Agnese G. Wojdak, 79, a former ballerina, educator, and ice-skating judge, died Sunday, Sept. 20, of complications from scleroderma at her home in Bend, Ore.
Known as “Aggie,” Ms. Wojdak had battled systemic scleroderma, a rare autoimmune disease, for the last six years. Before moving to Oregon in 2008, she had lived in New Hope and the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia.
Born to Stanley and Margaret Froncek in Jessup, a borough northeast of Scranton, Ms. Wojdak graduated from the local public schools. She earned both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in education from Marywood College in Scranton.
During her high school and college years, she studied ballet and performed with a dance troupe on a USO-sponsored tour of the Azores, an archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean near Portugual.
After graduation, she began a career in education and was a high school English teacher for 10 years at Burlington City High School in Burlington, N.J. “She was adored by students across the board,” said her daughter Jessica Lord.
Bob Knoff, one of her English students, said he at first thought of her only as a taskmaster, but quickly became a star student after realizing how “delightful, caring, and special” she was.
“I really saw her character come alive in the school musical, putting together the choreography influenced by her ballerina roots, and what later catalyzed her journey into ice dancing,” he said.
In 1964, she married Stephen R. Wojdak, a state legislator from Philadelphia who later became one of the most influential lobbyists in Pennsylvania, according to his Inquirer obituary. The couple reared three children in Chestnut Hill, in a house across the street from the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania.
They divorced in 1994. He died in a Boston hospital in 2015 after becoming ill while vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard.
Once her daughters began living on their own, the athletic Ms. Wojdak joined the Philadelphia-based Wissahickon Skating Club, where fellow ice skaters encouraged her to sharpen her skills.
She grew to love the intricate, graceful art of ice dancing. She performed at competitions in the United States with her partner Robbie Kaine.
In the late 1980s, she became a volunteer judge for the U.S. Figure Skating Association and gradually earned appointments as a test judge, one who assesses up-and-coming skaters. The goal of those skaters is to get on the national figure-skating team and to compete internationally, and ultimately, at the Olympics.
In the early 1990s, she qualified to judge various levels of ice-dancing competition, including the uppermost gold level. As a judge, she was known to be compassionate and fair, her family said in a tribute.
"It took a lot of hard work and effort. She was so proud of it,” her daughter said.
It was while she was pursuing her interest in ice skating at the Wissahickon Skating Club that she met Gary W. Mize, her partner of the last 20 years. After they moved to Bend in 2008, she and Mize took up kayaking and enjoyed walking, trying out eateries and bakeries, and spending time with family.
“They liked to sit at the corner table at the local pub and enjoy a pizza together,” daughter Jessica said. “They invited a couple to sit with them, became friends, and enjoyed intellectual conversation that would last for hours.”
“She was a good listener, good debater, and very observant,” she said of her mother.
Ruth Ruder, Ms. Wojdak’s neighbor in Bend, wrote in an online message: “Aggie was a beautiful and caring neighbor, and we will miss her kindness and loving manner. We so much enjoyed her friendship over these years we lived next door.”
Besides her partner and daughter, Ms. Wojdak is survived by daughters Krista Brown and Stacy Wojdak-Goodman, five grandchildren, and a brother.
A celebration of her life will be held in 2021, once health conditions permit.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Scleroderma Research Foundation, 220 Montgomery St., Suite 484, San Francisco, Calif. 94104, or via srfcure.org.