Lynda Dembek was running in Boston when she stopped to help a swan in distress. Another jogger stopped too, a doctor. They struck up a friendship after that moment of joint kindness. Not long after, Lynda joined that physician on annual medical trips to rural Nicaragua to deliver services to the poor. This story is so typical of the athletic, amicable and big-hearted Lynda, who died April 13, 2018 at age 64 of pancreatic cancer.
She was an active woman who participated in high school and college sports, ran in marathons as an adult and was taking care of her health when she stopped to help that swan. She had an uncanny talent for befriending strangers, so it was no surprise that she had a quick rapport with fellow jogger Dr. Susan Hadley, a professor of infectious diseases and who led Tufts University Medical School’s Global Health Program. And Lynda was a giving person, thus she too joined Tufts medical students on their annual trips to impoverished parts of rural Nicaragua where her Spanish helped her perform intake at the makeshift clinics.
Lynda M. Dembek was born on March 5, 1954 in Campbell Hall, N.Y. to Tony and Margaret Plavka Dembek. She grew up on her family’s dairy farm in upstate New York, learning arts and crafts from her mother and more from membership in the local 4-H Club. She taught herself to ride, started a lifelong relationship with sketching and painting and developed other skills and interests that augmented and enriched her life as a traveling business consultant.
Her passport contained stamps from over 25 countries, including recent trips with friends to Israel, Mexico and England. She collected friends as she collected passport entries and consulting clients, enriching each with a breezy mixture of intellectual curiosity and optimism. Lynda was, as one friend described her, a happy wanderer, undaunted by borders, technological issues or even the wildly imperfect Houston public transportation system.
Lynda had a terrific sense of style, a good eye that made her a winner on regular trips to TJ Maxx, and a talent for both knitting sweaters for friends’ babies and cooking up complex baking projects and the Czech stews she learned from her mother.
While some choose the security of a home base, she chose to be untethered, a system of freedom that enriched her and those she met. All conversations and interactions, she believed, were opportunities for development. Graceful, stoic, and engaged to the end, when asked if she was daunted by the nature of her final illness, she didn’t complain but approached the disease and treatments with her typical curiosity to learn.
She was a graduate of Washingtonville High School in Washingtonville, N.Y., and earned a bachelor of arts degree from Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, N.H. She also studied chemistry at Harvard University while considering a potential medical career.
Lynda worked at IBM in roles that included programmer and systems engineer – she thought so highly of the company that she named her cat Watson in honor of Big Blue’s question-answering computer system. In Boston she also worked at the information technology firm C.W. Costello & Associates as a principal of the company’s Boston branch office.
She spent more than a decade as a director with the Hackett Group, consulting with more than 30 program and project managers in a variety of departments, and as an information technology adviser with LMD Consulting before retiring in 2017.
It was her project management consulting work that brought her to Houston in 2000 to work with Waste Management, a role she continued for several years. But even as she traveled around the country to work with other clients, moving her home base from Boston to Denver to New Port Richey, Fla., Houston increasingly became her home base, and she moved here to stay in 2013.
Survivors include a sister and brother and many close friends across the country and the world who considered her family, like her Houston crew led by fellow travelers Lynn Gonzalez and Irving Tredler. Those friends will miss her willingness to join in any adventure, they will miss her infinite optimism, and they will forever miss that quick, sublime laugh.
Memorial services will be held at Bradshaw Carter on April 28, 2018, at ten o'clock in the morning, followed by inurnment at Glenwood Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, please donate to Houston Hospice, 1905 Holcombe Blvd, Houston TX 77030.