Sunday, July 18, 2010

Memories of Walter Kmiec

June 24, 2010
The best thing about Grandpa was his enthusiasm. He was a people person, and a teller of great tales. His love of life was infectious. People immediately recognized his charm and goodwill, and they responded to him with kindnesses of their own. I knew Grandpa when he was retired, so I saw his enthusiasm directed towards golf, fishing, dining out, the Cubs, swimming in the Blue Pool, and stories about playing minor league baseball and flying fighter planes. But most of all, I saw that enthusiasm directed towards his wife and best friend -- Grandma Bea. My own love of the Cubs (and golf, and Grandma, of course) is no coincidence -- Grandpa was a magnetic personality, and it was impossible not to join him in the things he loved. So it's also no coincidence his grandchildren share his love of people and life in general. Thanks for that and everything else, Grandpa. You will be missed.
Keenan Kmiec,
Los Angeles, California
June 24, 2010

You can't lose Why? Because you have Faith, Courage, and Enthusiasm! This embodied who Grandpa was throughout his life. One who never gave up, even when the love of his life exited this world early. He still kept that same smile, smirk, and with until the end.I had the pleasure of seeing Grandpa during his last week on earth and though the disease had its firm grasp on Grandpa, he still found a way to smile, laugh, and get frustrated with the Cubs losing. I wouldn't trade those few days for anything in the world, not even 100 straight World Series wins from the Cubs.His personality was infectious, his stories were enthralling, and his heart was larger than life. I liked to think that I picked up a few these qualities just by having a birthday one day next to his.He is now re-united with his counterpart where I'm sure Bea is cooking some great meal while Grandpa now looks over from above the legacy he left behind in such a wonderful family.Always in my heart.Love Kiley
Kiley Kmiec,
Playa Del Rey, California
June 14, 2010

My Dear Uncle WallyWhere do I begin....Sometime in my forties.Yes, Uncle Wally was always my Uncle, but with him living in Tampa, and me in Chicago, the distance kept us close, only at appropriate times. We would exchange Christmas, and Easter cards with notes and a few telephone conversations. Sometime in my forties email became a part of Uncle Wally's life, that is the time that our relationship blossomed. We began to communicate on a regular basis, we would pass jokes, updates on our daily life, we became email buddies. Uncle Wally would advise me on everything, in his usual loving, yet grounded way. I saved all of Uncle Wally's emails, they contain his humor, his words of advice, from my boyfriends who he called "deaf, dumb and blind", because they didn"t appreciate his niece, to his advice on "having a plane fly along Lake Michigan with a banner" advertising my real esate business. With the invention of the cell phone and free long distance calls, we would often talk too. Sometimes when I would walk along Lake Michigan, with my friend Anna Kozlowski, we would call Uncle Wally and pass the phone back and forth to listen to his words of wisdom, story telling, or even a history lesson about our home town Chicago. Anna's deceased father and my dear deceased father would often talk about a guy named Joe Podsodewokim, and somehow in our conversation Uncle Wally mentioned Joe's name. Anna almost fell over in shock when she heard Uncle Wally mention that name. She asked "Uncle Wally, how do you know Joe Podsidewokim"? With that, Uncle Wally began to explain the story, the legend of Joe Podsidewokim.Uncle Wally and I over the "middle years" of my life, developed such a caring and loving relationship, he became a true part of my adult life. My friends would oftern ask,"how is Uncle Wally"? When my dear father passed away, Uncle Wally came for his funeral and spent time with me and my mother, his sister. It was a difficult time in which Uncle Wally, as usual, made the time pass with interesting stories about life, his inventions and opinions, he always had a solution. We laughed about his stay, because every time we would pack him up to head for the airport, due to the snow, his flight would cancel. His three day stay turned into three weeks. It was almost like God was telling him to stay a little longer, he was needed.I will miss my Bucktown Kid, his words of wisdom, his dating and business advice, his laughter, his Faith Hope and Enthusiasm!He would often say or write:Dear God, Please make my ears big and strong, so I could listen to Wally, all the day long!Uncle Wally, I'm still listening, and I know that at certain times in my future years, I will hear you!With All My Love,Your NieceMary
Mary Gordon,
Chicago, Illinois

June 01, 2010
faith, courage, and enthusiasm....Grandpa was an incredible human being and one of, if not the most positive person I have ever met. There was no one with better stories to share and I wish I got to hear more. However, I'm sure he's cheering us all on from Heaven with Grandma Bea.
Kloe Kmiec
May 30, 2010

Dad was a Rockwell character, right out of one of those expressive tell-a thousand=stories=with=just=a=look paintings. If you sat in the room with him, whether it was 1973 or 2010, you wanted to study his face & body language to figure out what he was thinking & his next move you. He was a big man, but as graceful on his feet as any Dancing With the Stars winner. And that was just half of his charm. When he took to the stage with his stories he had your attention in a second. He was teaching and telling you something, most often, as amusing Hemmingway. You never knew where it was going or how it would end, but believe me, you smiled and stood there with amazement. Was he pulling your leg or recounting his dreams or the world's demons that were real? His imagination, ingenuity and great big wonderful heart will never be far from me. I'll miss and remember you always, dad and thank you everyday for all that you gave us, especially the gift of your sons. Now go tell mom some stories, she's been waiting for you forever.

Love, Carol
Carol Kmiec,
Malibu, California

May 26, 2010
Doug,I was sorry to read about the death of your dad. It's always difficult to lose a parent, no matter how elderly or ill they might be. I hope your dad had an "easy" death, and be confident that he now enjoys fullness of new life in our Lord!I sympathize with you and your family, but I rejoice with him. He has "finished the race."

Fraternally,Br. Konrad, FSC
Konrad Diebold,
Chicago, Illinois

May 24, 2010
Dear Doug and Warren, My sincerest sympathies on the loss of your dad. I have fond memories of him and your mom so long ago on Dakin Street. I have a particular memory of your dad taking us to St. Hedwig's on a Holy Saturday to have our Easter Baskets blessed. May he rest in peace.

Pat Grimes

May 23, 2010
Warren and Douglas,I was sorry to read of your Dad's passing. He was a wonderful man who I very much respected. He always gave me the benefit of the doubt when others wouldn't.

Your Dad is in a better place.

Jack Terretta


Oil portrait of the pater familias, circa 1974

  • Walter Kmiec, the fourth of the six children of Jan and Mariana Kmiec was born in Chicago on July 30, 1922 and baptised into the Roman Catholic faith;
  • Along with older siblings: Antoinette, John, Stephan and younger sisters Bernice and Wanda lived a comfortable, but not excessive, life; attended Chicago public schools together with religious instruction at St. Hedwig on Chicsgo's North side
  • Civilian Conservationist, 1940-42, Wisconsin and Nevada
  • B17 Flying Fortress Distinguished Flying Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, for 35 air battle campaigns, 1942-45, in general allied air defense of western Europe, including Normandy;
  • Husband of Beatrice Evelyn Neumann (60 years);
  • BSEE, Chicago Technical College, 1954
  • Father of Warren Walter Kmiec (b. 1947), Medical Administrator, University of Wisconsin (Madison);
  • Father of Douglas William Kmiec (b. 1951), U.S. Ambassador; Caruso Family Chair in Constitutional Law, Pepperdine University (on leave), Malibu, California; "Faith & Values" Campaign, Obama for President '08; former Head, Office of Legal Counsel to President Ronald Reagan; author and syndicated writer; 40th Anniversary Distinguished Fulbright Scholar, 1987, (Hong Kong & Kuala Lumpur); White House Fellow, 1982-83
  • Father-in-Law of Carolyn Keenan Kmiec, Weisman Art Museum (on leave); First Lady to the U.S. Ambassador
  • Grandfather of Keenan Douglas Kmiec (b.1979), Lawyer, Los Angeles, fmr. law clerk to Chief Justice John Roberts and Judges Samuel A. Alito, Jr. (3d Cir.) and David H. Sentelle (DC Cir)
  • Grandfather of Katherine Neumann Kmiec (b. 1981), Deputy Counsel, The County of Imperial, California; Mother of Great Grandson Robert Jackson Turner
  • Grandfather of Kiley Conley Kmiec (b. 1984), Director of Worldwide Music Marketing, EA Sports, Playa del Rey, California
  • Grandfather of Kolleen McCafferty Kmiec (b. 1988), Architectural Intern, AP Project, Valletta, European Union, Malta
  • Grandfather of Kloe Dillberg Kmiec (b. 1988), Manager, Specialty Leasing, Caruso Affiliates, The Grove, Los Angeles
  • Grandfather of Zachary Kmiec, Baltimore, Maryland
  • Grandfather of Amos Kmiec, Hawaii
  • Electrical Engineer, Chicago, 1954-79
  • Regular Democratic Organization (Party Captain; 1960 John F. Kennedy for President, Illinois; Six Mayoral Victories)
  • Retired, Tarpon Springs, Florida, 1979
  • Died May 20, 2010 at home in Tarpon Springs.

Oil portrait of Walter Kmiec, circa 1974

Walter Kmiec, 23, engineering student"> id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5494297204913451682" style="FLOAT: left; MARGIN: 0px 10px 10px 0px; WIDTH: 285px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 220px" alt="" src="" border="0" /> In flight, B17, age 20"> id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5494296240438415266" style="FLOAT: right; MARGIN: 0px 0px 10px 10px; WIDTH: 250px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 320px" alt="" src="" border="0" />
My'>">My Father’s Dreams
BY DOUGLAS W. KMIECfrom "America" June 21, 2010
My father dreamed—evenwhen he was not asleep.Scarcely a world problemwent unresolved in my father’s dreams,and there was scarcely a powerfulpolitical figure or captain of industrywhom my father did not readily let inon his dreams through ample, handwrittenmessages.
These dreams, as my fatherdreamed them, created jobs, reducedglobal warming, delivered health careto the poor and the elderly and madesubstantial headway on a cure for cancer—all before lunch. Sadly, it turnsout the cancer cure still needs work.But until that illness ravaged his physicalstrength, my father communicatedhis dreams freely, expecting neithercredit nor recognition. In fact, few ofhis dreams were even acknowledged.Neither Bill Clinton nor the Bushesnor George Steinbrenner ever referredto my father’s counsel.
My fathergreatly admired the philanthropic anddisaster relief work of Bill Clinton asan ex-president. But married to Momfor 60 years, he was troubled and saddenedby President Clinton’s “foolingaround,” as Dad put it. Nevertheless,as far as the world knew, PresidentClinton decided to give greater honorto his marital vows all on his ownwithout Dad’s note to him urgingfidelity and circumspection. Was itWalter Mitty braggadocio for Dad totake personal satisfaction in watchingthe president “straighten out his act”?
Maybe to some, but Dad’s advice wasseldom just a repetition of the prevailingheadline. From the beginning, Dadmenting in a personal essay about continuingmilitary commitments, I willlet you draw your own inferencesabout what Dad had to say. These thought the president deserved a privateconversation with his pastor, notpublic impeachment.Dad reached thisconclusion longbefore much of thenation—and laterthe special prosecutorhimself—had second thoughtsabout what many now see as a mistakenuse of prosecutorial authority.
Dad wrote the Bushes a lot.Because ambassadors must avoid comwereone-way conversations.Putting to one side whether Dadshould get footnotecredit for much ofrecent world history,I found his life tobe an invaluable lessonin political participation.Especially salutary was hisfirm belief that in our democracy it isup to the regular guy—not just DavidBrooks or Mark Shields or even GlennBeck or Bill O’Reilly—to demonstratean appreciation for freedom of speech.
Dad did not dream only politically,either. With the skin-flinty corporateowners of the Cubs keeping Chicagoout of World Series since well beforehis birth, my father seldom hesitatedto let George Steinbrenner know howhis checkbook was “ruining the game”of baseball. Steinbrenner didn’t takethe hint—if one can call a letter in allcaps, pressed hard on school notebookpaper a hint.
Most famous personages wouldignore my father’s dreams. Sometimesthe lack of response would perturb him.After Mom passed away five years ago,Dad felt even more intensely the lonelinessand separation shared by millionsof the elderly who had followed the sun,far from their children and grandchildren,in Buffalo, Philly, Detroit, St.Louis and other rustbelt cities. Life foryoung families today is two-incomebusy, and any time left to share dreamswith seniors is but a truncated add-onto Disneyworld or Busch Gardens orChristmas visits sandwiched into thelines of holiday travel.
Dad did discover, however, a way toopen the minds of others to hisdreams. By sending $5 or $10 to agrowing list of charities, he sharedwidely not only his dreams, but hispoetry, songs and inspirationalprayers. In return, gratitude, for themoney at least, would flow in abundanceto his numbered mailbox at thetrailer park where he lived. Bulk mailwould overtax the “mail lady,” forwhom my father made dutiful expressionsof empathy. Mother Natureappeared to follow Dad’s lead, matchinghis philanthropy for disaster victimswith an increased frequency ofearthquakes, tsunamis and airport closingvolcanoes.
Often my father cleaned out hisclosets—removing baseball caps, shirtsand years of accumulated Father’s Daystuff he was too nice to say didn’t fit.Driving into his neighborhood, onewould encounter many poor childrenand their parents wearing his Ralph Lauren shirts with their tattered jeans,not to mention a disproportionatenumber of Notre Dame and Cubs’fans, to judge by the caps.
My father was a lifelong Democrat,the workingman’s party, and hethought highly of President Obama’sexperience as a community organizer.“Tell the president,” Dad would insist(as if Barack and I ate breakfast togetherevery morning), “that he needs todirect every dime he can to jobs.”
My father understood intimatelythe dignity of work and the indignityof foreclosure. Vivid in his memorywas the sight of his own mother pleadingwith the sheriff, during a notoriousChicago thunderstorm, not to toss thefamily’s furniture and the six Kmiecchildren into the street. That was afterthe crash of 1929. In a brief autobiographyinspired by Tom Brokaw’s book,The Greatest Generation, my fatherdescribed how his “mother was cryingso hard,” he couldn’t “differentiate hertears from the driving rain and hersobs from the relentless thunder.”
Until the financial collapse ofSeptember 2008, many smuglyassumed that nothing like the GreatDepression could happen again. Weknow better now, though the presenteconomic pain has been more unevenlyfelt than it was in the 1930s, when10 million were put out of work.In a similar way, this generation’sexperience with military matters ismore ambivalent in light of the attackson Sept. 11 and the tragically executedIraq war. An all-volunteer force immunizesmany from the costs of war andthatmay plague us with an insufficientstrategic assessment. By contrast, myfather’s generation faced military serviceas an “enlist or be drafted” proposition.After he enlisted in the U.S.Army Air Forces, the B-17 FlyingFortress bomber made real Dad’sheroic dreams as he played his part inthe unambiguous good of stopping theHolocaust. The military also gave himthree squares at a time when he wasjust plain hungry.
It is less clear that fighting the shadowy,highly mobile, not easily understoodAl Qaeda conveys a comparablynoble feeling. It should, so long as itshares with my father’s military servicethe need for vigilance against the commonenemies of all good dreams—ethnicor racial hatred, poverty and thepernicious misuse of religion to slaughterthe innocent in the name of God.
The name Kmiec is of Polish origin,and the small farming village fromwhich my father’s father emigrated isnot far from Oswiecim (Auschwitz).My father knew what a genuine warcrime looked like, whether perpetratednear his ancestral home or in NewYork, Washington and Pennsylvaniaby 19 men in possession of commandeeredjets and lacking respect for thesanctity of human life.
My father died a few weeks ago inhome hospice care in Florida. To bothhis sons at his side the Father’s Daylesson is inescapable: As we check ourvoice mails, BlackBerries and inboxes,let us not be too busy to notice allthose who, like my father, freely give oftheir dreams. By the Cross andResurrection, Christ offers us a visionof unconditional love. The dreams ofmen are frequently their Christ-likeoffers of love. We can’t lose in takingthem up. Why? Listen to my father’svoice, now fallen silent but foreverclearly heard by the family and friendswho took the time to share his dreams:“because we have faith, courage andenthusiasm.”
With those qualities, Dad, we areconfident your dreams of eternity arebeing fulfilled.

Chicago Democratic Party Leader Walter Kmiec Dead at 87

Walter Kmiec, 87, a one-time Party Captain and leader in the Regular Democratic Party in Chicago, died at home in Florida on May 20, 2010 following a several month effort to contain lung and related cancers. A protoge of the late Mayor Richard J. Daley, Kmiec is said to have played a significant role in supplying the late-night vote cournts which contributed the margin of victory for John F. Kennedy in the 1960 election, died at home in Florida on May 20, 2010 following a several month effort to contain lung and related cancers.

Walter is survived by his two sons: Warren W. Kmiec of Stoughton, Wisconsin, patient registrar, University of Wisconsin; and Douglas W. Kmiec of Malibu, California (presently U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Malta), Caruso Family Chair in Constitutional Law (on leave), Pepperdine University. Both sons were at their father’s side as he passed gently from this exile in the early morning hours. Walter is survived by seven grandchildren (Amos and Zachary) and (Keenan, Katherine, Kiley, Kolleen and Kloe; and one great-grandson, Robert Jackson Turner).

Walter was pre-deceased by his wife of 60 years, Beatrice Evelyn Neumann of the Neumann family of Milwaukee and Green Bay Wisconsin.

Walter is also survived by his daughter-in-law Carolyn Keenan Kmiec and two sisters, Bernice Gordon of Chicago and Wanda Lapidus of Hoffman Estates, Illinois and his sister-in-law Genevieve Dillberg of Clearwater, Florida. A sister, Antoinette, and two brothers, John and Stephan, preceded Walter in death. Walter was the fourth child of Jan Kmiec and Mariana Bryg Kmiec of Chicago.

Walter was a long-time member of Saint Pascal’s Parish in Chicago and an officer of the Holy Name Society; Fourth Degree, Knights of Columbus, Saint Patrick Council, Chicago; a graduate of Chicago Technical College (1954), Walter was an electrical engineer by profession with the Edison Company and the Metropolitan Sanitary District of Greater Chicago, until his relocation to Stonehedge Park in Tarpon Springs in 1979.

Walter died 55 years to the day of his honorable conclusion of service in WWII with the B17 bomber group, earning the distinguished air medal and oak leaf clusters for 35 air battle campaigns in the general air defense of western Europe, including Normandy.

Published in Chicago Tribune on May 23, 2010