February 4 – Happy Birthday William Dudek

On February 4, 1922, Julia Trzaskos Dudek was about to have a baby. Like so many of their Amsterdam neighbors at that time, Julia and her husband Ignatius had come to this City from Poland at the beginning of the 20th century to build a better life. He secured a job in one of Amsterdam’s carpet mills and they began their family. They would eventually have six children, but two of them, their daughter Winifred and their son William were twins, who were born 93 years ago today.

There were of course no ultrasounds in 1922 so you have to figure that the Dudek’s were pretty surprised when the second baby emerged that day. But if they were like most of our own grandparents or great-grandparents who lived in Amsterdam back then, the Dudek’s went to church that Sunday at their beloved St. Stanislaus, thanked God both babies were healthy and then went on with their lives’ mission, which was both simple and focused. They lived to do everything possible to make sure their children had better lives than they themselves did.

They named the boy William and the girl Winifred. We know that both became lifelong members of St. Stan’s and that both attended local schools.  When War came, William joined the huge contingent of Amsterdam heroes who served their country. He was an MP in the European theater. His proud Mom did her part too, becoming an American citizen in 1941.

When William returned to civilian life, he came back to his hometown and it looks like he followed his father’s career path, securing a job in the rug mills. In 1947 he married Dorothy Sauval. The newlyweds honeymooned in New York City and made their first home in Ft. Johnson. They would have one child, a daughter Cynthia.

In 1951, tragedy struck when William’s dad was found dead on the job, a victim of a heart attack. Ignatius became one of the thousands of people in this City who could say he had worked his entire adult life in the carpet industry. William would not be able to do the same. When Mohasco finally left the city, it appears as if he went to work at the local Grand Union, retiring from there in 1984. He died in 2009 outlasting all his siblings including his twin, Winifred who had passed three years earlier.

The loving son of hardworking immigrants; fights for his country in a horrific war; marries a local girl; they have a child; he goes to work for the rug industry; attends and supports his local church; loses his job when the rugs go south; finds another and together with his wife they keep working at their lives’ mission, to make sure their child’s life was better than their own. It’s a story of one man and it’s a story of an entire city.

I never knew William Dudek. But just by reading his obituary, I was able to make some Amsterdam connections that will make it easy to always remember the guy.

Cynthia Dudek married John Noble, the son of the elegant Virginia Noble who taught generations of our daughters and sons to move more gracefully through life, William Dudek’s nephew is Gene Piurek, who together with his wife Dorothy, have spent their last decade’s worth of Novembers and Decembers helping Linda Selbert “Light Up the Sky” to benefit the Amsterdam Marching Rams. So from now on, every time I pass Mrs. Noble’s former home and dance studio on the corner of Stewart and Northampton or see the amazing glow of those thousands of Christmas lights, I’ll think of William Dudek.

This is one of over 300 birthday stories you can read in my new book “A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam Birthdays.” To order your copy, click here.

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