This page contains an eulogy given by Professor Jack Mrowka for his mother during the May memorial service, and a remembrance by Gary Mrowka, one of Jack's brother. They reveal a side of Jack that most of colleagues, friends, and students may not get to see.
Jack and his family. The middle one in the back is Jack.
by Jack P. Mrowka
Our Mom was a truly awesome human being.
She was a magnificent role model for anyone wishing to live life to the fullest.
Mom had an incredible zest for life.
She was an “All American mother”.
Mom was the hardest working person I have ever known.
She was up early every day and stayed up late every night -- usually with knitting needles in full motion when she wasn’t playing cards with the family.
On Sundays we used to go to 6:30 am mass because it was the earliest one she could find to start the day.
Mom loved to dance and she beautifully danced her way through life, radiant and always projecting happiness and a positive attitude, with a flamboyance and style straight from Fredericks of Hollywood.
Our mother could be very serious when necessary, however she was mostly light and funny.
She was fearless and she made us very proud to be her sons.
I could boast that she was the only mother at my school who drove stock cars in powder-puff stock car races.
Our mother was the “breathe of fresh air” and “live-wire” in my father’s life and in my step-dad Paul Mason’s life as well.
She was the greatest and wisest parent I have ever known.
She was both a stern taskmaster and a gentle heart.
Make no mistake about it – she raised six boys.
She was the “heavy”, the enforcer, the bouncer AND she was the “warm hearth”, the “safe-haven” in the storm, the wise counsel with kindness and understanding.
Mom made sure we went to church every Sunday, and she gave us the great gift of the Catholic faith.
Mom was an outstanding teacher of life and living. She taught by her example, serving as an unforgettable role model for the hardest job in the world – parenting.
She treated each of her children very differently – not as one homogeneous same model – “one pattern fits all”.
Mom clearly understood our individual uniqueness, talents and needs.
She nurtured us and gave us our freedom to grow in the directions and careers that we chose – every one of the six boys being very different from the others.
She encouraged us to always do our best, work hard, and enjoy life with a positive attitude and care and kindness toward others.
Her’s was a wonderful and exciting life and she left the world a much better place because of her time and energy spent here on Earth.
She did change the world and made it a kinder and gentler place.
Thanks Mom –
from your loving sons and all who have benefited from your kindness
I must add a post script -- that in her latter years Mom especially loved all of her wonderful grand children and great-grand children. They and their achievements brought her great joy and satisfaction.
Thank you all in attendance for being so nice to my mother and bringing her so much joy in life.
by Gary Mrowka
We were deeply touched by the many kind remarks and tributes at Jack's memorial service and on this website from his colleagues and students. There were many things you shared of his accomplishments that we would not otherwise have known. As many of you shared, Jack was very humble about his successes, and would say to us "oh it's no big deal", if he shared them at all.
Jack was the second oldest of our family of 6 brothers. Myself being 10 years younger, I have many early memories of Jack and of being proud to say that he was my big brother. Our Dad once owned and flew a Piper Cub. As a family grows priorities change. Our Dad sold the airplane and bought Jack a trumpet. Jack later passed it on to me when I was older.
Another was when Jack was in the early days of school. One of his secrets for doing quick book reports was to read Classic comic books.
I remember going to his high school play in which he was the lead character-- the father of the household. I thought that it was pretty cool that they made his hair gray. Anyway-it could have been his early roots for keeping a captive audience.
You may have heard of his fondness for South America. While in high school he was an exchange student in Panama. While he was in Panama, we had a substitute brother, Rodrigo Borja, from Quito, Ecuador (he later became the President of Ecuador). Jack graduated from Pavilion High School in Pavilion, N.Y. After graduating he went to work on the Great Lakes working as a seaman on a lake boat freighter to earn extra money to attend the University of Buffalo. He was very frugal with his money. With his scholarship and a little extra money he earned, he was able to buy a brand new red Triumph Spitfire. Yes, that was quite exciting to be able to ride with my "big brother, the college student" in his red Triumph.
Jack loved the rivers, but I remember one of his early adventures. I was glad I was not in his shoes when he came home from kayaking the Canandaigua outlet. It was during the spring when the waters were high. He came home with our Dad's wood and canvas kayak in pieces!
Some of you may remember an advertisement in 1962, "See the USA in a Chevrolet"-- our Dad took it seriously. The Mrowka family took a trip across the USA in 1962. There were 7 of us in a 1962 Chevrolet Impala convertible, towing a tent camper. Our father was probably Jack's first mentor for geography. He planned an extremely memorable trip showing us much of what Jack later studied in depth. One of my most vivid memories was of all of us boys collecting rocks from one end of the country to the other. You can imagine the weight they added to the car-our mother finally had to call a halt to our collection so we could all still fit in the car! So, you see Jack has been collecting rocks and studying geography for many years before his formal studies began. And oh yes, on that trip my Mom took many, many pictures for memorable slide shows. Sound familiar?
In the last months of Jacks life, we had many days and hours together during our stepfather's and our mother's final days of December 2001, and January and February 2002. We were grateful to be together even in the sad times. You see, with three brothers living on the east coast and three on the west coast and our parents living in Florida, it was difficult to get together. When I told Jack that Memorial Day weekend would be the best date for our mother's memorial service for most of our family, he stated that was the same weekend as the graduation for his students. I felt badly that he had to miss graduation; because he had told me he
always looked forward to his graduations and hated to miss this very special event. Jack delivered a beautiful eulogy for our mother that we will not forget.
I will miss Jack very much. I have definitely been blessed to have such a model of generosity, compassion, integrity and accomplishments as my brother.
And will always be proud to say, "That's my big brother Jack."