Nancy K. Muenzer, co-founder of the award-winning Park Ridge Civic Orchestra and wife of the Orchestra’s first Music Director, Edgar Muenzer, died August 15 following a long illness. She was 80 years old.
Mrs. Muenzer, a longtime Park Ridge resident, co-founded the Park Ridge Civic Orchestra in September, 1994 with her husband Edgar, a 47-year veteran violinist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and a cadre of dedicated supporters. Their goal was to bring professional symphonic performances to patrons of all ages, affordably and accessibly. A driving force behind the Orchestra’s successful development, the charismatic Mrs. Muenzer worked tirelessly to inspire and enlist major sponsors and donors in support of the Orchestra, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.
Through Mrs. Muenzer’s direct efforts and that of the generous and influential music-lovers she recruited, PRCOrchestra began performing five major concerts between October and March each year at the historic Pickwick Theatre in Park Ridge. Mrs. Muenzer also managed an array of special events and smaller concerts in between. While her husband retired as music director in July 2012, Mrs. Muenzer continued in her role until 2014, helping the Orchestra transition to the next generation with the ascension of her eldest son Victor to the music director’s position.
“Nancy was a dynamic, utterly determined leader in organizing the Park Ridge Civic Orchestra’s fundraising and operational structure,” recalls PRCOrchestra President Pam Benitez, a close friend who began working with Mrs. Muenzer in the 1990s when Benitez’s Des Plaines-based business, Jonland Type & Design, started producing the Orchestra’s programs. “We worked together, night and day, to design and produce materials that met Nancy’s very high standards. She was a hardworking perfectionist who demanded as much from herself as from anyone else, and she made it fun in the process."
“Everyone who worked with Nancy became caught up in her goals and plans – I certainly did! – and I will miss her wonderful friendship enormously. Every successful arts organization and non-profit owes a lot to the people who lead from behind, and Nancy was a stellar example,” says Benitez.
“My mother always went out of her way to connect with people personally,” recalls Victor Muenzer, “and she made sure our donors knew what very special VIPs they were to her and to the Orchestra. She consistently made great things happen because she truly loved to make people happy. That is her legacy.”
Mrs. Muenzer, along with her late husband, was a recipient of the Illinois Humanities Council Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award.
Mrs. Muenzer was widowed on July 22 of this year. She is survived by her son, Victor, the Orchestra’s current Music Director; sons Peter and James; and grandsons Gregory and Gabriel.
Visitation is Monday, August 22 from 3 to 9 p.m. at Ryan Parke Funeral Home. Services are Tuesday, August 23 at 10 a.m. at Park Ridge Community Church. Interment will be at Saint Adalbert Cemetery in Niles.