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Director of Food Services dies in drowning accident

MEGAN DOYLE | Friday, August 10, 2012

David Prentkowski, director of food services at Notre Dame, died Thursday at his home in a drowning accident, a University press release stated.

The accident also claimed the life of his 18-month-old granddaughter, Charlotte Chelminiac.

“Dave and Charlotte’s tragic deaths are a shocking and heartbreaking loss,” University President Fr. John Jenkins said. “Dave’s energy, devotion and courage will continue to inspire the Notre Dame family even as his death and the Prentkowski family’s grief are in our prayers.”

St. Joseph County Police responded to the Granger home just after 7:20 p.m. Thursday evening, a department press release stated. Preliminary autopsies ruled the cause of death for Prentkowski, 55, and his granddaughter to be accidental drowning. There is no evidence of foul play, police said.

“Officers at the scene were told that the 55-year-old had taken the 18-month-old for a walk while his wife prepared dinner,” the release stated. “When the wife saw that the two had not returned from their walk after some time, the wife sent the couple’s adult son to look for them.”

Prentkowski’s son had just returned from checking the surrounding neighborhood when he noticed the two in the bottom of the backyard pool, police said. He and a friend jumped into the pool and pulled the two victims from the water.

Officers called to the home performed CPR on the victims, but both were pronounced dead Thursday night. The accident is still under investigation.

Prentkowski had served as the director of food services at Notre Dame since 1990. He graduated from Purdue University in 1979, and he had also worked at Stouffer’s Hotel in St. Louis, the University of Utah and the University of Michigan.

“A seemingly omnipresent and indefatigably cheerful presence wherever meals were being planned, prepared, enjoyed and shared at Notre Dame, Prentkowski twice was honored by Notre Dame’s student body with its Irish Clover Award for contributions to student life, in 1998 and earlier this year,” the release stated.

Last fall, Prentkowski was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Even during his treatments, he served as an honorary chairperson of Notre Dame’s 2012 Relay for Life, which raises funds for cancer research. He often spoke openly about his illness with colleagues and friends.

“I’ve always tried to be the positive person and get them to talk,” he said, quoted in the University’s press release. “The more people learn about it, the more people hopefully will contribute to cancer research on any disease that’s out there.”

Arrangements for Prentkowski and his granddaughter have not yet been finalized.