The Savannah Chamber of Commerce recently recognized Joseph Kolczynski for four decades of service to his community, including St. Patrick’s Parish, which he has belonged to since moving to Savannah with his wife, Betty, in 1964. Chamber representatives presented Kolczynski with a Lifetime Achievement Award during the organization’s Feb. 20 meeting.
Kolczynski and his wife, who are natives of Port Byron, were high-school sweethearts. When Kolczynski, a veteran of the Korean War, left the military, he and Betty settled in Savannah, where they raised their three sons. After teaching for three years, Kolczynski became an administrator with the Clyde-Savannah School District, a position he retired from in 1991.
Kolczynski has been involved with St. Patrick’s Parish in a number of ways over the past several decades. He helped produce the parish’s centennial booklet in the 1970s and was involved with the parish’s recent 125th anniversary celebration. He also served on the St. Patrick’s synod committee during the diocesan synod in the early 1990s.
Kolczynski has served as chairman of the parish pastoral council several times, has been involved with the parish’s altar-rosary society and local pastoral-planning committees, and is currently chairman of the parish’s finance committee. He’s helped with renovations at the parish, such as the installation of a new ramp to make the building accessible to people with disabilities, and has helped make sure the building and grounds were properly maintained. If he saw snow that needed shoveling, leaves that needed raking or grass that needed cutting, he would pick up a shovel, rake or lawn mower and head over to St. Patrick’s.
“I just felt my personal obligation to make sure the church was looked after,” Kolczynski said. “I guess because it’s just the church I belong to and I feel that our church is a family type of church.”
Although he’s been a valuable resource for his parish, Kolczynski was at first reluctant to talk about his contributions.
“I hate to put a finger on any one thing because I wasn’t the only one (to volunteer),” he said.
Parishioners know St. Patrick’s Church is one of the nicest buildings and parishes around, and they want to keep it that way, he explained.
“Our community, St. Patrick’s community, wants things to be right. We don’t run around with flags in our hands saying, ‘Hey, I did this,’ or ‘I did that.’ People are always doing things, helping out. They’re people that you can call on anytime” he said.
Kolczynski’s volunteerism and good works haven’t been limited to his parish. He has worked closely with the local fire department and is a member of the Savannah Community Club, a co-ed club that raises money for community projects. He’s volunteered his time with local Little League teams and served as chairman of the committee that oversaw the installation of a sewer system in Savannah.
Kolczynski, 76, said he can’t do as much as he used to when he was younger, but he plans on staying involved with his parish and community as long as he can. He takes comfort in the knowledge there are younger people who are willing to step in and pick up where he leaves off.
“I don’t do things like I used to. I can’t go shoveling snow like I used to or pushing a lawn mower like I used to, but there are a lot of other people to do that. I’ll do what I can do, because a town is as good as you make it, and we do have a very nice town,” Kolczynski said.
Kolczynski learned about his award several days before receiving it. He said he’s grateful for the honor, but still has his life in perspective.
“I’ve been married to my best friend and companion for 53 years,” Kolczynski said. “I think that’s more important than all of the other stuff.”