Stanley Gawlinsksi, 86, was a veteran of World War II who served in the Army Air Force in the Pacific. “That’s one thing he was very proud of,” said his son-in-law, Thomas Szerlak. “He wore his hat all the time and was a proud veteran.”
Gawlinski lived with his daughter and son-in-law for the past two decades and Szerlack would sometimes talk to him about his time during the war. “He said that going to Okinawa, it was his first time on a boat and he got sicker than a dog,” said Szerlack. “He saw little combat. He shared that he enjoyed his time overseas.”
A native of Calumet City, Gawlinski married shortly after his return from military service. His wife had two children from a previous marriage and the couple had three more children. He had more than 20 grandchildren and over a dozen great-grandchildren.
As a shop foreman, Gawlinski worked in factories in the south suburbs and also did steel working jobs on the weekends.
His daughter, Dee Szerlak, said that in his younger days, he enjoyed hunting and fishing, but in recent years his favorite past time was woodworking. “He made beautiful things like wooden baskets for outdoor planting, crucifixes, small decorative baskets, shelves, frames. Everything had carved out patterns,” she said.
She recalled him being a strict father who didn’t let them get away with much as kids. “We were afraid of him, but he cared about us,” said his daughter. “If you sat and took the time to talk to him, he would give you probably the best advice a kid could get.”
Szerlack said his father-in-law was a skilled carpenter and the go-to “fix-it man.”
“He was one hell of a carpenter and electrician,” said his son-in-law. “The man was phenomenal. He could fix just about anything.”