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Wanda Kaczmarek, WWII riveter, Polish teacher

Oct. 14, 1922 – Oct. 5, 2016

Wanda Kaczmarek, a genuine “Rosie the Riveter” who later taught Polish language and literature in Saturday schools and at Depew Adult Continuing Education classes, died Wednesday in her Depew home. She was 93.

Born in Buffalo, she attended St. Luke’s School and then Villa Maria High School. In her senior year at Villa Maria, her father decided girls didn’t need an education and wouldn’t pay her tuition.

She was determined to get her high school diploma, however, and she switched to East High School, from where she graduated.

During World War II, Mrs. Kaczmarek worked at a defense plant as a riveter and a welder, because those were the highest-paying jobs, and also worked as a seamstress for the M. Wile Co.

When her children were in college, she decided to further her own education, and at age 59 graduated from Empire State College with a bachelor of arts degree in Polish cultural studies.

Proud of her Polish heritage, Mrs. Kaczmarek spoke fluent Polish and taught it for several years in Polish Saturday schools at St. Adalbert’s and St. Luke’s. She became the director of the Polish Saturday school at St. Luke’s. She also taught Polish at Depew Middle School and in Depew Adult Continuing Education classes.

In 1971, Mrs. Kaczmarek was invited to attend a course on the methodology of teaching Polish at the Jagiellonian University in Koszalin, Poland.

The course was attended by teachers of Polish from countries in Europe and North America.

Mrs. Kaczmarek thought it was interesting to hear Polish spoken with a French or a German accent, but when they tried to guess by her accent where she was from, people thought she was from Poland.

She was especially proud of being the recipient of a special most-merited teachers commemorative medal, presented to her by the rector of the university, an event that was broadcast on the Polish television news.

She and her late husband, Frank, were avid travelers. They traveled Canada from east to west, motored to Mexico City and toured both Poland and Russia.

Survivors include a daughter, Adrienne Norris; one son, Christian; and two granddaughters.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at Blessed Mother Teresa Parish at St. James Church, 496 Terrace Blvd., Depew.

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