Late last month, the Pocono-Northeast lost a giant, a wonderful human being, who became a legend in her own time. Her name was Anna Cervenak, and she accomplished so much in a relatively short time.
She made countless contacts and had a deep commitment to, and understanding of, the regional community and the many sectors – private, public and nonprofit – that form the economic backbone of this region. She became a star in the universe that is Northeastern Pennsylvania. Together with her longtime partner Max Bartikowsky, Anna became a guardian angel whose spirit, determination, knowledge, support and advocacy made so many organizations inspire to be greater than they had been before her guidance and involvement.
The number of places that she became part of are too numerous to mention, but certainly, her role in the NEPA Alliance (formerly Economic Development Council of Northeastern Pennsylvania), where she was president for two years, and her role in helping to save Tobyhanna Army Depot in the 1990s, reflect the star quality that she brought to this region.
Anna started her career as a telephone operator at Bell of Pennsylvania, which became Verizon, and her performance always met the specific needs of the entity she supported, whether it be the private-sector entity that she worked for, the scores of nonprofits where she served on boards or her role with the economic development-sector of regional life.
Anna was a very special individual. She and Max not only have given of their time and energy, but when the need arose they would give funding and financial support.
At the same time, Anna and Max have been godparents to youngsters whom they admired, loved and supported many days and weekends. They were a combination of devotion, community creativity and generosity that perhaps no other couple has achieved in the history of this region.
Anna is an example of what others should yearn to be. Her drive, energy, interest and comprehensive attitude to adhere to an ethical standard might never be replicated, but her ability to be responsive to the needs of this region should be repeated over and over again by as many people as possible.
Anna was a refreshing starlet in her 77 years, much of which was devoted to others and the needs of the community, the people of the region and the opportunities that exist for the betterment of the quality of life of this region.
May she be remembered as the finest example of what one human being can accomplish. Anna Cervenak helped to change a whole region and deserves the respect and honor of the 1 million-plus people who call this region their home.
Howard J. Grossman