Thomas William Wisniewski, 62, of McAdoo, died peacefully Monday at Geisinger Medical Center, Danville. "He walked the walk and talked the talk," a nurse who cared for him there said shortly after his death.
His strong faith in God and the compassion he exuded touched many people's lives. Everyone he knew was greeted with a genuine smile and likely a good conversation. Tom was a loving husband, father, brother, uncle and friend, and his life story is truly an inspiration.
Tom grew up in the Green Ridge section of West Hazleton and went to Transfiguration School and West Hazleton High School, where he joined the marching band as a drummer. His musical talent followed him to college, where he played in a Christian rock band and toured in several states.
He attended St. Pius X Seminary, Dalton, and studied a short time at St. Mary's College, Kentucky, before graduating from the University of Scranton in 1972.
He was a connoisseur of pie; cherry and pumpkin were his favorite flavors. He worked with his brother, Jack, on a Mrs. Smith's pie truck and later got his own delivery route. He had great nostalgia for the Mrs. Smith's brand. Later he had an Arnold bakery route, which he expanded into the Williamsport area.
Tom settled in McAdoo and began working for the state of Pennsylvania, first in a PennDOT office and later for state Sen. Joseph Gurzenda. His career continued as he became a journalist and photographer for the Sunday Independent.
He became editor of the Hazleton bureau and covered many landmark stories in the Hazleton area in the 1980s. He forever remained a newshound; he loved reading the newspaper, and he rarely missed the 6 p.m. news until the advent of the DVR. He loved taking photos, preserving life's memories for his family and friends.
Tom married Susan Orman in 1979, and they spent more than 34 years together. The newlyweds often joined their friends for parties at the former Hazle Park Lake, and they frequented New England's scenic coast.
Tom's community meant a great deal to him, and he was eager to serve it in any way he could. He was a member of the McAdoo Lions Club and one of the McAdoo ambulance's first certified EMTs. His efforts were instrumental in forming Greater Hazleton's first paramedic unit.
He was a man of faith and an eloquent speaker, becoming a Eucharistic minister and lector at St. Kunegunda's Church, McAdoo. He joined a revitalization effort and helped organize McAdoo's food pantry and church heritage tour. He was a member of Holy Rosary Church, Hazleton.
With the support of other dedicated volunteers, Tom re-sparked McAdoo's tradition of block parties by starting the annual Southside Days festival. He often foretold McAdoo's potential as a business and tourism hub. Many people in his home town knew and looked up to him.
Showing his inner entrepreneur, he bought Bresky Baker Supply and helped turn it into the bustling cake and candy business it is today. Amid the late hours he spent at his new venture, he kept his longtime job as a salesman for Kraft Foods. He serviced grocery stores in different regions over the years, including Hazleton, Reading, Wilkes-Barre, Scranton and the Poconos until his retirement.
His colleagues respected him for his fairness and for being a "straight shooter," and he considered many of them personal friends. His perseverance showed in hundreds of creative store displays he built.
From his son's birth in 1990 until today, he was a terrific example of a father. He made life fun for young Adam and built "Wizzyworld," a backyard clubhouse they enjoyed together. When his son became a Cub Scout at age 7, Tom joined as a leader. Whether he was at day camp, a Pinewood Derby race, a weekend campout or even a mall sleepover, Tom left lasting memories on his son and the other boys. He proudly helped his son with Scout projects well into his teenage years.
Tom loved his siblings, nieces, nephews and his whole family. He often had holiday cookouts and invited them each year to Christmas Eve dinner. He looked forward to each vacation he took with his wife and son, including a recent trip to Nova Scotia and a road trip through the American West.
Tom was intently dedicated to his son's education at MMI Preparatory School, Freeland. He became involved with school events, rallied school spirit among the students and contributed his guidance to the school's board, benefiting the education of countless youth. He was loved by many at MMI.
Tom always appeared exuberant and in good health, but for 19 years he silently had a rare blood disorder. For more than a decade, he did not need treatment. But when he did, he became a "poster child" for cutting-edge trial medicines that are today considered standard. He continued to work and be an active family man.
When his illness converted to leukemia and he needed a bone marrow transplant, his sister Gloria was a matching donor. During his six-month stay at Geisinger, battling infections and complete weakness, friends and family chipped in with cards, photos and, most important, prayers.
The nurses and staff were like his family at Geisinger. When his transplant was brought into his room in 2009, they surrounded him, smiling, like it was his birthday party. He was against steep odds, and his doctors considered him a medical miracle.
Tom never lost his faith in God and he praised Geisinger's chaplain program and the faith his caregivers openly showed.
Meanwhile, Adam and his classmates at MMI were about to graduate. Tom vowed not to miss this milestone and was granted a leave from the hospital. Looking frail but strong at heart, he was greeted at the ceremony with wild applause. He made a remarkable recovery, and by the next year was back to his energetic self.
He joined a support group in which he inspired many great people like himself who were battling cancer. Tom was as proud of his family as they were of him, and he watched his son attend Scranton, his alma mater.
He found out he needed a second marrow transplant, which is common, but unexpectedly, a brief illness cut his life short.
Please keep his family in your prayers, including his wife, Sue; son, Adam; sisters, Pat Hovanetz and Gloria Schott, her husband, Ron Schott, and their sons, Bill and Peter; sister-in-law, Theresa Krauzlis; and various other relatives whom he united two years ago in the family's first reunion.
Preceding him in death were his father, William Wisniewski, in 1955; mother, Wanda (Yotko) Wisniewski, in 2004; and brother, Jack Krauzlis, in 1998.
Great people like Tom are touched by the love and care of the Geisinger family every day. Gifts can be sent to the department where Tom received his transplant. Checks can be written to Geisinger Health System Foundation GMC Cancer Fund, with a memo of Tom Wisniewski memorial, and mailed to Geisinger Health System Foundation GMC Cancer Fund, 100 N. Academy Ave., Danville, PA 17822. The patients will thank you for helping them recover. Tom also advocated donating to Red Cross blood drives.
A private funeral will be held at the convenience of the family, and he will be laid to rest in Transfiguration Cemetery, West Hazleton.
The Stanley E. Anilosky Funeral Home, McAdoo, is assisting the family with funeral arrangements.
Stanley E Anilosky & Son Funeral Home
145 S Kennedy Dr Mc Adoo, PA 18237
Published in Times Leader on July 19, 2013