Merle Smith Kuznik
Merle Smith Kuznik, beloved mother of VotePA's founder Marybeth Kuznik, was a true inspiration. A Judge of Elections for nearly 30 years, and still serving in the polls at the time of her death, she cared passionately about voting. Merle's greatest wish in her last days was that VotePA continue to grow.
CONTRIBUTE to the MERLE SMITH KUZNIK MEMORIAL FUND HERE
Here is Merle's full obituary:
Merle Smith Kuznik, 93, died August 12, 2011 at Westmoreland Hospital in Greensburg PA following a tragic accident at home a week earlier. Nicknamed "Duz" (who does everything) by family and friends, Merle led an active life that centered around her church and faith, her involvement in her community, and her love of children whom she believed represent our future.
Born March 25, 1918 in Port Vue PA, Merle was the daughter of the late Charles S. and Sarah Ann (Crouch) Smith. She was a graduate of McKeesport High School, in the top ten of her 1936 class. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Education from Slippery Rock State Teachers College (Slippery Rock University) and a Master of Education from the University of Pittsburgh. Merle retired in 1982 from a career in Elementary Education that spanned 42 years in the Liberty Boro and Penn-Trafford schools, during which she taught every grade from kindergarten through seventh. For several years she was a faculty member at Slippery Rock where taught in the Education Department's Lab School.
Raised in the First Methodist Church of McKeesport, Merle was active in Epworth League and later as registrar at the Jumonville Methodist Training Center. Moving to Penn Township after marriage, Merle was instrumental in founding the Community United Methodist Church of Harrison City by encouraging Dr. William L. Hogg, its organizing pastor, to come to the growing community and build the new church. She helped her husband, who was Chairman of the Building Committee, to organize the work crews of members donating labor to complete the original church building. Merle was active as a Sunday School teacher and Past-President of the Womens Society of Christian Service and United Methodist Women.
Merle's strong belief in her community led her to serve as an Air Raid Warden in Port Vue during World War II, during which she treated the injured and helped with security after the major tornado in Port Vue and Dravosburg on June 23, 1944. Around the time of the war, Merle and her sister Myrtle founded the first Girl Scout troops in Liberty Boro. She later continued her scouting leadership in the Harrison City area. A 4-H leader for over 25 years, Merle and her husband were the founding Organizational Leaders of the very active Flour Bag Fort 4-H Horse Club.
With her late husband and son, and daughter Marybeth, Merle raised beef cattle and foundation Quarter Horses on their third-generation family farm in the Pleasant Valley area of Penn Township in Westmoreland County. The farm is approaching Century Farm status. She was a member of the Pennsylvania Palomino Exhibitors Association and a former Alternate National Director of the Palomino Horse Breeders of America.
After retirement from teaching, Merle helped her daughter Marybeth organize SchoolTime Theatre, the first Actors' Equity Theater for Young Audiences in Pennsylvania. This troupe presented educational plays written by Merle and Marybeth for children in schools throughout Western and Central Pennsylvania, and performed off-Broadway in New York City. In May 1992, Merle was honored by WQED with the CNG VITA Award for her volunteer in the arts work as Producer of SchoolTime Theatre.
Merle believed deeply in Civics Education, and cared about the right of every citizen to participate in our democracy by voting. With nearly 30 years as a precinct Judge of Elections, at the time of her death Merle was still working at her poll in Penn Township every election day. She was an instrumental member and strong supporter of VotePA, the statewide organization dedicated to voting rights and the use of verifiable and accessible voting systems. On July 4 of this year Merle participated with VotePA in a voting rights rally in Franklin, Venango County.
Merle was preceded in death by her parents: her husband of 39 years William G. Kuznik; son William Paul Kuznik; sisters Inez Smith, Myrtle Mason, and Nan Zumpe; and brother Raymond Smith. She is survived by her beloved daughter and best friend Marybeth Kuznik at home; brother Edward Smith of Monroeville; many nieces, nephews, and dear friends; and her family of animals on Sunny K Farm.
Friends were received at the COMMUNITY UNITED METHODIST CHURCH, 3487 Route 130 near Harrison City Wednesday, August 17 from 2-4 and 6-8 p.m., and Thursday August 18 from 10-11 a.m. with service following at 11. Interment was in Woodlawn Cemetery, Penn Township.
Memorial donations to continue Merle's work with VotePA are much needed and may be sent through www.VotePA.us or c/o 6093 Pleasant Valley Road, Irwin PA 15642.
Here is Merle's last poem, written after the July 4 rally in Venango County pictured above:
Attention Good Citizens
If you want your vote
(This is 1/2 minute or 1 minute)
Here is the poem in Merle's own original handwriting.....
VotePA is a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization with an exemption letter from the IRS. As such we are free to lobby for changes in our laws to improve our voting systems and electoral process, but donations are not deductible for tax purposes.