Eugene Szymczak died unexpectedly in his sleep on Sunday at the age of 67 and many in the community will miss his generosity, humor and selflessness.
Szymczak started out as a teller at Educators Credit Union in 1972, then worked his way up to become the president and CEO. Since 1994, Educators Credit Union has been under Szymczak’s leadership.
Mary Lueneburg, chair of the board of directors for Educators Credit Union, issued the following statement in a press release:
“It is with profound sadness that we announce the passing of our friend and colleague, Gene Szymczak. He was, first and foremost, a generous, selfless human being, as well as an inspiring leader. Gene considered everyone in the Educators organization an extension of his family. He made it a point to know the first name of those who work here, and took great pleasure in interacting with our members.”
James Henderson, chief administration officer for Educators, said he keeps looking for Szymczak to come around the corner.
“He will be deeply missed,”Henderson. “He never wanted to be the center of attention, only to learn about everyone so he would always ask them questions.”
Szymczak’s humble beginnings guided him. He worked hard, got good grades and happened to work as a caddie. That combination earned him a four-year scholarship from the Evans Scholars Foundation, which is how he paid for business school.
He never married or had children. But serving others was important to him and that was his legacy. He spent much of his time serving the community contributing to boards including the Racine Community Foundation, United Way of Racine County, HALO, Young Leaders Academy, and Kids First.
Szymczak owned the Frank Lloyd Wright’s Thomas P. Hardy House on Main Street. Former photographer Mark Hertzberg wrote in his blog Wright in Racine on Monday that he considered Szymczak a dear friend. They bonded when Szymczak bought the house.
“Gene’s fascination with the house began when he was a college student working one summer on a city garbage truck route. His route took him down Main Street, and once a week he picked up the garbage from the north courtyard of the Hardy House…. I took him through the house. Its condition was daunting. Equally daunting was the engineering study another potential buyer had commissioned. Gene wasn’t fazed.”
Linda Hoover, chief operating officer for Educators Credit Union, has been named as the interim chief executive officer.
The credit union plans to hold a celebration of his life in the next few days.