PETERBOROUGH - Andrew P. Kordalewski, 90, passed away peacefully on Monday Feb. 24, 2014, at the RiverMead Retirement Community in Peterborough after a period of failing health.
He was born in Johnston, Rhode Island on July 23, 1923, the son of Vaclau and Emma (Hackett) Kordalewski. Five years later, the family moved to Hinsdale, Mass. a small hamlet in the Berkshire Mountains. They lived on a chicken farm, with no electricity or indoor plumbing. He attended a one-room school, and also spent much time playing with and reading to his sister, who was in a full body cast for extended periods because of problems with her hip. His father became bedridden in 1934, and would die the next year; at that point, Andrew assumed the primary responsibility of helping his mother with the farm work. He credits his experiences growing up on the farm with shaping his values and perspectives. Neighbors helped each other without being asked.
After graduating from Pittsfield High School, he attended radio school in Boston, and worked at a radio station in Laconia. He enlisted in the Marines in 1943, served in the Pacific, and was discharged in 1946. He then got a job at a radio station in Washington, D.C., where he met his future wife, Jean Benneyan. They were married in 1950, and remained so until she died from Alzheimer's Disease in 2003.
Mr. Kordalewski attended Gettysburg College on the G.I. Bill, and received his bachelor's degree in physics in 1952. He and his wife then relocated to Syracuse, N.Y., where working in the Semiconductor Division of General Electric, he participated in research contributing to the development of the transistor as a widely-used technology. In the 1960's he moved from G.E. to Carrier Corporation, and also began studying toward his master's degree in engineering administration, which he received from Syracuse University in 1970. From 1975 until his retirement in 1992 he worked for the Niagara Mohawk Power Company.
His wife Jean was a community leader, serving as President of the Fayetteville-Manlius school board and Executive Director of the Regional Learning Service, a human service agency. Andrew was comfortable playing a supportive role and letting the bulk of the attention go to her. He won people over without trying because of the goodness he projected. He was someone that people would call on to help with various problems. He was also involved in a variety of community affairs: as a canoe instructor for the Red Cross, ski patrolman, member of the Town of Manlius Environmental Council, deacon at Pebble Hill Presbyterian Church, and Board member for Fayetteville-Manlius A Better Chance (a program of educational opportunity for low-income students of color) and Aurora of Central New York (an agency serving blind and visually impaired individuals). He and Jean loved the outdoors and together they did much canoeing in the Adirondacks and hiking in the White Mountains.
In 1992, his wife Jean was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. He embraced his new role as caregiver, later referring to a Joseph Campbell quote, "We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us." In 1995, they moved to the RiverMead Retirement Community in the Monadnock region, whose landscapes reminded him of his childhood in the Berkshires. While she was in RiverMead's nursing facility, he spent most of his days and evenings with her. People around him were struck by how he remained connected to her as her physical and mental abilities were stripped away. "I did not feel," he later wrote, "that now I have a different person. To me Jean was still the same person; she just couldn't do some of the things she did before. That gave me the opportunity to do them for her."
After Jean's passing in 2003, he had several years of good health. From the time they moved to RiverMead, his generous and loving nature made him many friends both within the retirement community and in Peterborough at large. He served on the Board of the Monadnock Institute for Nature, Place and Culture, and was a founding member of the Monadnock Community Hospital Capital Campaign Committee. He enjoyed sharing the latest additions to his ever-growing book collection with those around him. The nursing and kitchen staff at RiverMead loved him.
In 2011 he moved to RiverMead's nursing unit, where his character continued to inspire those around him until the day of his passing.
In addition to his mother, father, and wife; he is predeceased by his brother Alban and his sister Elinore. He is survived by his son, John, and daughter in law, Jacquelyn, of Milton, Mass. A memorial mass will be held later this spring at Divine Mercy Parish, 18 Vine Street, Peterborough, N.H. Memorial contributions can be sent to Fayetteville-Manlius A Better Chance, PO Box 355, Manlius, N.Y. 13104 (www.fmabetterchance.org
). Jellison Funeral Home and Cremation Services is assisting the family with arrangements. To view an online obituary or leave the family a condolence please visit www.jellisonfuneralhome.com