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Thomas I. Wisniewski (1948-2018)

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Thomas I. Wisniewski

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Thomas I. Wisniewski, a lifelong Toledoan and avid cyclist who founded a funeral home here, died Saturday after suffering from cardiac arrest in his family’s cottage in Shelby, Mich., his son, Alex, said. He was 69.

Mr. Wisniewski was born June 24, 1948, and grew up in the Lagrange Street area, the Polish-American community known to locals as “Lagrinka.” He stayed connected to his roots, organizing the Lagrange Street Polish Festival later in life.

He graduated from St. Francis de Sales High School in 1966 and went on to attend the University of Toledo and the Cincinnati School of Mortuary Science, earning his license as an embalmer and funeral director in 1970.

The funeral business runs in Mr. Wisniewski’s family. Mr. Wisniewski was first employed by his grandfather, Stanley J. Urbanski, at his family’s funeral home. He also worked as an EMT with his uncle’s company, Urbanski Ambulance Service.

His son said Mr. Wisniewski always planned on carrying on the family business.

“I don’t think he ever would’ve retired from it until he was physically unable to work,” his son said. “It was a big part of his life.”

But he wanted to branch out. In 1986, Mr. Wisniewski and the late Robert H. Wick opened a funeral home on Reynolds Road in South Toledo. Mr. Wick was a partner with the late Morris Zimmerman in a mortuary that served the Jewish community. Mr. Wick, who died in 1997, was respected for his knowledge of Jewish law and custom.

Mr. Wisniewski continued the tradition and, in recognition, received the Harry Levine Service Award and an award named for Mr. Wick. Mr. Wisniewski also was named a “Mensch of the Year” by a group made up of descendants of immigrants who settled in near-downtown and North Toledo neighborhoods. 

Mr. Wisniewski later founded Toledo Limousine Service, which has since downsized and merged.

His son fondly recalled sailing with his father, who organized family trips on Lake Erie. Mr. Wisniewski often enlisted his son to help with funerals and limo driving.

A member of Ss. Adalbert and Hedwig Parish for more than 50 years, Mr. Wisniewski was also active in Little Flower Parish, which he joined in 1984. He was a eucharistic minister and lecturer and recently served on the pastoral council.

“He was very dedicated,” his son said. “I don’t think he ever missed a weekend at Mass even when we were out of town. During vacation, he’d find a place in that city to attend Mass.”

Those who knew Mr. Wisniewski described his generosity and eagerness to help others. His wife, Karen, said her husband “had a very special ability to make people feel comfortable and comforted.” 

“No job was too big or too small for him to take on if it meant helping someone else,” she said. “He was able to connect people because he had such a genuine way of listening and truly caring about an individual’s story.” 

The Rev. Dave Nuss of Little Flower Parish described Mr. Wisniewski as “sensible, thoughtful, trustworthy,” and “passionately committed” to his community.

“I could bounce situations off of him and would always appreciate the point of view that he would provide,” he said. 

He added that Mr. Wisniewski had a “respect and reverence” for others that stood out.

Mr. Wisniewski was also part of the Maumee Valley Wheelmen, a local bicycle racing club. He would bring his bicycle on trips to the family’s cottage, and often went on cycling adventures in the Toledo area.

Surviving are his wife, Karen, whom he married Sept. 27, 1980; his daughters, Kristy Hayes, Nicole Pickett, and Dana Retana; his son, Alex; his sisters, Kim, Carol, June Obertacz, and Jane Hearons; his brothers, Ned and Phil; and eight grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 2 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Thomas I. Wisniewski Funeral Home. A prayer service and sharing of memories will be held there at 6 p.m. Funeral services will take place at 11 a.m. Thursday at Little Flower Parish.

The family suggests tributes to the Sisters of St. Francis and St. Francis de Sales High School.

Contact Lily Moore-Eissenberg at lillianme@theblade.com, 419-724-6368, or on Twitter @LilyM_E.

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