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Life Story / Obituary
Throughout his rich and rewarding life, Joseph Szalkowski was an extraordinary man to know and love. He worked hard, but he played hard, too, and his zest for life was contagious to all who were near. Joe was blessed to share the majority of his life with his true love, and together they experienced so many of the best things that life has to offer. A true gentleman who made friends wherever he went, he was the sort of person everyone wanted to know. Life will never be the same without Joe here, but he leaves behind a priceless collection of memories that his loved ones will forever treasure.
Life was great in America during the 1920s. Jazz music, ballroom dancing, and motion pictures in both color and sound were all threads woven into our culture fabric while refrigerators and washing machines became part of our homes. It was also during this exciting time that Frank and Anastasis Szalkowski were pleased to announce the birth of the baby boy they named Joseph on June 21, 1924, in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The youngest of nine, he was joined in his family by his siblings, Benedict, Felix, Anne Drecki, Frances, Charles, Leo, Clem, and Eleanor. To support their family Joe’s father worked as a cheese maker and notary public while his mother was a homemaker. Polish was spoken in their home, and for the rest of his life Joe could still recall a few Polish words. Their home was a busy place as Polish immigrants and residents in the area would often come to their home so his father could translate letters or business transactions into Polish or English as required.
In many ways Joe was a young boy of his generation. He served as an altar boy, and the Catholic church was a foundational part of his life throughout his entire lifetime. As a teen Joe worked as a caddy at Oneida Golf Club, and there he got to know important men in the Green Bay society including some of the early players back in the day when the team still played their games at his high school. The players would often sneak Joe and his brothers into the field under their cloaks. Joe attended local schools and went on to graduate from high school.
As a young man Joe was called to serve his country in the United States Army. He was on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day and took part in campaigns in Northern France, the Ardennes, and others, but he also spent some time in Paris as an MP. With his military duties fulfilled, Joe completed his education at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In addition to getting his business degree, he led the golf team to many awards.
New and exciting changes were in store for Joe when he met the woman of his dreams. Her name was Anne Oas, and she was the daughter of Reynold and Pauline (Cushing) Oas in Paw Paw. They began dating, and it didn’t take them long to fall deeply in love. With the desire to spend the rest of their lives together Joe and Anne were married in 1957. As the husband of a Western Michigan University faculty member, he and Anne participated in many scholastic and university activities.
Throughout his life Joe was always busy. He was known for his strong work ethic and spent the bulk of his career at the Kalamazoo office of Haviland Chemicals where he became the office manager. Joe was an avid golfer and a member of both Gull Lake and Kalamazoo Country Clubs. He also participated in numerous golf tournaments, and was named city champion for at least two years. Joe remained a lifelong fan of the Green Bay Packers as well as a longtime member of the Knights of Columbus and American Legion Post 36. He loved keeping up with what was going on, faithfully reading the Kalamazoo Gazette and the New York Times. Joe was a lifelong animal lover.
With a life that spanned times of war and times of peace, times of plenty and times of want, Joseph Szalkowski was a kind, gracious, and pleasant man. He was a classy guy who was always a gentleman and enjoyed things like martini lunches and country club brunches. Although Joe accomplished so much of which to be proud, he was a humble man who was giving and generous with his time and talents. Deeply loved, he will be forever missed.
Joe is the last of his immediate family but is survived by Donna Oas, his sister-in-law, numerous nieces and nephews, and a very important friend and advocate, Barb Greenwood. His wife, Anne, preceded him in death in October 2002. In addition, all his siblings are deceased: Benedict, Felix, Anne Drecki, Frances Hermann, Charles, Leo, Clem, and Eleanor Brunette. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated 12 Noon on Tuesday (MAR 19) at St. Mary Catholic Church, Paw Paw with visitation beginning at 11 AM. Burial at St. Mary Cemetery, Paw Paw. Please visit Joe’s personal web page www.BetzlerFuneralHome.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to St. Augustine Cathedral or, to honor Joe’s lifetime love for animals, your area animal shelter. A special thanks to the staff at the Fountains and Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan for their care.