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Eddie Gadawski, 97, renowned for tribute to Fighting Irish in his Niagara Falls restaurant

Sept. 15, 1920 – Dec. 24, 2017

Eddie Gadawski was legendary. So is his restaurant in Niagara Falls.

Mr. Gadawski, who died after a short illness at the age of 97 on Christmas Eve in Our Lady of Peace Nursing Care Residence, Lewiston, never went to a class at the University of Notre Dame, but he was a tremendous fan of its football team.

He attended 200 home games on the campus in South Bend, Ind. For 15 years straight, he was there every time the Fighting Irish played in Notre Dame Stadium. At 15 post-season bowl contests, he cheered them on from the stands.

His enthusiasm gained him induction as an honorary member of Leahy’s Lads, a charitable organization named for the unbeaten teams that Coach Frank Leahy led in the late 1940s. He also was invited to be a member of the Notre Dame Alumni Association of Buffalo and was voted No. 1 Subway Alumni.

He made Gadawski’s Restaurant at East Falls Street and Portage Road a monument to his devotion and a mecca for fans.

In his book “Touchdown Jesus: Faith and Fandom at Notre Dame,” author Scott Eden characterized Gadawski's as “on a national scale, the ne plus ultra of Notre Dame Bars.”

Eden wrote: “Its walls and cabinets and backbars and doorways and windows and ceilings – every surface, horizontal and vertical – have been layered with Notre Dame memorabilia, acquired piecemeal ... over the decades. Its interior has the texture of Carlsbad Caverns. It is an elaborate rococo homage to one man’s passion.”

Edward L. Gadawski was born in Niagara Falls, the son of Polish immigrants, and lived his entire life on the same block of East Falls Street in what was once the heart of the city’s Polish community. He picked up his love of Notre Dame football as a boy, listening to games on the radio with his father.

He was a 1938 graduate of Trott Vocational High School and served stateside in the Army during World War II.

He and the former Irene Jankowski were married in 1948 in Holy Trinity Catholic Church on East Falls Street. They took ownership of Jankowski’s, her family’s restaurant next door to the church, in 1951 and changed its name.

While his wife prepared Polish favorites in the kitchen, he manned the bar, greeting customers and telling stories. Known for its chili, crab cakes and pierogi, the restaurant is a favorite of lawyers and politicians.

For the past few years, the couple's sons, Bob and Fred, and daughter, Mary Beth Nugent, have operated the restaurant.

His daughter said that Mr. Gadawski “still would come in daily and sit there at lunchtime and dinnertime and speak with all the customers. He was very good friends with many, many people. He had friends all over the country.”

He was a parishioner of Holy Trinity Church and its Holy Name Society. He also was a member of the Echo Society, the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America, the Eastside Businessmen, the Knights of Columbus and Portage Post 1465, American Legion.

In addition to his wife, sons and daughter, survivors include another son, Anthony; a sister, Jane Danielewicz; 14 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

A private Mass of Christian Burial was offered by Bishop Edward M. Grosz in the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Worship Site of Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph Parish, 27th Street and Independence Avenue. A public memorial celebration will be held at a later date.

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