk two miles each way to school every day. They were poor but didn’t realize it, as their house was rich in love and laughter.
Young, vivacious and a smart 17-year-old, Irene was a senior at Northport High School. Six years older, Isadore (Dory) was tall, dark and handsome and his quiet ways seemed mysterious to Irene. They met at a roller rink and soon knew that they would spend their life together. Irene and Dory dated a short time before getting married on Aug. 28, 1949, just before her 18th birthday. Dory built a new home for them on the Pendzick family farm in Calverton. Dory, with his father and brother, farmed primarily potatoes and Irene got a job as a bookkeeper in a local store.
Two years later, they had their first child, Gary (1951), followed by Richard (“Rick,” 1952), then Cynthia (“Cindy,” 1955) and Lori (1958). Farming was a hard but rewarding life with a close set of friends in the community.
Irene and Dory stayed in Riverhead their entire married life, starting at the farm in Calverton, moving to a house on Peconic Bay in Aquebogue, then to their final home in Riverhead.
Irene was always an activist fighting for people’s rights. In the 1950s, she joined a march in Washington, D.C., to protest against low potato prices, which were hurting Long Island farmers. Irene loved politics and she was active in the Riverhead Democratic Party for 53 years, right up to her death.
Irene valued her friendships and always made time to stay connected. Until the pandemic, she met yearly with remaining classmates from Northport’s Class of 1949. She had numerous close friends who she spoke to regularly, many who had been friends since grammar school!
Although Irene lived a very active life, she always made time for family. In the early years of her marriage, the family went every Sunday to Grandma and Grandpa Damulewicz’s home in Northport for Sunday dinner until they moved to Riverhead and came to Irene and Dory’s home. Irene was very active in her children’s lives, from Boy Scouts, 4-H, baseball, football and school. One of their favorite pastimes was going out on the “Peconic CGirl,” which was an old boat that had enough room to sleep the entire family of six. The name CGirl was picked as it includes the first letter of everyone’s name.
Irene was also active in her great-grandchildren’s lives, attending recitals, dance shows, swimming lessons and sports events. One of her greatest regrets was being unable to see the grandchildren and great-grandchildren during the pandemic. However, we did family Zoom meetings as often as possible to stay in touch.
All of Irene’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren called her “Bobbie.” This name is short for Babcia, which is Polish for grandmother. She loved being called Bobbie and over the years many others outside the family called her Bobbie as well.
Reunited in heaven with her husband, Dory, Irene is survived by her children, Gary (Lorraine died in 2003), Ricky (Paula), Cindy (Gary died in 2008) and Lori (Mark); and grandchildren Dorian Besson (Gabriela), Tony Pendzick (Amanda), Mark Pendzick (Kaitlin), Chris Pendzick (Victoria), Keith Romanowski (Michele), Adam Phelan, Nick Romanowski and Eric Phelan. Irene is also survived by 11 great-grandchildren: Lydia, Abigail, Marques, Dory, Lainey, Taeo, Cody, Arya, Sam, Iyla and Emma.
Irene stayed politically active until her last days and will always be remembered as a loving, caring person who was always ready and willing to help anyone in need. She touched the lives of everyone she knew and will live on in our hearts forever.
Family and friends may visit McLaughlin Heppner Funeral Home in Riverhead, N.Y., on Thursday, June 17, from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. and Friday, June 18, from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. A funeral Mass will be held at 10:45 a.m. Saturday, June 19, at St. Isidore R.C. Church in Riverhead. Interment will follow at St. Isidore Cemetery in Riverhead.
This is a paid notice.