Elaine Szymoniak Obituary

Elaine  Szymoniak
Elaine Szymoniak
Elaine Szymoniak

May 24, 1920 - May 20, 2009
Born in Boscobel, WI
Resided in Des Moines, IA
  • Contat Us
  • Videos
  • Guestbook
  • Photos
  • Services
  • Send Flowers


Elaine Szymoniak died May 20, 2009 at Mercy Hospice. She was 88. Elaine was a wife, mother, grandmother, friend, mentor, legislator and a woman that made a difference in the lives of many.

Memorial services will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, May 23rd at Holy Trinity Catholic Church.

Elaine was born on May 24, 1920 in Boscobel, Wisconsin and was a graduate of the University of Wisconsin in 1941. She married Casimir (Chuck) Szymoniak on December 7, 1943. Elaine is survived by her five children, Kathy Szymoniak Keeley (Stanley) of Social Circle, GA, Peter Szymoniak (Donna) of Milton Fl, John Szymoniak (MaryAnn) of Boise ID, Mary Polson of Urbandale, Tom Szymoniak (Sharon Leighty) of Bend OR; three grandchildren, three step grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Elaine was a speech and hearing specialist, counselor, and administrator for Iowa Department of Vocational Rehabilitation from 1957 to 1988. She actively worked with the deaf community and at one time was the state's sole rehab counselor for the deaf. In 1977, Elaine earned her master's degree in family environment from Iowa State University. She served on the Des Moines City Council from 1977 to 1988 representing the First Ward. She was the second woman to serve on the City Council and the only woman serving during her time on the council.

In the Iowa State Senate from 1988 to 2000, Elaine represented the northwest area of Greater Des Moines. Her main areas of concern while serving in public office were in health, education and human resources. This is reflected in the committees she served on in the Senate: Appropriations Committee on Human Services (vice-chair), Education, Human Resources (chair), Judiciary, Local Government and the Ways and Means Committee.

Elaine was a bold and progressive leader- spearheading many new initiatives. One of her more significant achievements as a State Senator was to sponsor Iowa's Welfare Reform efforts of 1993. The catalyst for reform occurred as Elaine read about an innovative idea and decided that Iowa needed change. Based on her research and understanding of the needs of all Iowan's, she organized a process used to design and revamp the state's health programs. During tough negotiations, she played an active role in keeping all parties at the table and her efforts were indispensable in finally passing the Iowa Human Investment Act with no dissenting votes in the Senate.

Elaine was known for her significant public service including crafting the legislation that funded and brought the World Food Prize to Iowa. She served on many nonprofit board of directors or was a member of The Chrysalis Foundation, Iowa Council of International Understanding, United Way, Girl Scouts, the Nexus Breakfast Club and the Task Force for Iowa's Responsible Fathers program. She received numerous honors including the YWCA Woman of Achievement and she was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1999.

An avid outdoor enthusiast, Elaine canoed and whitewater rafted throughout the West with a group of women called the River Spirits. She loved sleeping outside under the stars, walking in the woods, and learned to pilot a whitewater raft when she was 77.

Family will receive friends from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Friday, May 22nd at Holy Trinity Catholic Church. This will be followed by a vigil prayer service for Elaine at 8:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers, a memorial contribution on behalf of Elaine Szymoniak may be made to the Chrysalis Foundation, 300 East Locust Street, Suite 150, Des Moines, IA 50309.


"Click here to view memorial folder"




Holy Trinity Catholic Church
2926 Beaver Avenue
Des Moines, IA US 50310
Friday, May 22, 2009
5:00 PM - 8:00 PM
- Show more -
Holy Trinity Catholic Church
2926 Beaver Avenue
Des Moines, IA US 50310
Saturday, May 23, 2009
10:00 AM