October 15, 1930 – January 12, 2019
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Patricia French (née Paina “Penka” Jordanoff) on January 12, 2019, at the age of 88. She was a tireless dynamo who, as long-time president of the Bulgarian Macedonian National Educational and Cultural Center, devoted much of her life to developing an organization that today is internationally recognized as the leading American center for the presentation and preservation of Bulgarian culture.
Pat virtually grew up in “the club on 8th Avenue,” immersing herself in dance and music — eventually winning a scholarship to Duquesne University to perform with the world-renowned Tamburitzans folk ensemble, and later becoming the group’s director of promotions and development. Encouraged by her Bulgarian-born parents Zlate and Diana Jordanoff, she spent long hours at the Center’s Bulgarian School as a young girl, learning her ancestral language. That skill proved to be invaluable during her 46 trips to Bulgaria since 1964 on behalf of government, industry, and the arts. She worked as an interpreter for the U. S. State Department, corporations such as Westinghouse and Alcoa, and at world fairs and international trade expos.
In 1995 Pat conceived the plan to transform the original Bulgaro-Macedonian Beneficial Association formed in 1930 into the present-day nonprofit entity known as the BMNECC – an organization that is open to all people regardless of ethnic heritage. She was a driving force behind the promotion of the Center and was second to none when it came to acquiring grant money to support ongoing renovations, art and education initiatives, and preservation projects. She was instrumental in helping the BMNECC become the first ethnic organization to be awarded a Save America’s Treasures grant by the National Park Service. And, thanks to Pat’s expertise in public outreach and community team-building, the Center has become a popular destination for school groups, neighborhood revitalization planners, and artists and performers. In one year alone, tourists from 42 states and 14 countries visited the facility as part of national organized tour groups that Pat wooed to the Center. Ever the innovator, she conceived the popular Soup Sega! program, a one-of-a-kind fundraising initiative that was featured in international media, including PBS programs.
She spent her entire life as a spirited goodwill ambassador for both Bulgaria and the U.S., and did much to forge positive relationships between the two countries’ governments, business entities, and educational and artistic organizations. The Republic of Bulgaria awarded Pat an Order of Saints Cyril and Methodius medal for her contributions to Bulgarian culture, and in 2012 Bulgarian Ambassador Elena Poptodorova designated her an Honorary Bulgarian Consul.
The BMNECC is forever grateful to have had this special woman lead the organization into the 21st century — with dignity, courage, and compassion.
Click the links below for more about Pat:
Feature article published in the January 18 edition of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette
Feature article from the online magazine NEXTPittsburgh
Article from the online Bulgarian publication BG-Voice
Video produced in loving memory of Pat
If you would like to honor Pat, please consider making a contribution for the establishment of the Patricia Jordanoff French Memorial Library at the Center. You can make your check payable to BMNECC, Inc. and mail it to: BMNECC, 449 West 8th Avenue, West Homestead, PA 15120. You can also make a secure donation online by clicking the button below. Thank you.