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Philip J. and Ada J. Pawlowski, caseworkers who lived as artists, died 15 days apart

Philip J. Pawlowski, May 21, 1948 – Dec. 21, 2018
Ada J. Pawlowski, June 5, 1948 – Jan. 5, 2019

Philip Pawlowski saw Ada Manke in his poetry class at the University at Buffalo in the late 1960s and, according to their daughter Ingrid, he was fascinated by her style.

A music major, he had attended seminary briefly before abandoning thoughts of becoming a priest. She was an art major in bright colors, miniskirts and a blond beehive hairdo.

“He came up to her one day at lunch with a piece of watermelon,” Ingrid said. Before long, they were writing love poems to one another. They were married in 1969.

Both were born 15 days apart in 1948 in Buffalo – Philip J. Pawlowski on May 21, Ada J. Manke on June 5.

He was her caretaker as she weathered chronic health problems during the past few years. She was a patient in Buffalo General Medical Center when he was stricken ill suddenly last month while walking their dogs. He died in the hospital Dec. 21. She died there 15 days later, on Jan. 5. Both were 70.

Both were only children. He was a 1966 graduate of Cleveland Hill High School in Cheektowaga and she was a 1966 graduate of Kensington High School.

After marrying, they continued pursing the arts. He studied for a while at a conservatory and later gave piano lessons and published poetry. She had her own photography darkroom, made jewelry and won awards for quilts and clothing she created.

To make ends meet, she became a social worker and convinced him to follow her into the field. She earned a degree in social work from Empire State College. He completed a master’s degree in social work at Buffalo State College.

Both found positions with the Erie County Department of Social Services. He was a caseworker for Child Protective Services and retired about 10 years ago. She assisted clients with their employment and living arrangements until departmental cutbacks during the county budget crisis in the mid 2000s.

Wanting children, they scrimped to adopt two girls, Ingrid and Hannah, from an orphanage in Calcutta, India, in the late 1980s. Ada became a spokeswoman for Ours Through Adoption, a support group.

Complications arose in their second adoption, of Hannah. The agency making the arrangements in India lost its license, prompting a rush to complete the necessary paperwork before a deadline. This made the process more expensive. The money Ada set aside to pay for it was stolen, Ingrid said, and she had to sell her photography equipment to raise more cash.

The adoptions deepened her interest in Indian culture and inspired her to create clothing with ethnic patterns.

She made kimonos, Tibetan coats, Turkish pants and Afghanistan-style dresses, selling them in shops in Buffalo, Elma and the Chautauqua Institution. She won several awards, including the Tri-Color Award at the Erie County Fair for the best garment in the clothing and construction category.

After the Pawlowskis moved from the city’s East Side to the West Side in the early 1990s, Ada was active with the Parkside Community Association, serving as crime prevention coordinator.

Philip became a dedicated gardener. He landscaped their home on West Delavan Avenue, which became part of the Buffalo Garden Walk. He served on the Niagara District advisory committee for Buffalo in Bloom.

Philip practiced Buddhism, Ingrid said, and meditated among waterfalls in Zoar Valley. Ada was drawn to Wicca, her daughter noted, and filled the garden with Wiccan spheres and crystals.

They also made extra efforts to celebrate Christian holidays with their daughters. Ingrid recalled a house filled with decorations and her father playing carols on the piano.

“They made the holidays magical,” she said. “There would be footprints of the Easter bunny and we had a plethora of gifts. Sometimes they didn’t pay bills so we could have gifts.”

Aside from their daughters, there are no other survivors.

A gathering in their memory will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12, in Lombardo Funeral Home, 4614 Main St. near Harlem Road, Snyder.

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