John E. Kwiatkowski, who was entrusted with the delicate logistics surrounding arms-control talks, just one assignment in a U.S. State Department career that took him to embassies around the globe, died Monday in Hospice of Northwest Ohio, South Detroit Avenue. He was 69.
Mr. Kwiatkowski of Sylvania was ill for two years and had congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and renal failure, his wife, Carol, said.
He retired in 1994. Over 27 years, he worked at embassies or consulates in Paris; the former Salisbury, Rhodesia; Monrovia, Liberia; Wellington, New Zealand; Nassau, Bahamas; London, Hong Kong; Kingston, Jamaica; Mexico City; Antwerp, Belgium; Vienna, and Yerevan, Armenia.
He was a communications specialist in the Marines, and early in his career in the foreign service, he dealt in diplomatic communications. He worked shifts around the clock and from a secure room in an embassy, he transmitted the ambassador’s cables to Washington and received messages back.
“It was all secret communications. He had to know Morse code,” his wife said. A higher-up noted his talents, and his duties increasingly were administrative and logistical. He might be called to visit U.S. citizens who found themselves in a local jail abroad and arrange housing for those assigned to the embassy and ensure the facility remained in good repair.
A favorite, if stressful, assignment came in the late ’70s, when his services were loaned to the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency for the U.S.-Soviet Strategic Arms Limitation Talks in Geneva. He arranged travel and accommodations for negotiators; set up news conferences, and hired translators. He set up receptions, taking care to avoid diplomatic faux pas even through beverage choices.
“The Russians have to have the proper vodka,” he told The Blade in 1977. “We always make sure we serve them Russian vodka. It’s duty-free and a lot better anyway.”
Toledo was still home, and the couple returned in retirement. He had jobs at Spuyten Duyval Golf Club and Heather Downs Country Club and Olander Park and volunteered to deliver meals and visit with senior citizens.
He was born July 13, 1943, to Valeria and Chester Kwiatkowski. He grew up on Parkside Boulevard and from a young age found work — up before school to help the milkman with deliveries; as a caddie at the Inverness Club, including for the 1957 U.S. Open. “He said he felt his parents didn’t owe him anything and said he always felt he needed to earn his own spending money,” his wife said.
He was a 1961 graduate of Central Catholic High School and afterward enlisted in the Marines.
A former parishioner of St. Pius X Church, he was a member of Little Flower Church.
Surviving are his wife, Carol Kasper Kwiatkowski, whom he married July 3, 1965; sons, Paul and Peter Kwiatkowski; daughter, Connie Collins; sisters, Jean Roman and Joyce Zakorczeny, and six grandchildren. His brother, James Kwiatkowski, a longtime Blade copy editor, died May 28, 2012.
At Mr. Kwiatkowski’s request, his body was donated to the University of Toledo Medical Center, the former Medical College of Ohio.
Memorial services will be at 10:30 a.m. Saturday in Gesu Church.
The family suggests tributes to Servants of Jesus, Dearborn Heights, Mich., or the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales in Toledo.
— Mark Zaborney
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