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Chester Pawenska, 89, longtime insurance agent who 'never met a stranger'

Chester Pawenska, 89, longtime insurance agent who 'never met a stranger'

July 18, 1929 – Jan. 8, 2019

Chester "Chet" Pawenska loved people.

"He never met a stranger," said his daughter Karen Rogowski. "He never walked away from meeting somebody without knowing their name and how to spell it, where they came from and where they went to school."

He actively supported his alma maters, Canisius High School and Canisius College.

But most of all, he cherished his wife, three daughters, 13 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. "Family was everything to him," said Rogowski.

Mr. Pawenska, of Amherst, an Allstate Insurance agent for 47 years, died Jan. 8, 2019, in the rehab facility of Brothers of Mercy in Clarence. He was 89.

He was the first child of Polish immigrants John and Caroline (Janusik) Pawenska, and the brother of Stanley. The family lived on Lathrop Street when Mr. Pawenska a child, then moved into a modest wood-frame house on Sattler Avenue that had no basement. Mr. Pawenska and his father, who was a bricklayer for a railroad, dug a basement that eventually held a workbench, summer kitchen, washing machine and shelves for home-canned foods, said Karen Rogowski.

Mr. Pawenska graduated from Canisius High School in 1947 and earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Canisius College in 1952.

When he was a student at Canisius College, he met Helen Barrett, a student nurse in the Sisters Hospital School of Nursing, on a blind date on New Year's Eve. One of Mr. Pawenska's friends, who had a date but no car, asked Mr. Pawenska if he could drive both couples if the friend could find him a date. The arrangement worked out and the couple married on April 14, 1952, in St. James Catholic Church.

After graduating from Canisius, Mr. Pawenska worked in quality control at International Milling in Buffalo.

He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in April of 1953, serving at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas and Keesler Air Force Base in  Mississippi and achieving the rank of 2nd lieutenant. He then served in the Air Force Reserves until the early 1960s.

In 1954, he began working for Allstate Insurance at a stand-up sales booth in the Sears Roebuck store at the Thruway Plaza in Cheektowaga. He also made house calls. He later worked in an Allstate office at 3800 Union Road in Cheektowaga, then opened his own office on George Urban Boulevard in Depew.

He received the Allstate Honor Ring for high achievement and many other awards during his career. He retired in 2001.

After retirement, "He lived for his grandchildren," said Rogowski. "Our kids were always involved with sports and activities, and my parents were always there for every event."

Mr. Pawenska was known for being dapper, said his daughter. "He always wore a suit and tie to work, a sport coat to church, and he still had a full head of hair, so he always carried a comb in his pocket."

He was a member of the Alumni Board of Directors at Canisius College and past president of its Alumni Association. He was inducted into its DiGamma Honor Society  and received the LaSalle Medal, the highest honor bestowed on an alumnus for service to the college. He was a member of its Leadership Society, the Rev. James M. Demske ’47 SJ Society and the Blue and Gold Athletic Booster Club. He chaired reunions and fundraising campaigns and was a committee member and past chair of the annual Little Three Golf Tournament.

In 1999, the Pawenskas began to spend time in Naples, Fla., where Mr. Pawenska joined the planning committee for Canisius events. On their 50th and 60th wedding anniversaries, the Pawenskas renewed their wedding vows. Mrs. Pawenska died on June 9, 2016.

An avid golfer, Mr. Pawenska was an active 40-year member of the Park Country Club of Buffalo and a former member of its Board of Governors. He was also active in the Naples Heritage Golf and Country Club in Florida, and had two holes-in-one over the years, one in each of his clubs.

Since 1966, he was an active parishioner of St. Gregory the Great Church in Amherst and a member of its men's golf league. He belonged to the Knights of Columbus Father Justin Council.

He was active in the Buffalo Bills Quarterback Club and Bills Backers Club of Naples and a member of the Polish Arts Club of Buffalo.

Mr. Pawenska is survived by his daughters Maureen Gallagher, Karen Rogowski and Laure Bowman; 13 grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren; his brother, Stanley Pawenski, and several nieces and nephews. A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10:30 a.m. Saturday in St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church, 200 St. Gregory Court, Amherst. Memorials may be made to Canisius High School or the Pawenska Family Scholarship Fund at Canisius College.

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