Walter E. Cieszynski

Walter E. Cieszynski

GUILDERLAND — Walter E. Cieszynski was a lifelong hunter. And, despite being weak from a 34-year battle with cancer, he went hunting one last time this fall. “He didn’t go far from the house. I was worried, and he gave me a time he’d be back,” said his wife. “He got a big deer.”

Mr. Cieszynski used all parts of the deer he hunted over the years — making sausage from the meat as well as ground venison and roasts, all at home. He mounted some of his deer and saved the antlers of others.

His coffin was covered with pieces of the woods he loved: pine boughs, birch bark — and deer horns. He died on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016, at Ellis Hospital. He was 72.

Although his wife, Martha Cieszynski, had been his caregiver for years, she called his death unexpected. “You become devoted,” she said. “He fought the good fight.” Referring to Mr. Cieszynski’s son, she said, “Jeffrey and I weren’t ready. We thought he’d rally like he always did...He went so fast.”

Mr. Cieszynski was born on Oct. 7, 1944, the son of the late Edward and Irene Cieszynski. He grew up in Rotterdam where his mother was a “stay-at-home mom,” said Mrs. Cieszynski. “His father was a roofer till he fell off the roof of Ellis Hospital.”

Edward Cieszynski was on disability then, she said, and enjoyed fixing up old cars. “Walter grew up helping his father in the garage,” she said.

He used those mechanical skills for the rest of his life. “He could change his own tires; he could change his own oil. He could do anything on cars,” said his wife.

Mr. Cieszynski graduated from Draper Central School in 1963. He first worked for CONDEC, Consolidated Diesel Electric Corp., which, his wife said, made tanks and amphibious vehicles for the United States Army. When the company moved to Connecticut, she said, her husband started working as an electrician.

He started his own electrical business, Walt’s Electric, and was in business for over 25 years when he retired in 2015 due to ill health. The reason he liked his work so much, his wife said, is because “he loved people.”

In November 2002, he realized his dream, she said, when he purchased 75 acres of farmland in Guilderland to build a house.

Although the grand house — with such details as tiled steps leading to the garage — appeared complete, there were still odds and ends he wanted to finish.

“He needed a project to do to get satisfaction,” said his wife. “He loved to do things while they were exciting.”

In October, he smiled as he told a visitor to his home what his primary-care physician had told him, “If anybody reads your reports, you can’t be living.” Mr. Cieszynski went on, “I just like living. I like this place,” he said, gesturing to the home he helped build.

“This is his paradise,” his wife said then. “This is his carrot.”

In addition to his house, Mr. Cieszynski loved working his land and he loved the equipment that allowed him to do that — he called them his “man toys.”

He had two side-by-sides, which look like oversized golf carts, that he would use for hauling firewood. He bought a big tractor last year that he would use to brush hog his fields and to pull trees from the woods to cut into firewood; the Cieszynski home is heated with wood.

“Brush-hogging the fields,” his wife said, “he knew where the rocks were and weren’t. He would take them out with the tractor.”

Not long ago, when his son asked him what kept him going through all his medical crises, “He said, ‘I love life.’ He had a positive attitude all his life,” said Mrs. Cieszynski. “Everyone whose life he touched remembers his smile and positive attitude,” his family wrote in a tribute.

The couple shared their love and friendship for 45 years; they had married in 1971. “He was very strong,” said Mrs. Cieszynski, who dealt with her husband’s cancer for most of their life together. “If he’d wavered just one bit, I’d be gone.”

She appreciated her husband’s directness. “He said what he meant. He could be a little crude sometimes; he was not politically correct,” said Mrs. Cieszynski.

She went on, “He wasn’t lovey-dovey. He didn’t use what we called ‘the L word.’ He wasn’t a hugger.” Mrs. Cieszynski related the words the minister said at her husband’s funeral: “When Walter met Martha, he told her he loved her. When she asked recently if he loved her, Walter replied, “I said that 45 years ago and nothing’s changed.’”

He showed his love, she said, “by the things he would do….He got a tractor so he could till my garden.”

Mr. Cieszynski did show affection for a stray cat that became his constant companion. “Sebastian was Walter’s pet. Walter sat back a lot in his reclining chair. Sebastian would get up there and stay in his lap and look out,” said Mrs. Cieszynski.

After Mr. Cieszynski died, Sebastian slept on his side of the bed, Mrs. Cieszynski said. “I used to tell Walter, ‘I’ll cremate Sebastian and he’ll go with you’...I can’t do that….The silence here now is deafening. I need a friend.”

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Walter E. Cieszynski is survived by his wife, Martha; his son, Jeffrey, and his wife, Katherine; his grandchildren, Jeffrey Jr., Nathan, and Rosa; his niece, Kristina Kabrehl, and her husband, Charles; and his great-niece, Charlotte.

He is also survived by his sister-in-law, Helen Bohannon, and her husband, Herb, of Jacksonville, Fla.; and his brothers-in-law, Howard Meade and his wife, Bonnie, of Chestertown, and Frank Meade and his wife, Jill, and Thomas Meade — all of North Creek, New York.

His parents, Edward and Irene Cieszynski, died before him, as did his sister, Shirley Lukens; his brother-in-law, Harold Meade; and his sister-in-law, Jeannine Meade.

Funeral services were held at the DeMarco-Stone Funeral Home in Guilderland on Saturday, Dec. 3, with interment following in Schenectady Memorial Park on Gifford Church Road in Rotterdam.

His family wishes to express a heartfelt thank you to the Upstate Hematology/ Oncology Office for its unending care and support.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, 5 Computer Dr., Albany, NY 12205.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer

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