SOUTH DEERFIELD - Anthony J. Olszewski, 89, passed away peacefully at his home on Sugarloaf Street early Saturday morning, April 5th. His wife of 65 years, Ellen ""Chris"" (Christensen) Olszewski was by his side.
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Born on Aug., 7, 1924 at his family home on River Road in South Deerfield, ""Tony"" was the eldest son in a family of eight children. Tony attended Deerfield Elementary School, Deerfield High School and graduated from Smith Vocational High School in Northampton.
Tony enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1943. He served as a medic in central Europe during World War II. He retired from the Army at the rank of First Sergeant, E-8, but continued to serve in the Army National Guard from 1948-1967.
He worked as a Manual Arts Technician at the VA Hospital in Leeds, Mass. for 30 years, until his retirement in 1980. While at the VA hospital, he met his beloved wife of 65 years, Ellen, who was finishing up her training as a registered nurse there.
Tony's passion for woodworking and his gift at sharing his expertise inspired the many patients he served as well as the hospital staff. He took great pride in serving his fellow veterans and embraced the opportunity to show his gratitude and appreciation for their service while teaching his craft.
While working at the hospital, Tony received a number of commendations and awards. Two of the most memorable include a 1967 commendation from the hospital director for saving the life of a patient and an award in 1973 for superior performance over a number of years.
Always an active, integral part of the South Deerfield community, Tony volunteered his time for a number of organizations including coaching the American Legion Little League Baseball team and holding the title of Commander at the Hale-Clapp Post of the American Legion in South Deerfield.
Proving that no task was too daunting, Tony put his skills as a master cabinet maker to use when he single-handedly built his home and nearly all of the furniture in it. His artistic merit ranged far beyond traditional woodworking projects to include clock making, hand-carved signs, ornate picture frames, weather vanes and much more. His elegant grandfather clock stands proudly in his living room reminding those closest to him of his long, fruitful life and his indomitable creative energy.
Always intellectually inquisitive, Tony was an avid reader devouring thick novels and mysteries with complex plots on a daily basis. Like many in his great generation, he had a true understanding of the significance of historical events that shaped our nation and he used this broad perspective to constantly contemplate and revisit his attitudes, beliefs, hopes and dreams. He always saw the world as dynamic and was an eager participant in all he undertook. His sharp mind and keen wit always precipitated lively discussion with family and friends. Tony was a formidable debater due to his understanding of a wide range of issues in the local, state, national and international spheres. He could generate a fascinating repartee with nearly anyone and he continually amazed his family with his seemingly endless knowledge of numerous and varied subjects.
He remained intellectually curious and engaged even in the last few weeks of his life reading the editorial pages of our local newspapers, finishing a hefty Tom Clancy novel, and engaging his nurses and family members in deeply philosophical discussions about his end on life choices. Always a deep thinker, he challenged us to listen, and learn to the end. Tony's humility, work ethic, devotion to family and pride in his Polish heritage and culture were the cornerstones of his long and productive life journey.
Tony was predeceased by his parents, Stafania (Mioduszewski) Olszewski of Rutki, Poland, and Jan Olszewski of Bialystok, Poland, as well as his brothers, John and Theodore, and sisters Helen, Ann and Genevieve.
He is survived by his wife Ellen and his brothers, Francis and Ralph of South Deerfield and Whately; his four children and their spouses, David and Lucie Olszewski of Blandford, Judith and David Dancey of Brisbane, Australia, James and Diane Olszewski and Robert and Donna Olszewski of South Deerfield. He is also survived by seven grandchildren, Christian, Candace, Rachel, Andrea, Nathan, Ashlee and Jonah.
Though he is irreplaceable and will be deeply missed by family and friends alike, his legacy will burn brightly in our shared recollections and our retelling of favorite anecdotes at all the Olszewski Family reunions and important events to come. For all of us who loved him, he was the true embodiment of a life well lived.
The Wrisley Funeral Home on Sugarloaf Street in South Deerfield is entrusted with arrangements.
Calling hours will be from 4 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 10.
A service to celebrate Anthony's life will be held at the Wrisley Funeral Home at 11 a.m. on Friday, April 11.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Hospice of the Fisher Home, 1165 N. Pleasant Street, Amherst, MA 01002. The hospice staff lovingly cared for Anthony during his last weeks of life.
Expressions of sympathy are available at:
Wrisley Funeral Home
90 Sugarloaf Street
South Deerfield, MA 01373
Published in The Recorder on Apr. 8, 2014