Local Mom Who Changed Countless Lives Dies

Mildred “Miggy” Krentel leaves an awesome, inspiring legacy for thousands of children and their families.

Melmark Co-Founder Mildred “Miggy” Krentel passed away Wednesday at age 92. She and her husband coped with Down Syndrome in their daughter by founding Melmark in Berwyn, revolutionizing the care, education, and life for thousands from around the nation, and around the globe.

Editor's Note: Melmark provided Patch with the following obituary information.

An Amazing Life Story

Melmark’s co-founder, Mrs. Mildred “Miggy” Krentel, passed away on January 16th.    She was 92 years old and leaves behind a legacy that has changed the lives of thousands of children and adults with disabilities and their families, not just at Melmark, but around the world.

Miggy is survived by three sons and two daughters: Dave, Bob, Steve, Diane and Melissa, for whom Melmark was founded. Miggy and her late husband, Paul Krentel, also had a daughter, Martha, who died as an infant. Subsequently, given their loving relationship with Martha, they decided to have a sixth child, Melissa, who was born with Down Syndrome in 1963.

Inspired to change the world

At that time, doctors and professionals advised the Krentels to place Melissa in a special home in the Midwest. The Krentels found the facilities inadequate and lacking the care-related principles they held so dear. They saw Melissa as their inspiration to change the way the world viewed children with special needs. In 1966, the couple founded Melmark, to fulfill their dream of creating a home-like community for children and adults with Down Syndrome and other special needs.

Changing the way the world understands and treats people with Down Syndrome

Melmark President and CEO, Joanne Gillis-Donovan, Ph.D., had great respect for Paul and Mildred Krentel. “The Krentels’ vision of a community based on the foundation of family, love and faith continues to touch countless lives,” said Gillis-Donovan. “Miggy was a pioneer in a time that people with special needs were pushed aside, their rights ignored, and often sent away to live in cold, emotionally sterile facilities far from home. The vision she saw for her daughter was innovative in its day and has helped reshape how people with disabilities are regarded and treated around the world. I have been honored to continue building upon their dream”

Today, Melmark serves over a thousand children and adults from across the United States. The individuals served at Melmark present with a wide range of disabilities, including autism, intellectual disabilities, brain injuries and other neurological and genetic disorders. In Berwyn, PA, its headquarters, Melmark operates an Approved Private School and a broad scope of adult programs with residential homes on its campus and in surrounding communities. In 2004, Melmark New England, an Approved Private School with local community residences, was established and is now located in Andover Massachusetts. Recently, it has begun serving adults, as well.

She lived her dream

Miggy was a longstanding member of Melmark’s Board of Directors, and she played many roles in Melmark’s history. She co-founded the Melmark Service League, a volunteer group with original members who still serve today. She also founded The Joybells, Melmark’s bell choir that has performed at The White House and the Pennsylvania Governor’s Mansion. She produced the first Christmas play at Melmark and also once led the charge in admissions, fundraising and marketing.

Putting her faith in action

At the age of 76, she went to Zambia, Africa as a missionary, where she worked with children in need.

As if being a nurturing parent and founding Melmark were not enough, Miggy was also an accomplished author, penning children’s stories as well as books about her personal life experiences. She even maintained a blog titled, “Miggy Moments”, where her writing style showed her spunk, determination and her love for God. It is that love that guided her in all that she did at Melmark.

A memorial service at Melmark is being planned for Mrs.Krentel. Information will be announced on Melmark’s website, www.melmark.org .

Bob Byrne January 17, 2013 at 11:26 AM
Understanding the context of the state of education and treatment for people with Down Syndrome in 1962 is important to understanding just how amazing the story of Melmark's founding is. Melmark's current President put it this way: “Miggy was a pioneer in a time that people with special needs were pushed aside, their rights ignored, and often sent away to live in cold, emotionally sterile facilities far from home." Dr. Gills-Donovan's description of treatment for people with Down Syndrome back in 1962 is perhaps even a little kind. By today's standards the treatment and training available for people with Down Syndrome in 1962 was often horrific or simply non-existent. The Krentels are among the true pioneers of making life not just good, but meaningful and fulfilling for people with cognitive disabilities. Spend a day at Melmark (as I had the opportunity to last year) and you will be inspired by the creativity, the skill and the talent of Melmark's clients and the heart of virtually everyone who works there. Melmark artists display their work in galleries. Actors from the Melmark Players perform on stage in awesome productions. That's just the tip of the iceberg of programs at Melmark. The Krentels dreamed it was possible at a time when many viewed people with Down Syndrome, Autism and what was then called mental retardation as "hopeless cases."
Linda G January 17, 2013 at 01:30 PM
I had the wonderful opportunity of knowing both Krentels. I grew up around corner from Melmark and would do volunteer work in my 20's. There door was always open for any of us to walk across street and visit. Especially holloween - They truly ran a beautiful facility. What a great life.
Melmark January 17, 2013 at 03:02 PM
Linda, thank you for your comment. Melmark is truly a wonderful place, and so much of that is a direct result of Miggy's love and determination. Please know that the door is still always open. We'd love to have you come by for a visit to see how much the Krentels' dream has grown and expanded. Call me directly: 610-325-2958 -- Michelle Bradsher (Dir. of Communications)


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