Theodore F. “Ted” Twardzik Sr., 89, of Siesta Key, Fla., passed away Thursday surrounded by his loving family at Schuylkill Center’s Homestead Care, Pottsville.
Born Sept. 7, 1927, to parents, Frank and Mary Binek Twardzik of Shenandoah, Ted was the youngest of six children.
He was preceded in death by two sisters, Frances Gish and Eleanor Zale, and three brothers, John, Walter and Lou.
After spending a majority of his first 77 years in good old Shenandoah, he traded the coal dust for the soft sand beaches of Siesta Key.
He strolled the beach for much of the past 22 years but continued to “vacation” in Shenandoah, to visit family and friends.
Because a mine subsidence caused Shenandoah schools to split half day sessions, Ted became a proud “Purple Lark” of Mahanoy Township High School, where he graduated in 1945.
In 2015, Ted was awarded an honorary diploma from Shenandoah Valley High School joining his childhood friend, Jerry Wolman, in sharing such an honor. A year later, Ted was inducted into the Shenandoah Valley High School Wall of Fame joining his son, Tim, the only father and son team to share that honor.
After graduation from high school, Ted enrolled at the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Ind. His college days were interrupted to serve honorably in the Army from March of 1946 to September 1947, where he rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant in the 83rd Mechanized Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron. Upon completing his commitment to proudly serve his country, Ted resumed college at the University of Notre Dame, graduating in 1951 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, while making the dean’s list. Ted was active in the Notre Dame Glee Club, where he served as the group’s treasurer. He was also part of the Glee Club’s two appearances on CBS-TV’s Sunday night “Toast of the Town” hosted by Ed Sullivan.
After college, Ted’s first job was as a staff accountant for Arthur Andersen & Company, New York City, one of the prestigious “Big Eight” accounting firms of its time.
In 1952, Ted decided to return home to Shenandoah to pursue his entrepreneurial dream to start a food company using his mother Mary’s recipe for pierogies. He remembered how popular the traditional Polish dumplings were at Church Festivals and thought people would buy them at a grocery market. To honor his mother, the brand became Mrs. T’s.
Ted started with five women around the kitchen table in his mother’s home at 218 N. Main St., Shenandoah. It wasn’t long before he had worn out his welcome in his mom’s kitchen and decided to move production to Mrs. T’s current location at 600 E. Centre St., Shenandoah. This was a homecoming for Ted as this location was his childhood home and his parent’s tavern.
Today, Mrs.T’s /Ateeco Inc. is Shenandoah’s largest employer with more than 240 associates. Ted is considered a pioneer in the food industry creating the completely new frozen food category: “pierogies.” While Ted cannot claim to have put Shenandoah on the map, he did add pierogies to the Merriam Webster Dictionary. He took great pride and immense joy from the impact his idea had on providing jobs and income to hundreds of employees and their families. Ted never forgot his hometown of Shenandoah and the people who helped him realize his dream. Even after retirement, Ted’s love for business didn’t end. In 2000, he co-founded Lee’s Oriental Gourmet Foods still operating today in Shenandoah, employing 30 people.
Ted and his beloved wife, Jean, supported a multitude of local and national charities. They were members of the Edward Frederick Sorin Society Founder’s Circle at Notre Dame and created the Twardzik Family General Library Endowment as well as supported a Distinguished Library Collection in Polish Studies.
As life members of the Hillsdale College President’s Club they created the Twardzik Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Endowment which funds both the Twardzik Business Seminar Scholarship and the Twardzik Free Enterprise Tradition Award Scholarship.
Ted and Jean also supported The Shenandoah Valley Band, funded computer labs at the Father Walter Ciszek Elementary School and Cardinal Brennan High School as well as capital campaigns for MMI Preparatory School. They were the lead gift creating the Schuylkill County Volunteer Fire School Burn Building and Fire School Campus that provides lifesaving training for our communities brave volunteer fire fighters. Ted was a longtime Pace Setter of the Schuylkill United Way, continuing his father Frank’s charter efforts with the Schuylkill County Society for Crippled Children.
Ted and Jean were humbled by the efforts and loyalty of his employees and the hometown community that played an important role in Mrs.T’s success story. They donated the building on South Main Street in Shenandoah to house the Greater Shenandoah Area Historical Society.
Ted is survived by his beloved wife of 60 wonderful years, the former Jean Roberts; three sons, Ted Jr. and Audrey, Center Valley, Tim and Caroline, Frackville, and Tom and Pam, Shenandoah Heights; five grandsons, Adam, Eric, Ryan, Tom Jr. and Nick; loved nieces and nephews.
A lifelong learner, Ted enjoyed the advice of Earl Nightingale, the father of the self-improvement industry. Earl’s distinctive voice was heard on records, tapes, and iPods encouraging Ted to “improve just a little bit everyday” – a motto Ted carried out throughout his life.
“Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or idea,” Earl Nightingale.
Ted Twardzik Sr. was a successful man.
“Tiger” Ted often liked to say, “God takes care of drunks, children and Teddy Twardzik.”
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Monday in St. Casimir Church, the scared worship site of Divine Mercy Parish, 229 N. Jardin St., Shenandoah. Interment with military honors will follow in St. Casimir Cemetery, Shenandoah Heights. Relatives and friends may call at the church from 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday and from 9 to 10 am. Monday. Expressions of sympathy can be made to the Shenandoah Historical Society, 201 S. Main St., Shenandoah, PA 17976, or the Schuylkill County Society for Crippled Children, 121 N. Progress Ave., Suite 330, Pottsville, PA 17901 or the Hawk Mountain Council Boy Scouts of America, 402 Blue Mountain Road, Schuylkill Haven, PA 17972.
Walukiewicz-Oravitz Fell Funeral Home, 132 S. Jardin St., Shenandoah, is in charge of the arrangements.