Superior lost a champion when Kaye Tenerelli, 83, passed away Sunday, Aug. 30.
Tenerelli, who served as executive director of the Superior Business Improvement District (BID) from 1992-2015, was instrumental in everything from public murals and building improvements to the reconstruction of Tower Avenue.
“Her legacy is the renaissance of downtown Superior,” said State Rep. Nick Milroy, D-South Range.
Those who knew Tenerelli said they will remember her intelligence, generosity and ability to bring people together.
“She always looked for the good in people. She worked to find solutions,” said former Superior mayor Margaret Ciccone. “It was not an easy job. There were a lot of personalities to blend.”
Tenerelli knew how to run a meeting and was adept at including everyone’s input, said John Conway, a commercial property owner in Superior who served on the BID board of directors.
“Whenever you met Kaye, you knew you were talking to someone who was listening,” he said.
“She was just a consummate professional and always had a great attitude,” said Jim Caesar with The Development Association and Superior Business Center. “She was a fierce advocate for businesses in the BID.”
And, he said, “She was a lot of fun.”
“She was unbelievably kindhearted and caring and generous, loving to the core,” said Jodi Rochon, who was Tenerelli’s administrative assistant for nearly 23 years. “She was my mentor and my friend.”
State Sen. Janet Bewley, D-Mason, remembered working with Tenerelli on the restoration of the New York Building on Tower Avenue. On their first walk-through of the building, they could see a solid structure beneath the mess.
“Kaye had the vision of beautiful apartments for seniors, with high ceilings and gorgeous restored woodwork. And it happened,” Bewley said. “She loved Superior, and she had wonderful dreams of its future. I hope we keep working for a better city, and make her dreams come true.”
Northwest Outlet owner Dave Miller said Tenerelli helped shepherd him through the paperwork nightmare of grants and design work needed to remodel his building.
“With Kaye, when you first met her you knew she was in your court,” Miller said.
Teamwork was the core of her leadership style.
“She was brilliant at finding common ground if there were differences,” said Gary Banker, a member of the BID board of directors. “She was keenly adept at blending ideas so that the final outcome would meet approval.”
The Superior woman’s most noticeable accomplishment was the reconstruction of Tower Avenue. Caesar said Tenerelli was the go-to person during years of preparation and construction.
Taking note of what the BID board and design committee wanted the street to be, Tenerelli lobbied state and local officials to make it happen, Banker said. She pushed then Sen. Bob Jauch and Milroy to find additional dollars for the project. The $1 million that was secured and the city funds that were contributed changed the streetscape, Milroy said.
“With this funding, our downtown has a much different look and feel. Private investment has grown exponentially and now our downtown looks better than at any time in my lifetime,” he said. “I attribute this to Kaye’s vision, passion and determination to get it done. I’m not sure anyone else could have done it.”
Despite the BID's limited scope and resources, Tenerelli was a force on the Superior development team, said retired National Bank of Commerce President Bruce Thompson.
“Kaye could see the bigger picture and knew the fundamental challenges Superior faces to grow. Kaye had no problem one-on-one with anyone politically or otherwise to call out responsibility and action and not accept just words,” he said.
Back door art projects, community murals, the downtown farmer’s market and today’s Spooktacular event can be traced back to Tenerelli.
She advocated for Positively Superior magazine, worked on the Belknap Street construction project and helped businesses in the 89-block BID make improvements.
“She would talk with each business owner, hearing their dream and helping them make it into a reality,” Banker said.
An avid reader with a fondness for mysteries, Tenerelli enjoyed hosting gatherings with friends after retiring from the BID in 2015 — dinners with “Kaye’s Divas” or time at her Iron River cabin with “Ladies of the Lake.”
“We solved all the world’s problems, did a lot of laughing and played cards,” Ciccone said.
Above all, those who knew her said Tenerelli loved her family and had a deep faith in God.
“She loved Superior and worked tirelessly to make it a better place,” Rochon said.
Tenerelli is survived by her husband, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, as well as extended family members and friends.
Visitation for Tenerelli will be held from 9:30-11 a.m. Friday at Cathedral of Christ the King, followed by a funeral mass at 11 a.m. In lieu of flowers, Tenerelli's family asks people to donate to NWCSA-Solid Rock Mission in Superior or the charity of their choice.