Sunday, July 18, 2010


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

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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.