He was born in the US in 1924, but his family was so poor that they moved back to Poland between the World Wars for a chance at a better life. He remembered being hungry there, too; sometimes, he said, the spoon just wasn't big enough. His father was addicted to tobacco, and he remembered the anger he felt that his father would spend money on that rather than on food for the family.
It was a lesson he
apparently learned well. He moved back to this country, and married a
woman who had been in a Nazi labor camp as a child. Together, they had
four girls. Neither he nor his wife had as much as a seventh-grade
education, but they sent all four girls to college, and he and his
wife wound up owning four houses (one in Florida, and three in
Wallington, NJ, a town so Polish that the Arab who runs the convenience
store speaks Polish). One son-in-law died shortly after the first
grandson was born; that grandson called him Dzadziu (Polish for
“Grandpa”) and looked up to him as his father. Four other granchildren also called him Dzadziu, and two years ago, his first great-grandson was born.
Brzęk died today, March 3, 2016, a few weeks before his 92nd