Westlake in Focus

Here at Westlake Community Services, we know many Westlake residents who have led, often quietly, interesting and inspiring lives. We’d like to introduce some of them to you as part of our "Westlake in Focus" series…

Marie Patten Blatter

Please meet....Marie Patten Blatter

Age: 71

For Westlake’s Marie Patten Blatter, career has always come easily—it’s retiring she hasn’t mastered. She’s tried—twice—but new opportunities always seem to find her, including her latest role as Executive Director of Westlake’s Meals on Wheels program.

Marie was born in 1950 on Cleveland’s near west side. After graduating from Holy Name High School (then at Harvard & Broadway), she began a 21-year career at Higbee’s department stores, working her way up in distribution, training, assisting two chairmen, and managing a department store. After leaving what was then Dillard’s, a call from an old colleague, then with the Cleveland Indians, enticed Marie to reignite her career. She worked for the Indians’ organization for 17 years before retiring again in 2015.

Wanting to serve her community, Marie initially volunteered for both the Westlake Meals on Wheels program and Westlake’s Community Services Center, helping prepare meals for the Center’s many events. Her volunteer days ended when the Community Services Center needed a new kitchen coordinator, and Marie took charge. She spent a year in that role “enjoying every minute of it” before her next opportunity presented itself. In 2019, Marie became Executive Director of the Westlake Meals on Wheels program.

These days, Marie oversees a small team of employees and 160 volunteers who prepare and deliver 70 hot and cold meals a day to older adults and those convalescing in Westlake, Bay Village, North Olmsted, Olmsted Falls and Olmsted Township. The group works out of Westlake’s Dover Congregational Church, where fresh meals are cooked five days a week by certified chefs and volunteers and distributed by drivers on 11 delivery routes. The fee is $45 a week. The program receives no state or federal funding and depends on the weekly fees and community donations.

Marie is proudest of her organization’s tenacity during the pandemic. Through the tireless efforts of her staff and volunteers, Westlake Meals on Wheels never missed a meal delivery. The group also spearheaded Neighbors United-Delivering Together, which partnered with 12 local restaurants. Donors could contribute online to fund meals for area seniors prepared by the participating restaurants and delivered by Meals on Wheels staff. Donations totaling $14,000 were distributed to the participating restaurants during the shutdown. “It was a win-win-win solution for everyone involved,” recalls Marie.

Outside of work, Marie enjoys life with her husband Gary and three dogs, Riley, Pepper and Shiloh, her recent rescue dog from China. With a seemingly endless supply of energy, Marie sees no end in sight. “There are three things I care most about…seniors, kids and animals,” Marie explains. With a list like that, retirement will have to wait.

For more info on signing up or volunteering for the Westlake Meals on Wheels program, call 440-871-2551.

-- by Nancy Fox, Westlake Community Services

RON ZENKEWICZPlease meet...Ron Zenkewicz

Age: 78

Clevelander by birth and a Westlake resident since 2001, Ron Zenkewicz has a gift for turning obstacles into opportunity. Born in 1942, Ron grew up in Cleveland’s Slavic Village, near Fleet and Broadway. He graduated from Cleveland’s Cathedral Latin High School near University Circle. After graduation, Ron sold shoes and managed stores for Thom McAn with thoughts of joining his father, a lifelong US Steel worker, in the mill. The arrival of a draft notice derailed those plans. Ron opted for a four-year stint in the Air Force, hoping to become an air-traffic controller. Incoming tests landed him, instead, as a non-Morse intercept operator, capturing Russian and Chinese military communications. Stationed initially outside London, Ron was eventually sent to Pakistan until his discharge in 1967.

Once back in civilian life, the CIA tried to recruit Ron to continue intelligence work. He chose, instead, to return to Cleveland where he had heard the FAA was hiring air-traffic controllers. After qualifying for the position, he completed a four-year training program, eventually ending up in front of a radar screen at the Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center in Oberlin. By then married, he and his wife Dana had two sons, Trent and Ryan. In 1981, everything changed for the family when President Reagan fired the unionized air-traffic controllers over a strike dispute. By then in his early 40s and unable to work in his hard-fought career, Ron had to reinvent himself again.

An opportunity with the Boilermaker’s Union and four years of training offered Ron a second career. He learned all aspects of the trade, from repairing small school-building boilers to the CEI’s 11-story tubes and huge oil refinery boilers, eventually managing teams of 200-plus. The work kept Ron away from home for weeks at a time and always over weekends and holidays when plants would close for repair. He credits his wife Dana with keeping their home and family functioning well. Both boys graduated from St. Ignatius High School with storied high school football careers. Trent went on to play for the University of Michigan and Ryan for John Carroll University.

Ron retired from the Boilermakers’ Union in 2001 and later worked as an estimator for NBW (formerly known as National Boiler Works), retiring for good in 2010. Ron eventually became a part-time driver for Westlake’s Senior Transportation program, beloved by his older riders for his gentlemanly courtesy and warm conversation. Then, in 2019, life had another twist for Ron when he faced a daunting health crisis that forced him back into retirement. Always a fighter, Ron completed treatment in March 2020, just as Covid-19 arrived and the world slowed down for all.

Today, Ron is feeling great and enjoying reconnecting with his sons and their families (6 grandchildren) in Columbus and Chicago. Ron and Dana have found a happy routine in retirement with Ron serving as the family barista each morning and sous-chef at suppertime. Much of his spare time is taken up by yard work, Sudoku and occasional fishing trips.

-- by Nancy Fox, Westlake Community Services

Gloria FlintPlease meet…Gloria Flint
Age: 89
Life status: Newly retired

It took a global pandemic. It took the whole world slowing down last spring for Gloria Flint to retire, at age 88, after working 20+ years for the city of Westlake and decades earlier in education and government. Anyone who has visited Westlake Community Services has likely met Gloria working at the busy reception desk. Known for her quick wit, distinctive accent and impeccable style – manicured nails, elegant white hair, an iPhone and a vanity plate on her car – Gloria exudes the vitality of a woman half her age.

As her beloved accent suggests, Gloria was born in New York City – the Bronx to be exact. After marrying and moving to Long Island, Gloria completed her bachelor’s in education from Queens College. From there, she taught elementary school in New York and Houston, while raising her four children. While in Texas, she earned her master’s degree in administration & supervision at the University of Houston. She later accepted a position with Houston’s Chapter 2 program, which oversaw public funding for private schools, eventually becoming its director.

 In 1996, at an age when most people are retiring, Gloria uprooted herself from Houston to start a new life in Westlake. The opportunity to join her daughter and son-in-law to help care for her granddaughter, then in grade school, was too tempting to pass up. It was a decision, Gloria says, she gladly made. “I left a wonderful job in Houston, but I wouldn’t trade a single minute I had with my granddaughter,” she shares. 

Life in Westlake offered free time that she quickly filled with a part-time job at Westlake City Hall. After working in both reception and later the Engineering Department, she joined the Community Services Center – “the best job I’ve ever had,” she offers.

Life in retirement amidst the pandemic has been quieter for Gloria, but she has flourished, losing 50 pounds, tackling daily jigsaw puzzles to “stay sharp” and enjoying visits with her now-grown granddaughter and new grand-puppy. With summer coming and life slowly returning to normal, don’t be surprised to find Gloria again out and about, enjoying breakfast at Claudette’s, volunteering at the new Community Services Center and staying active and happy. Well done, Gloria!

-- by Nancy Fox, Westlake Community Services