Mary Michalski was born March 29, 1936 in Cleveland, Ohio. She was the 5th child born to Polish immigrant parents. She had two older brothers and two older sisters. Three years after her birth, her youngest brother was born. She grew up attending the local Polish Catholic school (and church), St. Stanislaus, where “Sister Fabiola” inspired her to find adventures all over the world. Fabiola journeyed to many historic sites (including the Vatican and Rome), and shared her travel stories with the students. She convinced Mary traveling domestically and internationally would be a wonderful way to spend one’s life. At a young age, Mary decided to achieve that goal.
One of Mary’s older sisters moved out to Burbank, California, and then the other older sister followed. Then Mary’s parents, her younger brother, nephew (son of the oldest sister) moved all together to the West Coast. She continued to attend a Catholic school there, but the change was difficult for her. The family continued to keep close contact with the two married older brothers remaining in Cleveland. They continued to exchange Christmas gifts and holiday calls as well as regular letters and phone calls.
Following high school graduation, she continued to live with her parents until her father died. She stayed in her home to take care of her aging mother. She worked for Home State Bank. Mary met several celebrities there from Hollywood and the music industry. She visited her older sister (and companion) repeatedly, who both had moved to Carson City, Nevada. There she attended many concerts and events together with them. She fondly recalled meeting Sammy Davis Jr. and other famous celebrities in casinos near Lake Tahoe.
Mary saved up enough money to buy herself a new white Ford Mustang. She traveled back in this car to visit her brothers in Cleveland with their wives and sons. She continued to save enough money to finance 2 trips to Europe, especially Rome, where she visited the Vatican and the Catacombs of the Early Christians. She inspired her oldest sister to travel with her, and they went to Israel and to Hawaii twice together. Then that same oldest sister was so inspired by Mary’s personal travels that she took her granddaughters (Mary’s great nieces) each separately on European tours (including Poland). Mary traveled to Poland, traveling all around the country, enjoying the underground salt mines, and especially seeing the Catholic icon: The Black Madonna of Czestochowa.
Mary continued to care for her mother in their house in North Hollywood. She often took her great nieces to many concerts, cultural events (at the Los Angeles Polish Catholic church), and she loved the Small World ride at Disneyland. Her nieces remember her boisterous laugh, where she would grin ear to ear and throw her head back as she guffawed. She could also rage at some perceived injustice. She enjoyed children and animals (appreciated dogs and the Los Angeles Zoo). Mary celebrated with her sisters and mother and her sister’s son, and his wife and their two daughters (her great nieces) every Christmas and Easter. She generously gave gifts and found out exactly what her nieces might want. In her professional life, she was a faithful employee and worked many years for the Federal Social Security office.
Eventually her mother died, and the change was heartbreaking for Mary. She eventually had to move and get her own apartment. Then there was the Great Northridge, CA Earthquake of 1994, when her apartment building was condemned. Mary came to live with her nephew’s family for at a couple months. When she rented another apartment, she found one in walking distance to a post office, grocery stores, and several restaurants. This convenient location served her for many years, as she no longer had a car.
She retired after many long years for the Social Service Bureau. Then she planned and traveled on many cruises with her younger brother and sister-in-law. She broke her shoulder on deck on a cruise to Alaska, and her youngest niece encouraged her to live with her and her husband while she recovered. After she had gone back to her own place to live, she was able to enjoy time on her own until she fell at the Northridge Post Office and broke her leg. She stayed in a recovery center in the North San Fernando Valley until both great nieces with their father (her nephew) cleaned out her apartment and packed up some of her things.
The goal was for her to live near her great nieces (and their husbands and children) in Hesston, Kansas at Schowalter Villa, which she did for 4 years. She made many friends there, and she received visits from her nephews several times. She was able to once again celebrate Christmas and Thanksgiving with her family. Mary will be missed for her infectious laugh and her love of travel. She had the blessing of reconnecting with her Catholic faith, as she got to know a young and handsome priest from Newton. Mary enjoyed his visits and often recounted her younger days in the Catholic church and most of all, her experiences in Rome and Israel.
Graveside service will be Friday, April 14, 2023 at St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery.
Memorial Contributions can be made in care of the family and left with Petersen Family Funeral Home.