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Published: Wednesday, 3/3/2004

Transit electrician traveled the U.S.

Walter J. Kondalski, 97, a public transit electrician for nearly 50 years whose spontaneous motor trips took him to nearly every state in the nation, died Monday in the Hospice of Northwest Ohio, South Detroit Avenue.

The cause of death was not known, his granddaughter, Terra Konieczny, said.

Mr. Kondalski retired in 1977 as an electrician from what became the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority. But beginning in 1929, he worked for TARTA s predecessor, Community Traction Co., which operated buses and, until 1949, streetcars.

“You name it, he could patch it, fix it,” his granddaughter said. “He was always there for us when we were kids, with our cars going bad.”

He was a member of Local 697 of the Amalgamated Transit Union.

Mr. Kondalski and his wife, Victoria, often set out in their car for cross-country travel, their destination unknown. He d call family to say they d ended up in Montana or California.

“He was almost in every state,” his granddaughter said. “That was his big accomplishment, that he almost got all of them.”

Mr. Kondalski was born in Warsaw and was 3 when he moved with his family to the Polish-American community in North Toledo centered around Lagrange Street, known as Lagrinka.

He was a graduate of St. Hedwig School and sold newspapers to help the family.

“He had a [grade school] education, but he was unbelievably smart,” his granddaughter said. “He was a history buff. He could tell you anything to the exact date.”

He later worked for Willys Corp. He learned his trade at the Coyne Electrical School in Chicago, and he d tell family members about the gangland shootouts he witnessed.

“He had hundreds of stories about the Al Capone days,” his granddaughter said.

He was able to give a hand to friends during the Depression. They d lost their savings when the banks closed, “and his money was in a coffee can,” his granddaughter said. “He was always one step ahead. He bailed people out constantly from the Depression.”

He was a Civil Defense medic during World War II, and was recognized for his service by the Toledo District Defense Council.

Mr. Kondalski was an accomplished gardener - vegetables, flowers - and he liked to can and pickle his produce. He grew fruit-bearing grapefruit trees indoors.

He liked to fish and spend time at the family cottage at Vineyard Lake, Michigan.

Mr. Kondalski and his wife married Oct. 21, 1933. She died June 21, 1995.

“He was a humble person,” his granddaughter said. “He never wanted to burden anybody. He was very independent, very self-sufficient. He enjoyed his private time. He was alone, but he was not lonely.

“He lived his life with what the world gave him,” she said.

Surviving are his daughter, Barbara Konieczny; two grandchildren, and a great-granddaughter.

The body will be in the Bedford Funeral Chapel, Temperance, after 2 p.m. tomorrow. Services will be at 10 a.m. Friday in St. Adalbert Church, Toledo, of which he was a longtime member.

The family suggests tributes to the Hospice of Northwest Ohio.



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