Children at East Quogue Elementary School will have one less excuse not to exercise, thanks to a gift that they will soon receive from the Meduski family.
Inspired by her late mother’s lifelong quest for health and love of sports, East Quogue resident Michele Meduski and her two children—Shelby, 7, and Shawn, 9—have pledged to buy new exercise equipment for the physical education department at the elementary school. The items will be donated in memory of Antonia Kenney, Ms. Meduski’s late mother.
Ms. Kenney, a longtime resident of East Moriches until her death on April 3, 2007, was such a passionate and dedicated athlete that she took up competitive table tennis after she became too sick to participate in other, more physical sports. In 2001, the then 61-year-old was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a progressive hematologic disease. Her husband, David, a marathon runner, still lives in East Moriches.
The “fiercely competitive” athlete lived much longer than doctors predicted due, in part, to her extraordinary fit condition and will to live, according to her daughter. “She lived longer because she was so healthy her whole life,” said Ms. Meduski.
Standing 5-feet-4-inches and weighing 104 pounds, the senior Olympian—and mother of five—earned medals in doubles tennis, the long jump and 100-yard dash at the National Senior Games, an official arm of the U.S. Olympic Committee. A former gym teacher, Ms. Kenney was also an avid soccer, tennis, racquetball and field hockey player who kept herself in good shape even as she was battling cancer.
Very active in her community as well as on the field, Ms. Kenney also found time to donate many hours to St. John’s Episcopal Church in Center Moriches and the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center. She also worked with the handicapped and developmentally disabled by delivering plants and flowers to various locations.
Keeping the family tradition of giving alive, Ms. Meduski said she wanted to give something to the community where she and her children live. After several family discussions, she and her children decided the best way to honor their late mother and grandmother would be to donate physical education equipment to East Quogue Elementary School, where both children now attend classes.
East Quogue Superintendent Joseph Donovan said he and other school administrators are pleased to benefit from the Meduski family’s generosity. He and School Principal Robert Long are still deciding what equipment they would like to buy for the elementary school.
“We were so blessed for the gifts she gave us, and so grateful for this community, that we wanted to do something to give back,” Ms. Meduski said of her decision to donate up to $2,500 to the school. “She would love that the kids would get the joy, but would probably hate that we are spending her money,” she added, jokingly.
Both Shelby and Shawn have taken after their grandmother and enjoy sports, according to Ms. Meduski. Shelby plays baseball with the East End Little League with her brother, Shawn, who also plays football in the local Police Athletic League.
Ms. Kenney’s four other children—Davidpaul, Anthony, Patrick and Elise—live around the country and are also planning to donate gifts in their respective communities, according to Ms. Meduski. So far, a scholarship in Delaware, where Davidpaul Kenney lives, and memorial garden in North Carolina, where Elise Kenney Collins resides, are being planned in their mother’s memory.
Remembered as an inspiration by her grandchildren, Ms. Kenney also taught her youngest family members the value of giving and being thoughtful by her graceful example. “Whenever you lose at something, she makes it sound like you won it,” said 8-year-old Hannah Kenney, the daughter of Anthony Kenney, of her late grandmother.
Anthony Kenney said his mother will be remembered for her giving nature and sportsmanship. He related that his mom was not just always one of the first people picked in a game of kickball, but she was also a dedicated volunteer who gave much of her time to those in need.
“Inspirational is the best word to describe my mom,” Mr. Kenney wrote in an e-mail. “She cared about what she did.”
Ms. Meduski marveled at her mother’s intense drive. “It’s not often that, as an adult, you get to see your parent running full-speed down the soccer field,” she said.
She also noted that her mother displayed the same raw determination in the last days of her life.
“She kept working at delivering flowers for the Flower Barn in Shirley until the doctors told her that her leg would literally snap if she continued walking,” Ms. Meduski said. “My mom was a true testament that if you think you can do something … there’s no reason you will fail unless you decide to.”