‘My dad was a great man because he left the world a better place for having been in it’

Courtesy of John Pijanowski

I want to tell you about my dad, Donald John Pijanowski. He was born on October 30, 1932 and he passed away today at 12:07pm, April 1, 2020. The doctors tell us it was covid19 which means we were not allowed in the hospital to be with him for his last days.

Instead of gathering around him and each other we are mourning via texts and video and putting our faith in the brave nurses and doctors caring for him that he was not alone.

My dad was a great man. There are no buildings named after him, he left behind no fortune, and there are no books that tell his story. He was not great in the way we often try to define the term – he was great in that he was such a *good* man – good to his core, unfailingly good.

As the youngest of ten children born during the Great Depression the stories of his childhood always seemed harsh, but he never told them that way. Stories of his youth were always told with a warm sense of nostalgia and a twinkle in his eye.

Courtesy of John Pijanowski

They slept 3 kids to a bed, 1st to wake up got to choose their shoes, there were 2 Christmas presents for all the kids combined – one gift for the boys to share, and one for the girls, and how the girls were the best ball players in their sometimes rough Buffalo neighborhood.

He joked of how his mom often had to stretch food seemingly beyond its natural limits and as recently as last week was wishing for a taste of his mom’s spinach soup.

The stories of his work ethic were legendary. He wasn’t a suit & tie guy, he was a green bar of lava soap guy. He had many jobs through the years (like wiring houses & steel manufacturing) & his career was ultimately building and later servicing huge industrial turbo compressors.

Courtesy of John Pijanowski

Every time we drove down Union street he told me the same story of the job he had, & ultimately walked away from, painting those houses because the supervisor told him to only paint the parts that people could see from the street. “I could never do that” he would say every time.

If my dad was doing a job for you then you knew he didn’t just do the parts he thought you could see, he did the entire job and he would not leave until it was done right.

Courtesy of John Pijanowski

Wherever I went with my dad he seemed like the coolest guy in the room. His sports exploits were also the stuff of legend. When he was younger he would get manufacturing jobs and favorable shifts so he could play on their company baseball teams.

I heard tales growing up of a home run he hit at Schiller Park that not only left the park but ended up hitting a house across the street. The last time we played with a football he was 55 years old and he threw his age – a 55 yard strike on the fly to me running a post pattern.

Courtesy of John Pijanowski

My dad’s defining feature though was how much he cared about people. Over the years and over the past few hours I have heard from many friends who grew up with me and spent time in my home when we were kids.

My dad was a great man because he left the world a better place for having been in it. He was an infinitely kind man with a sharp sense of humor who worked hard, played hard, and loved deeply. I will miss him every day of my life and be grateful I had the privilege to be his son.

This heartfelt story was written by John Pijanowski and first appeared on Twitter. If you wish to submit an essay (reflections on life), personal story (inspirational or humorous) or something that you witnessed that inspired you. Submit it HERE.