There was never a dull moment at Bendle High School for Irene Onufry. She was the definition of extra-curricular, active in countless clubs and serving as class officer every year. As a senior, she was one of two chosen to attend Girls' State in Lansing. Extremely bright, Irene was moved up a grade and then graduated second in the Bendle High School Class of 1947, one month shy of her 17th birthday.
Irene hung up her megaphone after high school, and remained a cheerleader the rest of her life. The daughter of Ukraine immigrants, she was raised in Flint surrounded by her siblings, her extended family and the fun-loving Allen Street gang. Shaped by her father's indomitable spirit and positive outlook, Irene was a burning ball of cheer and encouragement.
Marked by two significant tragedies, Irene's positive outlook undoubtedly helped her through the losses of two spouses. Her marriage to Gene Bowman ended when he was killed in a tragic truck accident. Irene and her second husband, Don Wujciak, had four children. Eight years later, Don lost his life in an auto-train accident. Irene was on her own, raising four children, and instilling in them the confidence and freedom to pursue their dreams.
Then one summer evening at a cottage on Lake Van Etten, a friend introduced Irene to Thomas O'Conner. Head-over-heals, Tom, a confirmed bachelor, embraced Irene and her four children ... and they embraced him. Their whirlwind courtship ended after nearly 10 years, when the lovebirds finally got married on August 12, 1978.
In thinking of a way to honor the legacy of his mother and Tom, David Wujciak of Fenton and his wife, Diane, established the Irene M. Onufry and Thomas P. O'Connor Fund for Bendle Public Schools. Grants from the Fund will be used by the school district for broad educational purposes. The endowment was established at the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, a charitable organization that serves donors and grantees throughout Genesee County.
"We wanted a way to honor my mother's alma mater and help future students prepare for academic and financial success," said David. "Mother believed in the power and importance of education. For us, the Fund will perpetuate Mom's legacy at Bendle Public Schools, her first love."