This Gal Has Done It All
Englewood resident Debbie Maysack has had a lot on her plate pretty much all of her life, and I’m not talking about food. But read on and judge for yourself.
She was born and grew up in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, one of four daughters raised by John and Iris Koch. Debbie went to a Catholic elementary school and then to Central Catholic High School in Ft. Wayne. Though in the top quarter of her high school class, she admits that “I could have done better. I just had too many things going on.” There was church every morning. Besides her regular college prep courses, she took extra classes in secretarial skills and home economics at her parents’ coaxing, leaving her without so much as a study hall break. She was a cheerleader, in the Art Club, a member of the Daughters of St. Mary, a volunteer with the Red Cross and a “blue striper” at the nearby Veterans Administration hospital. She served on the staff of her high school paper and wrote a weekly column for the Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette. One year she also created, organized and emceed a multi-school talent show for the VA hospital and then wrote it up for the local press. “I always wanted to be a journalist,” she says, and this gave her a taste of what it was like.
“My parents could have paid for my college education, but my Dad thought I should earn my own way,” she says, so she also had a full-time job in college–working a split shift for two hours every morning and from 6 p.m. til midnight as a switchboard operator. She earned enough to get through “almost two years of college” at nearby Indiana/Purdue University, but Cupid got in the way. She married at age 19, and her husband, a U.S. Army counterintelligence agent at the time, swept her away with him to Detroit. “I got full-time work there as a Kelly Girl,” she says. “I did all kinds of jobs–secretarial work, jewelry store salesperson, conference organizing, whatever was available.” Sounds hectic.
Then they moved to Sibley, Iowa, a small town in the far northwest corner of the state, and things got more hectic. Debbie took courses at a junior college in Minnesota and got a job as secretary to the Sibley High School principal. But the local twice-weekly newspaper hired her away as its news editor. “I covered all the beats,” she says. “The school news, the police, the court reports. I went out to accident scenes, took photos, developed my own films in the darkroom, wrote the headlines, learned how to use the linotype machine. I did everything.”
Well, not quite everything, until she got a special assignment. “The owner of newspaper also published a monthly magazine for dairy farmers, and he decided to publish some feature articles about them. He assigned the task to me, handed me his credit card and the keys to his car, and said, ‘Go see what these dairy farmers are like out in rural Iowa.’ I was a city girl, mind you, and I had no experience at a farm–much less a dairy farm. I met the farmers in town at the local café, and they took me to their respective farms, where I experienced milking my first cow. The farmers had a great time teaching this ‘city girl’ all about farm life. The article turned out to be a hit, and I became the new feature writer for the publication.” She could also add “milking cows” to her growing list of talents.
Debbie and her husband moved to Iowa City in 1971, where they both enrolled at the University of Iowa to work toward their degrees. Meanwhile, Debbie landed a job as a secretary in the College of Medicine, where she helped her first boss in editing articles for the Journal of Endocrinology and later worked in the pharmacology and cardiology departments. She got her first experience in writing grant proposals by working until all hours nightly on a $6 million grant application with the National Institutes of Health. She also got her first exposure to mastering the lingo of medicine–a useful skill for her portfolio.
While continuing to work at the University, Debbie was also busy raising a family. She was blessed with two daughters, Kristin and Karin, and a son, Brandon. Naturally that led her to become a member of the local Parent-Teacher Organization, and she soon became the PTO’s president. Along the way she partnered with the American Red Cross and the University of Iowa in obtaining a grant to create two fitness centers for her school district. Thereafter she moved up to president of the District-wide PTO in Iowa City. The District established a fundraising foundation, and Debbie became its first executive director, a paid position. For the next 22 years, she was the senior executive of one nonprofit after another: the Iowa City Public Library Friends Foundation, the Minnesota Library Association & Foundation, and lastly the North Central Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation, representing the states of Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota.
In most every organization there is a natural progression to the top: from joiner to doer to leader, who is judged by performance and results. Those who know Debbie will tell you she gets things done. She is an experienced strategic planner. She is creative in solving problems. She listens to others but has a mind and purpose of her own. She knows how to put together a budget and read a balance sheet. She’s a polished writer. And she is outgoing and friendly, which is critical in building relationships with donors, members, employees and friends.
This is why she becomes a leader in virtually any enterprise she takes part in. She is a Certified Association Executive (CAE) and has served as a board or executive committee member of the Midway Area Chamber of Commerce, the American Holistic Nurses’ Certification Corporation, the Twin Cities United Way, the St. Thomas More Church Council and two different homeowners’ associations. She is currently the president of her local HOA.
In 1993, Debbie married Don Maysack, a friend she had known for several years, and while they both continued to work in their chosen professions, they decided to open a drive-through coffee shop in Hudson, Wisconsin near their home. Why? “We liked coffee, and there was no good place around there,” Debbie explains, reasonably enough. “We did very well. People were lined up in their cars to get our coffee. I worked some weekends there and helped with staffing.” And, after all, it did give Debbie something to do in her spare time.
Two years later the two D’s opened another coffee shop, the Café la Poste, which also had a wine bar. Why wine? “We both like a good red wine,” Debbie says. “But then Starbucks moved in, and some other coffee shops moved in, and that was the end of that for us.”
In 2010, Debbie retired from the presidency of the Arthritis Foundation’s North Central Chapter, and in 2013 they came to Englewood to be near her 86-year-old mother. They settled in a nice gated community, where Debbie joined the HOA board and soon became its president. She does have some side interests, of course: seeing her grandkids, reading, walking, water aerobics, yoga, gardening, travel … “and a glass of good red wine,” Debbie says.
Just don’t put anything on her plate besides that.
Dean Laux is exploring interesting folks living in our community. If you know of anyone with an interesting background please send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Include the person’s name, contact info and give a brief description of the person’s background.