After 31 years in the graphite business, St. Marys native (since the age of 5) Gary Nedzinski, now a resident of Plano, Texas, still enjoys what he is doing.
Currently a sales manager for carbon graphite company MWI, Inc., Nedzinski worked summers at Stackpole Carbon Company during his college years while earning his undergraduate degree in Liberal Arts at the University of Pittsburgh.
Nedzinski graduated from Sacred Heart School and is a 1968 graduate of Elk County Christian High School, where he was vice president of his senior class.
He started teaching during the 1973-1974 school year at St. Mary's Parochial School and coached junior high basketball at ECCHS during that time.
"I taught school for two years, and then after I went and got my master's degree (in Education from Edinboro University), I was the director of the Area Agency on Aging in Ridgway for three years," Nedzinski said.
Nedzinski said an opportunity that would eventually lead to his current career opened up while he was at the Area Agency on Aging.
"A friend of mine at the time was the director of personnel at Stackpole Carbon Company and he said, 'Gary I think you'd do well in sales. Why don't you come out and take a few tests, do an interview?' and they hired me for inside sales there in 1979. I've been in graphite ever since.
"I did that for five years, and then they put me in outside sales. The territory was based out of St. Marys. I had parts of Pennsylvania, Virginia and the surrounding areas."
Nedzinski explained how the move to Texas occurred.
"There was a guy by the name of Mike Herbst-- he was from St. Marys and had been in Dallas for many, many years for Stackpole, and he was retiring and he asked if I wanted to take the position-- and I talked it over with my wife and we decided to move to Dallas-- actually to Plano, which is a suburb of Dallas," Nedzinski said. "That was 1986, so I've been here about 25 years."
Nedzinski is the son of the late Vince and Emma (Stepnausky) Nedzinski. His dad and uncle owned Central Drugstore in St. Marys for many years. His daughter, Amy, is a teacher at Plano Independent School District and his son, Eric, lives in Tulsa, Okla., and works in finance for an oil and gas company. He has a sister, Mary Jo Lanzel, who lives in Hollidaysburg with her husband, Dave; and a brother, Mike, who lives in Treasure Lake and is a sales manager for Clarion Sintered.
"I get back three or four times a year on business and it gives me the opportunity to visit family while I'm there," Nedzinski said, adding that in addition to his brother, he still has a number of cousins in the area.
Nedzinski said he has not forgotten his roots, nor the people who helped him get his start in the graphite business.
"Bill Bauer was my first boss. He was my mentor at Stackpole. Bill was very, very instrumental in helping me along in my career. He kind of took me under his wing and guided me as a mentor," Nedzinski said.
Nedzinski continued to work for St. Marys-based companies for some time, although the players changed. When Stackpole got bought out by Mersen, Nedzinski worked for Mersen for a few years, then for the Carbide Graphite group, also based in St. Marys. C/G was then purchased by SGL Carbon, still in business in St. Marys today.
"Then about 10 years ago, I joined MWI, Inc. based in Rochester, N.Y., also owned by Dave McMahon at the time, who lived in St. Marys at one point and worked for Stackpole," Nedzinski said.
He is still with MWI, Inc. as a sales manager whose territory includes the southwestern U.S., Mexico and South America.
"I was promoted to sales manager when I moved to Texas. That was a big achievement in my career," Nedzinski said.
Nedzinski works out of his house and also travels frequently for meetings and sales calls.
"I'm on the road about 75 nights per year," he said. "It's very independent. I work out of my home. so there's no office to report to. I miss the camaraderie of an office, but it's great working out of my home."
He said although his career path changed from his original intent to be a guidance counselor, he has not regretted it, and working in sales allows him to interact with many different people.
"I absolutely love what I do," Nedzinski said. "I think I'm a people person. I enjoy dealing with people. Some people enjoy working with numbers, some people enjoy working with whatever it may be. I've always enjoyed working with people."
Nedzinski said although he really likes where he's living now, coming from a small town to a place like Plano took some adjustment at first, especially the move away from friends and family.
"And it was really hard at first, you know, small-town boy in the big city," Nedzinski said. "It was a real culture shock. It took us a while, and once we did, we just fell in love with Texas."
He said the geography is quite different from that of Pennsylvania; the land that Plano now stands on used to be cotton fields and is fairly flat, as well as being highly developed, a contrast to the rolling hills of the rural Pennsylvania countryside.
"I really didn't appreciate the beauty of northwest Pennsylvania until I moved away from it, especially when I go back-- the beauty of the trees, the fall foliage. It's really beautiful," Nedzinski said. "Here in Plano, it's pretty flat."
Plano may be flat, but Nedzinski said there's no lack of things to do and pursues a variety of interests when he is not working.
"I love the climate here," Nedzinski said. "The climate and the sports teams -- the Cowboys, the Rangers, the Dallas Stars-- and college football is here, too. I have season tickets for various sports teams, so I attend a lot of sporting events."
He spends time with his family and is also an avid golfer and is on the membership committee of the Canyon Creek Country Club in the Dallas area.
"I also belong to the Lions Club and the Knights of Columbus. I've been an usher at my church (St. Mark's in Plano) for the past 25 years. And I was the founding president of the Dallas-Fort Worth Chapter of the Pitt Alumni Club.
"There's something for everybody here, there really is."
He also enjoys traveling and has recently been to New York City, Las Vegas and San Francisco.
"It's fun to see all of these different places," Nedzinski said. "Since I started here (at MWI, Inc.) in 1986, I've earned three million miles on American Airlines. That's enough to go around the world who knows how many times. I plan to use those miles in retirement."
Although he's been to many places, Nedzinski said he likes to return to Elk County and has good experiences when he visits.
"I've loved St. Marys because it's always had a small-town charm and people there have always had an ability to do what they put their minds to do," Nedzinski said. "It's always been a very successful town for industry and it's always nice to go a number of places and know the people, even after being gone for 25 years. It still retains its small-town charm."
While he appreciates St. Marys, Nedzinski said he loves living in Texas, with the warmer climate a particular asset.
"I do not miss shoveling snow one bit," he said. "I'm a warm-weather person. I'm not a cold-weather fan."