Sing Out about
this UNsung Woman
Sponsored by ArtRoots,
a Writer in Residence Project
January to June 2022
Submitted by Jody Spencer
Because she has tirelessly worked as a volunteer for Racine and for the environment, Jody Spencer nominated Mercedes Dzindzeleta as an Unsung Woman’s honoree. “Mercedes deserves recognition for her years of hard and dedicated work for the benefit of others while selflessly watching out for the world around her.”
A lifelong environmentalist, Mercedes practices her commitment in three words: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, and she helps others to do the same. She has been involved with numerous clean-up projects and as well as helping people in need. “I try to utilize as much as possible for the greater good of our planet,” said Mercedes. “I learned the lesson early. Growing up during WWII and into the 50s, we followed the 3 Rs—Reduce, Reuse and Recycle—not necessarily Reading, (W)Riting and Religion!“
After moving to Racine in 1961, she joined environmental groups concerned with clean water and air. She explained, “With serious pollution in Racine, in our Root River and Lake Michigan, our groups campaigned to city, county and state government to protect its citizens from pollution by improving our air and water quality.”
Jody recognizes Mercedes’ value serving as a special registration deputy helping people register to vote and her countless long days as a dedicated election official. “I served under Mercedes when she was the Election Chief at the very busy Festival Hall site during the 2020 presidential election held during the pandemic. She never lost her cool under a lot of scrutiny and stress. She is a woman who knows how to get things done!”
Always civic-minded, she frequently attends City Council meetings and shares her concerns with elected officials during public comment segments and beyond.
Mercedes explains: “Rather than complain about the system, I became a poll worker and the rest has been history for me. Also, I want to know why officials do what they do and why — especially on issues that annoy voters. And I want to make voting available to all. Alas, 14 years later I am still working during Racine’s elections and trying to make sure people vote rather than complain. We will not make changes if we are not engaged with each other.”
For many years Mercedes dedicated late afternoons on Tuesdays to help provide suppers at the Saint Rose School. then one day a week the St. Luke’s Church Hospitality Center, and now at the North Point Church on the 4-Mile Road. Jody explains, “She suggests and organizes. Her suggestions make systems work well.”
She’s volunteered her time and energy with St. Vincent de Paul, Earth Day efforts, Health Care Network and Olympia Brown Unitarian Universalist Church’s Green Sanctuary where she ordered all products and organizing volunteer schedules, always including herself in the calendar loop of volunteers.
“For all of these reasons, primarily without recognition, Mercedes will join the team of Racine women who are worthy to be appreciated and thanked,” said Jody.
Cheering the Racine Belles
By Jeanne Arnold
Starting in 8th grade, I became a loyal fan of the Racine Belles women’s baseball team. I’d save the money I’d earned from my various business ventures to sit on the third base line at Horlick Field and cheer the team.
The Racine Belles ended its first year in 1943 with their playoff championship against the Kenosha Comets. It was like the World Series only better because I was there, hollering and cheering for the first World Champions of the All-American Girl’s Professional Baseball League.
I cheered for Anna Mae Hutchison who pitched, caught, played in the outfield and was a great hitter too, plus Sophie Kurys who stole 201 bases in a single year, feisty little catcher Irene Hickson, pitcher Joanne Winter and more. Anna Mae would look at me and grin; she knew who this fan was!
In the 1946 championship game against the Rockford Peaches, their pitcher worked a no-hitter against the Belles through nine innings. The game was still in a scoreless tie in the 16th inning when Sophie Kurys singled. She stole second and was in the process of stealing third when another Belle, Betty Trezza, had two strikes when she saw Kurys running to third. Trezza singled sharply to right field and Kurys slid into home with the winning run.
We went wild! It was the greatest baseball game ever played!
Racine won its second league championship in three years. Kurys set a league record for stolen bases, and she set that stealing record with her shoe spikes threatening the base player, her bare legs sliding on the dirt in a skimpy skirt, the required uniform to show the world that these “girls” were extremely feminine women. My 9th grade gym teacher, Miss Ruth Petersen, was hired to be the team’s first chaperone; but she quit, she told us, because of their rowdy behavior.
What a victory the Belles were for Racine and for women in sports.
Graphics by Mary Nelson