Homicide victim identified as retired Mesa teacher - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Homicide victim identified as retired Mesa teacher

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Posted: Wednesday, November 16, 2011 11:00 am | Updated: 10:49 am, Sun Nov 27, 2011.

A woman who police discovered dead inside her Mesa home was a longtime and well-loved retired Mesa teacher who spent her life helping friends and family and worthwhile causes, a school district spokeswoman and former colleague said.

Cynthia Pesek, 61, whose body was discovered Tuesday morning inside her home in the 5800 block of East Inglewood, died of blunt force trauma to her head and neck, according to the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office.

Pesek, an avid swimmer, hiker and gardener, began teaching in Mesa schools in 1978 and retired in 2005 from Entz Elementary School, where she was a second-grade teacher, according to Helen Hollands, a spokeswoman for Mesa Unified School District.

"She was a devoted teacher and a devoted volunteer," Hollands said. "Even after her retirement, she returned to the school to help take care of the front desk, work in classrooms and participated in fundraising activities. She was a member of the school family right up until the very end."

The Entz faculty was informed about Pesek's death at the end of the school day on Tuesday, Hollands said.

Kriste Barnette, who teaches in the gifted program at Entz and knew Pesek when they previously taught at Mesa's MacArthur Elementary School, said if there was a "Mother Teresa of education," Cindy was it.

"People always say what an extraordinary person they were when we lose them, but her deeds showed it," Barnette said. "She didn't know any other life but to help. When someone needed help, or a cause was one she believed in, she had to act on it. She was forever having drives to get kids school supplies who needed them. She didn't do it for the recognition, but it was just who she was. She was the teacher everyone wanted to have."

Pesek, who taught for more than 30 years, also was an active member of St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church in Gilbert and her faith was important to her, Barnette said.

At the time of her death, Pesek was helping take care of a friend's dog, Barnette said.

Barnette also recalled when Pesek's sister was teaching in the Philippines and there was a need for books at an impoverished school. Pesek spearheaded a book drive and there was such an overwhelming response, that she arranged for some donations to help pay for the postage of sending the books to the Philippines. She and her mother also picked up part of the cost, Barnette said.

Later on, the students in the Philippines wrote letters of thanks to Entz Elementary and sent videos to the students.

"It was a real experience for any of the kids at Entz at the time; and it will always be something they remember," Barnette said.

Pesek also was remembered fondly by a former colleague at Highland Elementary School in Omaha, Neb., where she was from and began her teaching career in the early 1970s.

"If you met her once, you'd remember her," said Lori Taylor, a retired second-grade teacher at the Nebraska school. Taylor said her classroom was next to Pesek's.

"She was an extremely gifted teacher. extremely organized and high energy," Taylor said. "She was very influential and I learned some tricks of the trade from her that I used. My parents still remembered her. She was a loyal friend, loving daughter, aunt and sister."

Entz's second-grade students are dedicating this year's music program to Pesek. The program will be 1:30 p.m. Monday for the students and at 1:30 p.m. for parents and families.

Mesa police arrested Pesek's nephew, William Null, 41, in connection with her death. Null had lived with Pesek on and off for a number of years, police said.

Pesek's death has been ruled a homicide and no motive has been released.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6533 or msakal@evtrib.com

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