Although Wanda Cieslak passed away unexpectedly earlier this year, her presence is still felt by those who worked with her.
As an administrative assistant at Quarles & Brady, Cieslak mainly assisted John Bannen and John Lhost, both of whom are partners who do estate planning and related work at the firm.
Here, she often had her hands full helping out two baby boomers who never fully embraced the Digital Age, Bannen explained.
“So basically she had these two old guys that she had to take care of and keep out of trouble, and keep on the right path,” he said.
Neither lawyer, for instance, has ever learned to type proficiently. Bannen said her skill with technology came in particularly handy with one client who insisted on using text messages, rather than email, to communicate. He relied on Cieslak to take all the messages from his phone and place them on a company database for future reference.
Her work duties went far beyond this, of course, and included things like sending out premium notices, typing personal balance sheets or insurance-policy summaries and maintaining relationships with clients.
Bannen said that Cieslak expertly navigated the company’s bureaucratic structure so that both he and Lhost would have more time to devote to their primary job duties.
“What she did was take care of background noise and was able to focus on getting things done for us so that we could spend more time focusing on the things … that we did,” he said.
Bob Isacson, office administrator at Quarles & Brady, worked with Cieslak for 13 years. He said Cieslak possessed a “quiet self-confidence” — she was good at her job, but never looked for recognition.
“She kind of epitomizes what an unsung hero is,” Isacson said.
He also praised her for her attention to detail, technical skill and ability to remember specific client’s needs.
“I think that’s a good characteristic of a secretary, someone who could keep those details clear in their mind.”
About two months after her death, Bannen is still adjusting to Cieslak no longer being in the office to help him every day.
“We really miss her,” he said. “I go there (to the office) and I think, ‘She should be here.’ And she’s not.”
Still, her presence can be felt through the paperwork she filed and the client relationships she helped maintain, Banned said.
“She basically exists in all these clients and all these files.”