March 19, 1920 – June 2, 2014
Joseph E. Pawlik, of North Tonawanda, a World War II paratrooper who recovered from his wounds in the Normandy Invasion to fight in the Battle of the Bulge, died Monday in Buffalo Veterans Affairs Medical Center after a short illness. He was 94.
Serving with the 82nd Airborne Division, Mr. Pawlik was struck by artillery fire at the Battle of Merderet River, three days after D-Day, while defending a causeway, and carried a piece of shrapnel near his spine for the rest of his life.
Returning to the front after two months in the hospital, he braved hostile fire at Dead Man’s Ridge in Belgium on Jan. 7, 1945, to rescue his wounded sergeant, dragged him for a mile through the snow, then gave coordinates for a bomb drop on the enemy position. Later in the war, he was one of the first paratroopers to land on German soil.
Among his many decorations were the Purple Heart and three Bronze Stars. In 2009, he was named a chevalier of the Legion of Honor by the French government for his contribution to France’s liberation.
He also received the New York State Conspicuous Service Award, and July 13, 2009, was proclaimed Joseph E. Pawlik Day in Buffalo in his honor.
Born in Buffalo, he grew up in Black Rock and was a graduate of McKinley High School. He was living at home and helping his family by working at the Seneca Steel plant when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The next day he and several friends drove to downtown Buffalo and enlisted.
After the war, he returned to work at Seneca Steel, becoming a foreman. Later, he was a machine operator at New York Wire Mills in the Town of Tonawanda. He retired in the early 1980s.
He was a member of the 507th Parachute Infantry Association; the 17th Airborne Division Association; the Niagara Frontier Association of the 82nd Airborne Division; Niagara Frontier Post 1041, American Legion; and Roll of Honor Post 120, Disabled American Veterans.
His wife of 21 years, Alfreda Zajac Pawlik, died in 1969. Survivors include two daughters, Therese “Terry” Hans and Diana “Dee” Kane; a son, Paul; five grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Saturday in St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, 500 Parker Ave.