Brzezinski, Konrad J
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Konrad J. Brzezinski, 92, formerly of Rye, died last week in Corpus Christi, TX. Konrad was the owner of Rye Clock & Jewel shop for nearly 50 years. A graduate of the Horological Institute of America, he was a Master Clockmaker. Konrad was born in Gdenia, Poland in 1921 to a family of master clockmakers. His father was headmaster of the clockmaking school there. At age 17, Konrad ran away from home and joined the Polish Merchant Marines in order to avoid going into the family clock-making business. He achieved the rank of lieutenant in the Polish Merchant Marines. A chef on one of the Polish ships thought Konrad clever and taught him to cook. In 1939, when Germany invaded Poland, Konrad's ship was in harbor in NYC. The US government knew the crew wouldn't want to return to Poland and so found the men homes with Polish-immigrant families in Yonkers. It was here that Konrad learned English and was helped to find a job at St. Joseph's Hospital working as a chef. When the US joined the war in 1942, Konrad enlisted in the US Army. He was a chef in the Officers Mess at an army camp in Arizona when an officer realized that Konrad spoke fluent German as well as Polish. He was reassigned to Camp Ritchie, MD, the US Army Military Intelligence Training Center. There, Konrad spent the war helping train US Army counterintelligence officers in German customs, common mannerisms and everyday speech. Konrad rarely spoke of his time with US Military Intelligence, but in the 1980s the former Camp Ritchie officers invited Konrad to a reunion. When he returned to Rye, Konrad was beaming. Many of the former WW II officers credited his training with saving their lives.
After the war, Konrad became the chef at the Hawthorne-Cedar Knolls School where he met the head of the music department, Mildred Palermo of Rye. Konrad and Millie were married in 1949 and Konrad, giving in to his familial genes, opened the clock shop that was to become a fixture on Purchase Street. Surrounded by hundreds of valuable antique clocks and watches, Konrad could be seen working late into the evening. His countless customers loved to be in the shop at 6 o'clock when all the clocks would chime their different melodies in unison. Konrad's reputation for excellence made him a favorite of antique clock collectors in the region and of municipalities with venerable clock towers. He was called upon to repair the huge clock in Rye City Hall and in those of other towns in Westchester and CT. In the 1990s a documentary about artisans in dying professions featured Konrad. The movie was shown at the Rye Free Reading Room among other venues.
Konrad was predeceased by his wife Mildred, a concert pianist and by his brother Alex, a concert violinst who was also a master watchmaker for Cartier in NYC. Konrad is survived by his wife Ursula and his nieces Claire Palermo Flower of Harrison, Eva Brzezinski Bonano of New Jersey; his nephews Dr. Francis Palermo of Boulder, CO, Dr. Maurice Palermo, Jr. of Reno, NV and Adam Brzezinski of Poland.
No visitation; a Mass of Christian Burial will be held Wednesday, June 26 at Corpus Christi Church, Port Chester, NY at 9:30 AM. Entombment to follow at St. Mary's Cemetery, Rye Brook, NY. Arrangements are being handled by Craft Memorial Home, Port Chester.
Craft Memorial Home Inc
40 Leicester St Port Chester, NY 10573
Published in the The Journal News on June 25, 2013