Elaine Szymoniak

Honored by:C.D. Szymoniak
Brick location:D:19  map

The children, grandchildren, and husband of Elaine E. Szymoniak would like to honor her with a brick in the Plaza of Heroines. We believe she carries on the tradition of Carrie Chapman Catt with her public service community, activism, and family commitment.

Elaine was born May 24, 1920 in Boscobel, Wisconsin. Fifty years ago, she married Casimir D. Szymoniak in Rochester N.Y. They lived in Buffalo N. Y., Madison, Wis., Kansas City, Mo., and Salina, Kans. They moved to Des Moines, Iowa in 1957.

Elaine currently serves in the Iowa Senate in her second term. We are fond of telling others that she began her political career in her early 60's and at age 75 is in the middle of her second term in the Iowa legislature. Her other major accomplishment in 1994 was to complete a nine day canoe trip in the wilds of Maine.

One of her more significant events as a State Senator was to shepherd through the Senate lowa's Welfare Reform efforts of 1993. In her typical fashion, she read about an idea and decided Iowa was the place to attempt such a reform. She organized a process to design a program based upon the needs and expectations of Iowans She played an active role in keeping all parties at the table and in finally passing the Iowa Human Investment Act with no dissenting votes in the Senate.

Her children visiting the Senate are often in awe watching their mother chair a committee meeting using parliamentary procedure and keeping legislation moving forward. She is an active legislator with meetings, community events, hundreds of phone calls, and active work for the State.

Her political career also includes several terms on the Des Moines City Council. We all remember the day she called to tell each of us she was running for the City Council. She was close to retirement in her position with the State Department of Vocational Rehabilitation her children were grown, and she needed new challenges in her life. Her terms on the City Council were a time of development and change for Des Moines. She worked hard to boost urban design efforts in Des Moines, develop new social programs, and to build partnerships with neighborhoods traditionally left out of the process.

Elaine was employed over twenty five years at the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation as an administrator, counselor, and speech therapist. She combined her work and her family so that we all grew up at what was called the center on High Street. Her active work in the deaf community and our parent’s personal involvement with so many families made a lasting impression on all of us. At one time, she was the only rehab counselor in the state who knew sign language. She always credits this with the fact she could combine work and family in a time when few women worked outside the home.

While our mother, grandmother, and wife may have done much for the community and the state, we honor her most for her love and commitment to us, her family. Throughout the years, she has continued to participate, advise, and guide us. Our parents have always been a partnership when it came to their children and none of us ever doubted the love they have for each of us.

Even though she worked outside the home in our youth, she participated in every school activity, every Girl Scout, Boy Scout, little league team, and every other possible activity with 5 different outspoken and active children. She reared five children during the 60's and 70's with each of us participating in some protest or movement to define our involvement in the turbulent times. She put weddings together, helped settle new families, and found ways to participate in each of our new adult lives. Balancing work and family was not something our mother worried about, it was something that she just lived with a great deal of energy, a strong partner, and an enthusiasm for living each day.

Many people have benefited from our mother's work. We are the luckiest because we have had one of the stateswomen to be our mother, grandmother, and wife. We are proud to include her name for the Plaza of Heroines at Iowa State University.

Her Family: Casimir Szymoniak, Kathryn Szymoniak Keeley, Peter Szymoniak, John Szymoniak, Mary Szymoniak Polson, and Thomas Szymoniak

Submitted on 7/1/96