Three receive WICPTSA Honorary Life Award

Bigenwald, Carmen-Duffy, Walsh earn WICPTSA honor
Posted on 02/12/2020
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 Picture of Honorary Life honorees
 Left to right, Jenny Bigenwald, Susan Carmen-Duffy & Tim Walsh.

The Honorary Life Award is the highest honor a PTSA can give and three individuals who received that honor Tuesday night at Dake Junior High School from the West Irondequoit Central Parent Teacher Student Association (WICPTSA). Honorees in our school or community should have demonstrated care for children and devoted service to them. They don’t have to b PTSA members. For more on criteria and to nominate someone, click the link: wicptsa.org/honorarylife.html.

Here are the honorees:

Jenny Bigenwald

Selfless and supportive. Creative and caring. Dedicated and humble. These are a few words that those who know Jenny Bigenwald best used to describe the longtime PTSA member and leader. A mother of three children who went to Listwood elementary, Iroquois Middle School and then Dake/IHS, Bigenwald was always there for those in need. From Teacher Appreciation Lunches and sports team dinners, to Craft Days, the Election Day BBQ, Arts Fest and book/bake sales, she organized, strategized and motivated people to collaborate on events that galvanized the school community. Her dedication extended beyond her own children, too. “If there was a parent in the neighborhood who needed childcare, Jenny filled the need – for free – and added craft projects, healthy food, walks to the library or Cooper Del or wherever her creative mind would take them that day,” said Michel Major-Melidona, who presented the award to her longtime friend.

Bigenwald created an invaluable binder or instructional manual to help PTSA members that came after her departure. Bigenwald is secretary of the Josh Rojas Foundation, whose signature event is the annual “Dodge for Josh” dodgeball tournament (this March 1; sign up here). The non-profit organization raises money to give support and resources for families who have suddenly lost a child. The tournament started in 2012 and memorializes a young West Irondequoit student taken from this life too soon.

Bigenwald also is the driving force at Sunset House, a local hospice house. She manages its Facebook page and schedules volunteers to “set up, clean and do everything in between,” Major-Melidona says. Nine years ago she created “Love Always,” an annual event to remember loved ones. It takes place 6:30 p.m. Friday. To purchase a memorial luminaria, visit www.sunsethouse.info

Susan Carmen-Duffy

Her handprints (or brush strokes) are all over Dake Junior High School and throughout our district by inspiring and encouraging young student-artists. Carmen-Duffy started as a Teacher’s Assistant at Southlawn Elementary School and Rogers Middle Schools, then worked with new technology for captioning and one hearing-impaired student at Dake Junior High School. “She was first and foremost a student advocate,” wrote former colleague, Leana Palumbo, who along with Christine Baker-Marriage nominated Carmen-Duffy. For seven years, she helped implement and refine C-Print (text-to-speech) technology and the captioning process in West Irondequoit. She worked with NTID personnel at RIT to develop better systems and also co-authored a presentation used by schools to aid hearing-impaired students. She later became a teaching assistant at IHS (working in library services), then finally worked at Dake as a TA for technology and students with specific needs. Art is her passion. A former IHS Yearbook Faculty Advisor, she created eye-popping graphic designs for productions, programs and school events. For the past seven years, she has opened her studio, Create Art 4 Good in Rochester, for an exhibit to display artwork by West Irondequoit students of all ages. “Susan’s gifts and presence lifts our community as a whole,” wrote her nominators. “She always sees good in others even when faced with adversity.”

Tim Walsh

If there is a common thread about how Tim Walsh’s life as a parent, a friend, a community member and leader, it’s this: He cares. He cares about his family, about education, his church and community. “I have always appreciated your knowledge base, your poise, your talents and your selfless community service,” said Michel Major-Melidona, who presented the award to Walsh. The father of three IHS graduates, Walsh anchored the IHS School-Based Planning Team for eight years. Before that, he was an Odyssey of the Mind coach and on the Listwood elementary planning team. A Scout Master for a decade, he is on the Eagle Scout Advisory Board and Committee for Troop 233. A Regional Emergency Response Coordinator for the state DEC and someone who helped in New York City shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Walsh’s wisdom on safety was always welcomed on the IHS Safety Committee. To say he saves lives is not hyperbole. Walsh has organized blood drives for 18 years at his church, Christ the King, and for 25 years with the DEC. He taught religious education and headed up planning for the church’s annual 5K race. Whether attending a school sporting event, play or concert or event, Walsh has never stood on the sidelines and West Irondequoit is better for it.