May 2, 1940 — Feb. 13, 2019
Dolores H. Zakroczemski was devoted to her family, teaching and encouraging her six children and grounding them in a strong Catholic faith.
Her love and concern extended far beyond her home – to neighbors, friends and children in St. Agnes School in Lovejoy, where she worked as a teachers' aide and was known to students as Mrs. Zak.
Mrs. Zakroczemski, 78, died Feb. 13 in the hospice unit at Brothers of Mercy Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Clarence, where she had been since Thanksgiving. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2017.
She was born on May 2, 1940, the oldest child of Stella (Graczyk) and Henry Wargula and sister of Heddy Piechocki and Florian Wargula.
Dolores Wargula met the man who would become her husband, Daniel Zakroczemski, in their Broadway Market neighborhood, and they married on Oct. 25, 1958. He owned his own business, Lovejoy Metals, a heating and air conditioning company.
It was coincidence that their first names both started with D, and it was understandable that their oldest son was named Daniel, after his father, and the youngest daughter named Dolores, after her mother. But the four in between — Danette, Damian, David and Donna — got the same initials.
For much of their childhood, the family lived on Gold Street in Lovejoy.
"It was a beautiful household and a very faith-based household," said daughter Donna Schulz.
In the 1980s, Mrs. Zakroczemski worked as a teachers' aide at St. Agnes School on Ludington Street in Lovejoy for about a decade, her family said.
Donna Schulz recalled how she realized that her mother was "a famous woman in the neighborhood." She and her mother were walking on Lovejoy Street one year during Easter break when they bumped into one of her mother's kindergarten students and the child's mother. "The little girl's mom stopped us and said, 'Do you know what we have been doing this whole Easter vacation? We have been playing school and I have had to be Mrs. Zak!' " she said.
Her daughter Dolores Propis remembered "a little boy, very shy and timid, who really didn't do much talking at all, but he would whisper things in my mom's ear because she was the only one he felt comfortable talking to. She made everyone feel special."
Her family described Mrs. Zakroczemski as an unselfish woman who always put the needs of others first.
She "loved to light candles for people if they had any kind of trouble," said her son David.
If possible, she would light a blessed candle at her church, St. Philip the Apostle in Cheektowaga, or at St. Michael's Church on Washington Street in Buffalo. If she couldn't get to a church, she would light a blessed candle on her stove at home, her family said.
"She was mom to all," said daughter Donna, attracting children "like the Pied Piper" with her sense of fun and interest in their lives. She liked to play music on cassette tapes and dance. She was a Girl Scout and Cub Scout leader.
Mrs. Zakroczemski took an active role in the lives of her granddaughters Brianna and Kaitlyn Propis. "She wasn't a grandmother to my girls; she was a mom to them," said her daughter Dolores. "She made dinners, she did laundry, she came to my house, even my dogs would get excited when I said, 'Grandma's coming!' "
"She always maintained a sense of childlike wonder," said Brianna Propis, who recalled painting with her grandmother and dancing to the music she played. "She loved meeting new people, and she always saw the good in people, always remembered people from way back when. She loved buying gifts for people, and she would personalize them with a letter or a picture."
Mrs. Zakroczemski crocheted blankets as holiday gifts for family and neighbors. She enjoyed making popcorn and chocolate chip cookies.
She was devoted to St. Padre Pio during her final illness. "Even when she was dealing with cancer, and all the struggles that go along with that, she was always asking about and worrying about others," said Dolores Propis. As her health failed, she was still dedicated to taking care of her husband, her family said.
She is survived by her husband of 60 years, Daniel; three sons, Daniel, Damian and David; three daughters, Danette Lelonek, Donna Schulz and Dolores Propis; a sister, Heddy Piechocki; 14 grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and nieces and nephews.
Services will be held at 8:45 a.m. Saturday in Pietszak Funeral Home, 2400 William St., and 9:30 a.m. in St. Philip the Apostle Church, 950 Losson Road, Cheektowaga.