Fond Remembrance: Southington Scholars are Mitch Porydzy’s Lasting Legacy
Southington, Conn. (May 20, 2014) – The scholars at Southington High School took the stage, one-by-one, more than one hundred all told, glowing with pride and exuding all that we hope for and dream about in this uncertain world – youthful exuberance, boundless aspiration, unlimited potential, the promise of tomorrow.
In short, all the qualities that young Mitch Porydzy, himself a product of Southington’s schools, possessed so many years ago.
Awaiting four of these scholars on the stage at the high school’s awards assembly on May 15 was Maureen Murphy, who held in her hands as she has on that same stage for the past 28 years the keys to her late husband Mitch’s legacy – scholarship awards from the Mitchell J. Porydzy II Memorial Scholarship Fund now tended to with care by the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain. The awards will help these students realize the kinds of dreams that Mitch himself had before cancer suddenly and shockingly took him from Maureen, his family and the Southington community in 1985 at the all-too-young age of 30.
“It can be tough going up there on that stage,” says Maureen, today a retired Southington elementary school teacher who still lives in town. “It brings back so many memories of Mitch.”
Southington families will recall Mitch with fondness as the young, well-liked, up-and-coming general manager of a former Southington mainstay, Mitchell Motors on Main Street. Mitch had the world on a string in the late 1970s and early 1980s; after graduating from Southington High School in 1972, he had gone on to UConn’s School of Business, graduated with honors in 1977, married his Southington sweetheart Maureen Hushak, and had worked his way up through his father Mitch, Sr.’s well-known Ford dealership.
“He was just a natural,” says Mitch’s mom Catherine “Kay” Porydzy, who helped her husband Mitch, Sr., who passed in 1988, start the business shortly after their marriage in 1950. “He loved the business and everyone loved him.”
“He had so much enthusiasm about growing the dealership. He wanted to franchise. He always had ideas,” says Maureen, who along with Kay co-manages the scholarship fund with her father, Walter Hushak. “He never got to see them through.”
“I remember Mitch, Sr. talking about his son,” says Walter, at age 90 still as spry as he was in his days as Chairman of the Board with the former Southington Savings Bank. “When he started there in high school, Mitch, Sr. would always stress to his son the importance of going to college. And at the shop, he always gave his young son the most thankless jobs.
“Mitch really learned the business from the ground up – and loved every minute of it.”
What many customers of Mitchell Motors did not realize back in the day was that Mitch had been dealing with illness from the time he was young. Diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at age 10, Mitch lived most of his 30 years dealing privately with difficult health issues.
”We really lived a normal life for the most part,” says Maureen. “Between his acute attacks he would do quite well, actually.”
“His college years were really the best years of his life. Of course, by then he had fallen in love, too,” adds Kay with a smile. “When he died, it was a total shock – it all happened so fast.”
Mitch had not been feeling well in December, 1984. In January, his father-in-law Walter – long active in Southington politics – asked Mitch if he wanted to attend then-newly elected President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration. Walter and his wife, the late Ruth Hushak, along with Maureen and Mitch, flew in to Washington to attend the ceremonies thanks to some assistance from then-Congresswoman Nancy Johnson.
It was a special time – and one of the last the family would enjoy with Mitch, Jr.
“We look back now at the photographs and we can see he wasn’t right,” says Maureen. “He looks pale, he really wasn’t well.”
The diagnosis came shortly thereafter – Mitch’s colitis had led to cancer, and the cancer had metastasized. It was only weeks later, in March, 1985, that Mitch was gone.
Almost immediately, the family established the memorial scholarship to honor Mitch’s memory. The community rallied and their contributions helped the family start the fund. Over the past 28 years, the Porydzy Scholarship has awarded thousands of dollars to more than 50 students from Southington High School.
With both Walter and Kay entering the later stages of their lives, the family began looking about five years ago into options for how the now-sizable fund could be skillfully managed ad infinitum to secure Mitch’s legacy. Enter the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain.
“Moving the fund to the Foundation has been wonderful for us,” says Kay. “When my husband and I started this scholarship so long ago, we of course wanted it to continue on for years.”
Adds Walter, “We now have the peace of mind knowing that this fund is in experienced hands, and that it will continue on for years to come no matter what happens to us.”
Maureen, too, appreciates the fact that her husband’s legacy is in good hands, and that her walks up on stage to make scholarship presentations in the years to come will be made with confidence.
“I’m sure Mitch is looking down upon us and smiling. It is truly a comforting feeling.”
(The Mitchell J. Porydzy II Memorial Scholarship is awarded annually to one or more Southington High School graduates who will be attending college to earn a baccalaureate degree. Preference may be given to students planning studies in accounting, economics or business. This year’s recipients are Caroline Burke, Antonia Cavallo, Melissa Martin and David P. Swanson III. For more information about the Porydzy Scholarship or to support the fund, please visit www.cfgnb.org or contact Cheryl Famer at the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain, firstname.lastname@example.org or (860) 229-6018, ext. 305.)