Obituary Listings

Stefan Augustyniak
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Obituary for Stefan Augustyniak

Born
August 25, 1923
Wronczyn in the parish of Modrze, Poland

Passed Away
December 8, 2017
Pleasant Ridge, Michigan

Internment
Epiphany Cathedral
Venice, Florida


Stefan Augustyniak, 1923 - 2017

Stefan was born in Wronczyn, a small village 30 k southwest of Poznan. He was strong, reserved, fiercely loyal, humble about his accomplishments, and a devoted family man. He was part of the Polish Resistance in World War II, leaving home at 16 to escape the Nazis. He made it to Detroit in 1949 and met our Mom, Maria Teresa, in night school, learning English. They shared a love of family, history, travel, and gardening. They traveled to 5 continents before retiring to Florida where he grew citrus and avocados which he shared with friends and neighbors.
Dad lived for 94 years and his life spanned a time when his house was a marvel in the small village, being the only one with an electric light, to a time where we walk around with computers in our pockets and people are routinely sent into space. He was part of the Polish resistance, leaving home at 16 when the Nazi’s came to his small town and his classmates started to disappear. He left for Warsaw where it was easier to hide. Using the contacts he developed, he helped others find places to live and get forged documents, which were needed for everything from traveling to food rations. Dad remained extremely proud of his Polish roots and the determination that kept the culture alive, first under Hitler and then under the Soviet Union.
Once the war was over, he was able to get one of the few seats in a German University, learning German to take classes and receive his bachelor’s degree. Once he came to the U.S. in 1949, he was attending night school to improve his English when he met a beautiful Italian girl, Maria Teresa Poggi, and was married to her in 1952. Together they raised three girls in a loving extended family that included aunts, uncles and cousins—some related by blood and marriage and others close friends from all the places they had been on the journey to Detroit. Aunts, Uncles and cousins that were Italian, Polish, German, Belgian, Tunisian and Russian. Along the way, Dad learned Italian so he could communicate with his mother-in-law who came to live with the family.
As a new immigrant, jobs were difficult to find but he persevered, often working several jobs but never giving up on the importance of education, something he instilled in his daughters. He continued his education by taking graduate classes at Wayne State while working overtime and helping to care for Chris and Sue when Mom was ill, completing all but the dissertation for a Ph.D in Economics. During this time he also built the house we grew up in, doing everything from digging the foundation by hand to putting up the roof. He never stopped building things for his family, making china cabinets for Mom in Florida, kitchen cabinets for Sue in Connecticut, and filling all of our homes with bookcases.
Family was the most important thing to Dad. We have fond memories of him reading bedtime stories, singing us to sleep with Polish lullabies, buying bags and bags of M&Ms and hiding them in plain sight. Always fiercely independent himself, he wanted his daughters to have the tools to be independent, teaching us to ride bikes, drive a stick shift, change a flat tire. When Mom was sick, he showed Sue how to curl her hair for her 2nd grade pictures.
We always took family vacations and we went everywhere we could by car, west to California, south to Mexico, north to Montreal and Maine, and multiple trips to Niagara Falls when family visited from Italy and Poland. He loved to plan trips and would spend hours poring over maps, thinking of sites to visit along the way but was always willing to make detours, like making a pilgrimage to L.L. Bean at midnight to prove that they really were open 24 hours a day, 364 days a year.
Dad loved Thanksgiving. For many years we had Thanksgiving at our cousin’s, so we had no leftovers. Dad would then buy a turkey for Mom to make. If she managed to find room in the freezer for it, he would buy another one, ensuring that we had a Thanksgiving, complete with leftovers, at home. One year when Mom put the turkey in the freezer instead of making it right away, he brought home another which she also found room for in the freezer. When he came home with a third turkey, she decided she better make a Thanksgiving dinner soon or we would need to buy a bigger freezer.
When Chris went away to school, he wanted to send her a treat from home. He called his sister-in-law in California to get the recipe for a family favorite, a Polish Walnut Torte. He bought all the ingredients and waited late into the night for Sue to get off work and help him make it. Sue convinced him that the Walnut Torte would not travel well so they made a batch of fudge at midnight to send to Chris the next day to let her know the family loved her.
Throughout his life he loved the outdoors and spent every possible hour outside, working in the yard until well after dark. He always had a small orchard of fruit trees. The apples, pears, plums, cherries, and currants in Michigan gave way to the grapefruit, orange, lime, mango, papaya, and avocado trees in Florida. He shared the bounty with friends and neighbors. While in Florida, he became a master gardener, helping others with their garden problems.
After living in Michigan for 40 years, he and Mom relocated to Florida, to what they both referred to as a little piece of paradise. They had 17 wonderful years together in Florida: volunteering, gardening and travelling. Dad cared for Mom when she was ill with cancer the last year of her life. When he needed to leave for a few days, it took two of us to fill his shoes.
The last year of his life was a tough one, but he had a strong heart and never lost his sweet nature, his sense of humor or his love. At the end when he couldn’t talk, he would blow kisses to let us know that he loved us.
We will miss his love, strength, caring, and support.
He was the husband of the late Maria Teresa, Dear father of Christine Augustyniak, Suzette (Gilbert Skillman) Augustyniak, and Stephanie Augustyniak. Services will be private


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