OBITUARY

Casimira "Kay" Kowalczyk

October 20, 1916April 6, 2019

Casimira Mary (Kay) Kowalczyk was born on October 20, 1916 in Chicago, Illinois to a Polish immigrant family from Warsaw, Poland. She was the youngest of seven children, four girls and three boys. Her parents could not take care of the three youngest girls, Kay, Helen and Jenny and they were placed in a Catholic orphanage, which was called St. Hedwig's Industrial School, Kay at age three. At St. Hedwig's, Kay was taught well by the nuns including being punished rather harshly when she was naughty. She has valued this training all her life. Kay's life almost immensely changed at an early age when Harold McCormick and his wife, Gana Walsa, would have orphans from St. Hedwig visit their home at Christmas. They wanted to adopt Kay with one of the reasons being his wife was Polish and they thought she resembled and acted like the young movie star of that era, Shirley Temple. Mr. McCormick was previously married to the youngest daughter of John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil. Mr. McCormick ultimately assumed the presidency of his older brother's company, International Harvester, the world's leading manufacturer of farm machinery. Gana Walska was a Polish opera singer. They ultimately decided against the adoption because they did not want to take Kay away from her siblings at St. Hedwig. God's plan for her was clearly a simple, humble and happy life. Becoming of legal age, at sixteen, Kay had to leave St. Hedwig. She took many jobs as a live-in nurse girl taking care of prominent people's children, like a Judge from Chicago. At age 19, she met Andrew Casimir Kowalczyk, the son of a Polish Catholic immigrant family from a farming town in the foothills near Krakow, Poland. He was also one of seven children and 14 years older than Kay. At age 21, she married Andrew in 1937 and they lived on the third floor of an apartment building located near Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs baseball team. Andrew worked for a bookie for horse racing and gambled some but Kay quickly broke him of that bad habit. Kay had her only child, John Francis, named after the doctor who delivered him in 1943, but not without enduring a difficult time prior to delivery. That cold and snowy winter, a few months before John was born, the apartment building they lived in caught fire and they had to evacuate and live in temporary quarters for many months before and after the birth until the damage to the building could be repaired. Kay spent much time helping John with his school work and nurturing his Catholic faith. She constantly emphasized he had to get a good education to get a good job as most Polish people of that era were not educated and had low paying jobs. The family most enjoyed their summer vacations in the North woods of Wisconsin, fishing and enjoying the beauty of the lakes and tall trees. When John went to high school, Kay went to work at Time-Life Incorporated in downtown Chicago, where she handled subscriptions for the major magazine publisher. Kay helped John financially to get started in College, until he got summer jobs that covered his costs. She was saddened when he moved to the campus of the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois to finish his undergraduate work. She was further saddened when he moved to Oregon to complete a master's degree. She did visit him in Oregon, which reminded her of the North woods of Wisconsin. After graduate school, John served his two year military obligation, during the Vietnam War, as a Commissioned officer in the U.S. Public Health Service, living in Cincinnati, Ohio and Durham, North Carolina. He was married in Oregon in the middle of his service and Kay and her husband made the trip to Oregon for the wedding. When John decided to live permanently in Oregon, after fulfilling his military obligation, Kay somewhat understood because of the similarity Oregon had with the North woods of Wisconsin, which they loved so much. In 1972, Kay retired and she and her husband took the Empire Builder train from Chicago and headed west to Portland to live close by John. She greatly enjoyed living in Oregon because of the mild weather, compared to Chicago's summer heat and humidity, frequent fierce thunder and lightening storms and very cold, windy, and snowy winters. She looked forward to her sister Helen's frequent visits from Winnipeg, Canada, where she had also moved to be close to her son. When Kay's husband died in 1981, her faith kept her strong and she continued to look forward to her sister Helen's visits. As she got older and had difficulty walking, she wanted to stay in her home as long as she could, but at the age of 94, she could hardly stand up and she realized it was time to move on to assisted living. When she moved on to Maryville Catholic Nursing Home, she completed the cycle of her life, where she began as a young child being taking care of in a Catholic facility with nuns to watch over her. The loving care Kay received at Maryville, with all its activities and very loving caregivers, breathed new life into her. She greatly enjoyed the weekly visits of 8th graders from Valley Catholic School, whose assignment each year was to write Kay's life story. She made a real impression on them as they greatly appreciated her wise words of enjoying life, working hard and keeping the faith. Her highlight was being elected Queen of Maryville in 2014, during Rose Festival Week, and she sat on the thrown of Maryville's float in the City of Beaverton end of summer parade.

Services

  • Funeral Mass Saturday, April 13, 2019
  • Graveside Service Saturday, April 13, 2019
REMEMBERING

Casimira "Kay" Kowalczyk

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