Harriet Abernethy-Ogorzalek started working at Northwest Community Hospital before it even opened, and she continued to support the institution as a donor long after her 25-year career ended.
"She was witty and gentle," said David Ungurean, executive director of the Northwest Community Hospital Foundation. "If she'd see anything out there in the news about the hospital you'd receive a little handwritten note of encouragement. She was so prompt, the note would come just two days after the story appeared in the paper. That shows how proud she was of Northwest Community and how she loved this community."
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Abernethy-Ogorzalek, 90, died May 9 after being struck by a car while walking in the parking lot of a Mount Prospect grocery store. Mount Prospect police officer Greg Sill said the accident remains under investigation and no citations have been issued.
An Arlington Heights resident, Abernethy-Ogorzalek started at Northwest Community as secretary to Alan Campbell, the hospital's first president. She was on staff in October 1959, two months before the hospital officially opened its doors.
"At some point she later assisted the medical staff, so she knew a lot of the founding physicians," Ungurean said.
Abernethy-Ogorzalek retired in 1984 but was active in a group of retirees known as the 20-Year Club. She also became a donor and friend of the hospital.
"She attended a lot of foundation functions as a donor," Ungurean said. "She loved to get behind the scenes to see things and meet new people, and she loved being part of the hospital."
Mark Abernethy described his mother as "very outgoing and very friendly."
"She always had a positive outlook," he added. "I think she held her tongue when her opinions were not favorable. She saw everybody in the best light possible."
She also was very detail-oriented.
"Here in her apartment there's a list on the window sill that gives a rundown of the birds she can see out of her window and the day and time of day she saw them," Mark Abernethy said.
Abernethy-Ogorzalek was raised in Texas and received an education degree from Texas Woman's University before going on to teach music and play piano. She met her first husband, Mark Abernethy, at McCormick Theological University in Chicago.
After marrying, she traveled to different parts of the country with her husband, who was a Presbyterian minister. Among their stops was West Virginia, where they worked with Mountaineer Mining Missions.
Their son Mark, who lives in Colorado Springs, Colo., also is an ordained minister.
The family came to Arlington Heights in 1958 when the elder Abernethy took a job as a psychological therapist with Jewish Family and Community Service.
His mother and her second husband, Bruno Ogorzalek, wintered in her home state, Mark Abernethy said.
Abernethy-Ogorzalek also was dedicated to First Presbyterian Church of Arlington Heights. A memorial service will be held at the church, 302 N. Dunton Ave., at 11 a.m. June 6, with visitation at 10 a.m. and a reception following at noon.