Oct. 2, 1927 — Aug. 10, 2018
A small clipping from the Jamestown Post-Journal of July 16, 1948, tells of the glory days of Eugene J. Wisniewski, known by most people as a longtime accountant and a dedicated volunteer at the Matt Urban Center.
Under the headline, "Jamestown Signs Player for '49," is the story: "Eugene Wisniewski, 20-year-old outfielder from Buffalo, has been signed by the Jamestown Falcons for 1949, Business Manager Marty Haines announced today.
"Wisniewski stands 5 feet 11 inches, weighs 185 and has hit eight home runs in the last 13 games he has played with the Corpus Christi's, a semi-pro team operating out of the Bison City. He is a righthander all the way."
It's not clear how long Mr. Wisniewski played for the Falcons, a Detroit Tigers affiliate, or why he left the game. It's possible that his career was cut short by his father's influence. An assistant editor of the Am-Pol Eagle, Peter Wisniewski strongly suggested that his son pursue a more stable career.
But in any case, those days lived on in Mr. Wisniewski's memory as he worked in accounting and later as a dedicated volunteer with the Matt Urban Center. He asked that the photo of him as a young man, wearing his Falcons cap, be used with his death notice in the newspaper.
Mr. Wisniewski died Aug. 10 in the Veterans Affairs Medical Center after a long illness. He was 90.
He was born in Buffalo, one of four sons of Peter and Theresa Wysoczynski Wisniewski. With his siblings, twins Robert and Norman and Arthur, he grew up on Woltz Avenue. He graduated from Transfiguration grade school and a Buffalo public high school before playing for the Falcons.
"He told me he signed for $500," said his niece, Camille Chittenden.
Mr. Wisniewski attended college for one year and worked as a loading dock foreman for the RCA Victor Corp. in Buffalo before enlisting in the Army in April 1951. He was promoted to corporal and served in Germany during the Allied occupation, then was discharged in 1953.
For many years, he worked in the accounting department of Merchants Mutual Insurance Co. in Buffalo. He then worked as the controller at the Lt. Col. Matt Urban Human Services Center of Western New York, but retired from there in the mid-1990s as the agency began to computerize. "He hated computers, and he didn't want to learn," said Marlies Wesolowski, the agency's executive director.
But he couldn't stay away from the office. Soon, he was volunteering two days a week.
"He loved the people there," his niece said. "You have to, to be in your late 80s and still volunteering. They taught him to use the computer."
His online breakthrough came when Wesolowski, who knew he dabbled in stocks, offered to teach him how to check the market online. Soon he learned Excel and was doing spreadsheets.
Wesolowski remembered Mr. Wisniewski as a happy man who would usually tell a few jokes upon arriving in the office. "He'd have to get you laughing. Then he'd get serious and want to get to work," she said. "He was just wonderful. He made a point of knowing everybody who worked for us by name, and he always went out of his way to greet people and talk to them."
In addition to volunteering his time, every once in a while Mr. Wisniewski would quietly slip an envelope containing a check onto her desk for her to find, said Weslowski. She would chide him for making donations when he was on a fixed income, but he would brush off her protests, she said.
After suffering a fall a few years ago, Mr. Wisniewski was no longer able to volunteer at the center. "I missed him like crazy," said Wesolowski. "We knew Gene as a member of our family and when he decided he couldn't volunteer anymore, it was a huge loss for us."
Wesolowski recalled that although Mr. Wisniewski "insisted he wasn't soft-hearted," he once helped out a neighbor who needed some money to get veterinary care for her cat. "He just did that out of the goodness of his heart," she said.
Mr. Wisniewski was a longtime parishioner of Corpus Christi Church. He was a fan of the Bills, the Yankees and NASCAR and enjoyed watching golf tournaments on television, Chittenden said. He enjoyed socializing and playing cards for many years with Stephen Ginter, who died in 2016.
Besides his niece Camille Chittenden, he is survived by another niece and a nephew, several great-nieces and great-nephews.
A funeral will begin at 9:30 a.m. Saturday in the Daniel R. Smolarek Funeral Home, 2047 Broadway, Sloan, then continue at 10 a.m. in St. Andrew's Roman Catholic Church, 34 Francis Ave., Sloan.