A man of great honor, integrity, and strength, Edward Gnatowski, Jr. was a gift given to those he loved. It was no secret that he viewed his family as a priceless treasure, and it was when he was surrounded by his loved ones that he found true happiness. Edward was a hard worker who believed that anything worth doing was worth doing well, his work ethic providing us all with much to aspire for. A friendly, outgoing, and kindhearted man, he made friends with ease and was a joy to know and love. Although life was not always easy for Edward he was content in all things, fully embracing both the peaks and the valleys along his life’s journey.
There was great strife in much of the world during the 1930s, and Poland was certainly not immune from great struggles. As the Great Depression gained momentum during this time anti-Semitism began to rise even though Poland was home to over ten percent of the Jewish population in Eastern Europe. The nation’s challenges were also heightened militarily in the thirties with the advent of Hitler’s openly expansionist Nazi regime in nearby Germany – hostilities that quickly led to the outbreak of WWII. Despite the harsh realities of the world around them a young couple was filled with great joy as they welcomed a healthy baby boy into their hearts and home on November 14, 1936. Edward John was the older of two children born to his parents, Edward and Benedykta (Rynkiewicz) Gnatowski, in Przerosl Osada, Poland. His father was of German heritage and worked the railroad, often in Germany, while his mother was of Polish descent. Edward was raised in the family home alongside his younger sister, Alfrieda.
Edward’s life was not unlike the lives of many other young men in Poland at that time. His formal education was to the eighth grade, and he also learned to be a blacksmith. Edward’s father immigrated to the United States in 1951, settling in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he remained on his own for seven years before his wife joined him in 1958. As a young man Edward served in the Polish Army for two years.
Life was forever changed for Edward when he met the young woman who stole his heart. Her name was Krystyna Jelinska, and he was smitten with her right from the start. They met in Poland in 1963, which was shortly before Edward left for the United States. After four years in Milwaukee Edward had established himself relatively well so he traveled back to Poland to marry his sweetheart on July, 25, 1967. Shortly thereafter Edward came back to Milwaukee, and Krystyna followed in 1968. Together they began their new lives as newlyweds, settling on South 8th Street on the Southside of Milwaukee.
In January of 1979 Edward and Krystyna were overjoyed with the birth of their daughter, Christine. Throughout his life Edward’s family was first and foremost in everything he did. When his family grew to include his son-in-law, Brian Faulkner, Edward was thrilled to welcome him with open arms when Brian and Christine exchanged their vows in April of 2001.
While in the workforce Edward was one to work hard in whatever he was doing. For many years he worked coloring thread and yarn for Milwaukee Dye and Bleaching Company. Edward’s tenure there ended when the company went out of business, but he soon found work as a laundry aide in the laundry department for St. Francis Hospital. He remained there for ten years until he retired in 1998 at the age of 62.
In his free time Edward often kept busy with various projects around the house. He particularly enjoyed working on building windmills and steam engines. Edward often got so involved in his projects that we wouldn’t even take the time to eat if Krystyna wasn’t persistent in calling him several times for dinner. His windmills were hard to miss and frequently drew a great deal of attention from neighbors and people passing near the house. Solar power and wood working were also interests of Edward’s.
There were many things that made Edward such an extraordinary man. He was very personable, and he could talk to anyone and everyone about just about anything. With his warm and outgoing personality he made friends with ease despite his heavily broken English. A devoted family man, Edward’s German and Polish heritage were of great importance to him along his entire life’s journey.
Just this past June life became more difficult for Edward and his loved ones when he was diagnosed with gastric cancer. It was just a short time later that he unexpectedly drew his last breath at St. Francis Hospital.
With a life that spanned times of great change in the world around him, Edward Gnatowski, Jr. fully lived each day, making the most of everything he was given. He was kind to others and thoughtful in the choices he made in whatever he was doing. There was no greater gift in Edward’s life than the family who will carry on his timeless legacy. Taken from his loved ones too soon, Edward will be deeply missed and warmly remembered.
Edward J. Gnatowski, Jr. died on August 28, 2012. Edward’s family includes his wife, Krystyna Gnatowski; daughter, Christine (Brian) Faulkner; sister, Alfrieda Dymko of Poland; and other relatives and friends. Edward was preceded in death by his parents. Visit with Edward’s family and friends on Tuesday, September 4 at St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church 1205 S. 8th Street from 10:00 a.m. until time of the Funeral Service at 11:00 a.m. Interment Pilgrim’s Rest Cemetery. Arrangements provided by Suminski LifeStory Funeral Homes, Niemann / Suminski (414) 744-5156. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com where you can leave a memory or sign the online guestbook.