When Paulette Pitrak, a small woman with a giant personality, passed away in November 2016, the industry lost one of its most dogged proponents of quality education, volunteerism and effective government relations.

To honor her memory and legacy, NESPA has dedicated the training room at the association’s headquarters in Hamilton, N.J., in her name. Now called the Paulette Pitrak Training Room, the hands-on educational space was extensively renovated with state-of-the-art presentation technology and will stand as a permanent tribute to her years of work developing educational programs for NESPA and the Pool & Spa Show in Atlantic City.

In addition, NESPA will once again present the Paulette Pitrak Above and Beyond Volunteer Recognition Award at the upcoming Pool & Spa Show. The honor was established last year to recognize industry volunteers who have made significant impacts over the previous year.

“Paulette was a lot of things to a lot of people,” says NESPA Executive Director Dominic Mondi. “In particular, she was known for her dedication to educating the industry and her passion for volunteers. We want to honor both with the training facility and the annual award.”

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Unlike a lifetime-achievement recognition, which is typically reserved for well-known people in leadership positions, the Above and Beyond award is intended to honor grassroots volunteers whose efforts often go unrecognized. “Paulette did a great job with volunteers at every level,” Mondi says. “This award is about honoring her memory by recognizing the people who show up and work hard on behalf of the association and the industry. It’s about identifying the unsung heroes, which in many ways is exactly what Paulette was.”

Pitrak, who died at age 64 from leukemia, first came to the pool and spa industry in 1988 as director of education for the National Spa and Pool Institute (now APSP). She joined NESPA a decade later where she led the associations’ efforts across range of programs and initiatives including the Professional Training Institute, the educational program at the Atlantic City show and a host of government relations and professional licensing issues.

Her towering personality, intellect and professionalism will now be memorialized as an example of excellence for the industry she left behind.

Eric Herman is Senior Editor of AQUA Magazine.