RIP Jody Nazarchyk, the conscience of all things Waterford, CT
Heroism, it has been suggested, is endurance for one moment more.
Nothing else could possibly illustrate the life of Jody Nazarchyk better.
She was always about one moment more. One moment more for the people of her town, especially the kids. One moment more, always. One moment more now laying to rest as Waterford's once and future conscience.
It was with unimaginable sorrow that we learned of Nazarchyk's death over the weekend. If I may be presumptuous enough to speak for an entire town, may I suggest that all of us who knew Jody Nazarchyk will spend the rest of our lives missing her.
I'd like you to know her the way I did.
Nazarchyk is best known as a 25year member of the Board of Education, town Selectwoman, or perhaps the friendly face in the concession stand at all the high school games, even long after her children stopped playing.
In 1991, she became a founding member of Waterford's first youth service bureau (now known as Youth and Family Services). She later inspired the town's first full day summer camp (Camp Dash) for children with working parents. She was recognized with one of the town's highest honors, a Champion for Children, in 2014.
She's also taught CCD at St. Paul's, served on the Southwest Elementary and Clark Lane PTOs, the School Building Committee, Parents' Liaison Council, Waterford Week Committee and Friendship School Governing Board. She's been a Little League coach, member of the booster club and is a Waterford Sports Hall of Famer.
I've called her a union rep for kids, the nicest person I've ever known and the fiber that gives Waterford its familial inclinations.
My favorite Jody story came from 2012 when dimmer bulbs in town threatened to cut freshman sports at the high school.
Nazarchyk, unaware if she had enough support from her colleagues at a Board meeting, made the motion to preserve freshmen sports during budget discussions. She didn't have time to dissect the moment because she was immersed in it, instead exploring her Tom Cruise Moment. Nazarchyk mimicked Cruise's timeless line from Risky Business: “Sometimes, you just gotta say what the (heck).”
Maybe she waved the banner for sports because she played them as a kid (as did her children) and coached them as an adult. Maybe because she was still volunteering her time at the concession stand during Waterford games.
"Sports are part of the high school experience, like drama or music," Nazarchyk said. "Children need something to do."
And yet in so many towns, the unwritten code goes like this: Children need something to do, so long as my taxes don't go up.
She made a difference
Question: What if Nazarchyk never said a word? Forget that varsity sports wouldn't get their feeder programs.
An appreciable number of kids in town would have been denied a chance to make new friends on the various freshmen teams and invest themselves into their school early.
Nazarchyk's motion was approved.
Since 2012, the freshman sports Nazarchyk saved have contributed to state championships in eight different sports at Waterford High.
Nazarchyk aw-shucksed her way to helping thousands of kids with the unspoken brilliance of constant effort. She stood for many things, but nothing more important than illustrating how everyone's quality of life increases, even if by a mere blip, when people in town are daring enough to connect others to a Greater Good.
Jody's passing hearkens a familiar bible passage from Ecclesiastes:
"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them; a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to search and a time to give up; a time to keep and a time to throw away; a time to tear and a time to mend; a time to be silent and a time to speak; a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.”
In that passage, the word “time” is mentioned 29 times. And so in Jody's memory, I ask:
What are we doing with our time? How do we treat people?
Do we help them?
Are we interested in anything beyond our self-interest?
Do we tell the people who mean the most to us what they mean to us? Jody did that every day.
Now it's our turn. Maybe now is the time and place for more quiet contemplation and how we can better live as Jody Nazarchyk did. As Virginia Woolf reminds us, “Someone has to die in order that the rest of us should value life more.”
That's why, among the ways to honor her, in lieu of flowers, is to make a donation in her name to two people-first causes she believed in: The Cactus Jack Foundation and Waterford Youth and Family Services.
Nazarchyk's funeral is Wednesday at St. Agnes Church in Niantic at 11 a.m., followed by a Celebration of Life at Filomena's. All are welcome. How fitting that the whole town will very likely turn out to honor her. That's really all she ever cared about: the whole town.