Edward P. Kurdziel, a Cheektowaga resident honored as a town "Senior Citizen of the Year" for his extensive volunteer work, died Saturday in Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Buffalo, after a brief illness. He was 86.
The Buffalo native attended Corpus Christi School on the city's East Side until the eighth grade, when he had to leave school to support his family.
Mr. Kurdziel worked in the Civilian Conservation Corps. By World War II, he had married and had a young child but still volunteered for the Army. He was stationed in the Philippines, attaining the rank of staff sergeant.
After he returned from the war, Mr. Kurdziel sold peanuts on Main Street.
As a night watchman at a downtown Buffalo theater in the 1940s, Mr. Kurdziel befriended a performer he found backstage after a show. When the man said he couldn't afford a hotel room, Mr. Kurdziel let him sleep under some stage curtains and gave him part of his lunch of a bologna sandwich and an orange.
That man, later known to a wider audience as comedian Red Skelton, remembered this kindness in a get-well note to Mr. Kurdziel in the early 1990s.
Mr. Kurdziel retired from the U.S. Postal Service and was a volunteer with the South Line Fire Department in Cheektowaga for more than 40 years.
He also volunteered with Erie County Meals on Wheels; the Veterans Affairs Medical Center; Adam Plewacki Post 799, American Legion; Leonard Post Jr. Post 6251, Veterans of Foreign Wars; and the Cheektowaga Patriotic Association.
He received a community service award from Gov. George E. Pataki's office in 1999.
He was chaplain of the Bellevue Seniors and a Eucharistic minister at St. James Catholic Church, Depew.
His wife, the former Ceil Elminowski, died in 1999. His first wife, the former Anne Struzik, died in 1972.
Survivors include three daughters, Joanne Skok of Akron, Mary Janet Wroblewski of Lancaster and Geraldine Czerwik of Palm Coast, Fla.; two sons, Norb Elminowski of Cheektowaga and David Elminowski; a brother, Gerald "Gino" of Depew; 14 grandchildren; and 23 great-grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in St. James Church, 496 Terrace Blvd., Depew, after prayers at 8:45 in Barron-Miller Funeral Home, 3025 William St., Cheektowaga. Entombment will be in Mount Calvary Cemetery, Cheektowaga.