Friends share memories of Margie Radakovich

STEUBENVILLE – When Jennifer Agresta saw her friend, Margie Radakovich, in a hospital bed Tuesday, the emotions hit.

“I started to cry and she looked at me and said, ‘stop crying. We’re going to be fine. We’re going to get through this. I don’t know if I will be back Friday, but I will be back Monday,'” related Agresta, a teacher at Wells Academy, where Radakovich served as principal this year.

“I worked for her for 10 years. She made my job so happy. I was in every building where she worked. Every time she moved to a different building, I moved right behind her. I told her she couldn’t retire because I was too young and I needed her. She couldn’t retire until I retired. The hardest thing for me was walking into this building Thursday because Margie was always here when I walked in. When we met with the kids that day I had to smile because Margie loved the kids so much. Everything was always about the kids. And, she taught me so much about being a teacher, a friend and a mother,” shared Agresta.

“Margie was always fair to everyone. Parents respected her because she was fair. Everyone was equal in her eyes. She touched so many lives in the schools and in the community. She treated every student like a member of her family,” said Agresta.

Agresta was one of several city school district employees who sat in the principal’s office Friday to quietly share their memories of the woman who served as their principal and mentor and, in Ramaine “Sissy” Turrentine’s case, as a sister-in-law and best friend.

Radakovich died Wednesday at the age of 59 after a brief illness.

She served as a reading and math teacher at Harding Middle School, dean of girls, principal of McKinley, Roosevelt, East Garfield and the Wells Academy. She most recently served as a Success for All coach for the district and was instrumental in implementing the SFA program in the city schools during her 37-year career as a city school district educator.

“Margie’s mother was a teacher for years at McKinley Elementary. She grew up with that background. Her mother was a quiet teacher but very well respected. And, Margie bought into the teaching career from day one. She loved teaching. It was more than a job for her because she loved what she did. When Margie moved to Wells Academy she immediately starting making her office very homey because she knew she would be spending a lot of time here,” offered Turrentine.

“I remember when she painted the steps going up to computer lab. She didn’t tell someone else to do it. She just joined the custodian and painted the steps. She was always willing to step up and do whatever needed to be done,” noted Agresta.

“We have been friends since I started at the school district in 1990. She was such a good person. Any time anyone needed help with something Margie was always in the thick of things. She would look at you and just say, ‘I’ll take care of it.’ She helped feed the homeless at First Westminster Church, she was very involved in the Big Red Alumni Association and the Friends of Steubenville Fine Arts. When I think of Margie, I am reminded of how much she loved Steubenville High School and the people of Steubenville,” declared Melinda Young, director of programs for the school district.

“She worked hard every day. I know Margie would want us to be talking to the pupils at Wells and tell them to be happy today. She would want us to go on,” added Young.

According to Deanna Beall of Garfield East Elementary, “Margie instilled her love of the students and the need to further our education and the childrens’ education in her teachers.”

“Dinner out was always a community family event. No matter where we would go current and former students would come over to talk to her and she made time for them,” added Beall.

“Two weeks ago we were supposed to cook a dinner for a fundraiser. I really wasn’t feeling it that morning. But there was Margie in the kitchen here at the school and there were 500 people coming in to eat. They were wearing hats from Central, Big Red, Edison and Indian Creek all supporting the fundraiser. That’s what makes this community so great. And Margie knew it,” Turrentine remarked.

“She never made you feel she didn’t have enough time for you. She always had enough time for everyone,” said Agresta.

“No one was ever made to feel like a burden,” added Beall.

“My phone is blowing up and I am getting e-mails from a lot of different people,” said Barry Gullen, assistant superintendent of Steubenville schools.

“Margie was so involved with the Success For All program. She had friends across the state and outside of Ohio. And they are all planning to come here Saturday and Sunday. They are asking how Margie’s family is doing and how we as a school community are doing. They respected her so much. Margie was a Steubenville person who was 100 percent for the city schools and 100 percent for the people of Steubenville,” related Gullen.

Acting Superintendent Rich Ranallo said the city schools lost one of the centers of the school district.

“Margie was a Steubenville Big Red girl raised by Big Red people in a house on McCauslen Manor. Margie’s mother was a teacher at McKinley and Wells and her father, Bud Turrentine, was a star athlete for Big Red in the 1940s and later volunteered as a touch football coach. Margie’s brother, Mike, also was a star for Big Red, and her former husband, Bob, and their sons Brian, Adam and Andrew all attended Steubenville schools,” said Ranallo.

“But Margie was the center. She was the core. Her positive, can-do attitude was contagious. If you needed a job done Margie volunteered. We all will miss her. She can’t be replaced, but she was instrumental in the training and development of many of her staff. She taught them the Steubenville way. We know her values will continue through her staff and students in building the culture of Steubenville Big Red in caring for one another, believing in greatness and reaching expectations daily,” Ranallo declared.

Turrentine said Margie will never be replaced.

“She was an inspiration to everyone. The school flags are at half-staff now. And, I noticed people started putting the Big Red ‘S’ on their Websites with a black sash across the middle,” noted Turrentine.

“Margie would tell us, ‘you have to pick yourself up,'” concluded Agresta.

Viewing will be held from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. today at Westminster Presbyterian Church on North Fourth Street and from 2 p.m. until the services at the church at 3 p.m. Sunday.