Francis Lukowski, 55, Baltimore ship pilot from waterfront family

June 20, 2000|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore boy who went from playing on the tugboats of Thames Street to piloting huge ships on the Chesapeake Bay and Los Angeles harbor was remembered in his old neighborhood yesterday as the brash young patriarch of a waterfront family that has made its living from the port for three generations.

Francis Lukowski - who died of prostate cancer a week ago today at his home in Huntington Beach, Calif. - was given a final ride past his childhood home in Fells Point and the tugs at the Broadway Recreation Pier after a funeral Mass at St. Brigid's Roman Catholic Church. He was 55.

"Steering boats," said his brother, William Lukowski, a local shipping agent. "That's all he ever wanted to do."

A wake for Mr. Lukowski - laid out in the red bowtie and tuxedo he had hoped to wear to his daughter Kelly's wedding at St. Casimir's Church in July - was held at the Polish Home on Broadway.

There, family and friends enjoyed Maryland crab soup, ate kielbasa and sauerkraut, drank draught beer and listened to a Dixieland band while telling stories from the old days.

"It was everything he wanted," said his wife of 30 years, the former Beverly Zentz.

Mrs. Lukowski, who met her husband when he was a teen-ager hanging out at Doc Ollie's ice cream fountain at Eastern Avenue and Ann Street, wore white yesterday for hope.

The grandson of a longshoreman, Mr. Lukowski was born in the 800 block of South Ann St., close enough to the harbor to jump in. He attended St. Patrick's parochial school on Broadway and graduated from Mt. St. Joseph High School in 1963.

The Rev. Joe Bochenek, who went to school with Mr. Lukowski from the first grade through high school, celebrated his old friend's Mass of Resurrection yesterday.

After two years at Loyola College on Charles Street, Mr. Lukowski joined the Navy and was discharged in 1969 as a quartermaster second class. He then went to work as a deckhand on the old Baker-Whitely tugs on Thames Street in the footsteps of his late uncle, Jerome Lukowski, a longtime mate.

Mr. Lukowski was awarded his captain's license from the U.S. Coast Guard in 1974 and worked for Baker-Whitely, now McAllister Bros. Towing, until 1984 when he followed his younger brother Robert to the port of Los Angeles. He was a licensed docking pilot for vessels of unlimited size on both coasts.

"We gave Southern California a little taste of Baltimore," said Robert, also a harbor pilot in L.A. "We went for the economy, but our hearts were always here."

A computer enthusiast who loved all kinds of gizmos and gadgets, Mr. Lukowski once donned scuba gear for a dip in his backyard pool when he lived in Linthicum during the 1970s.

One of his best-loved memories was traveling down the Grand Canyon on a donkey with his second daughter, Kara.

Never one to shy away from a stiff drink, a hot party or his turn to buy a round at the Cat's Eye Pub and the Whistling Oyster, Mr. Lukowski was a hard working "good-timer" in a waterfront tradition that didn't put much stock in sleep.

A staunch union man, he died on his birthday and his wedding anniversary while wearing his International Longshore and Warehouse Union T-shirt.

Other survivors include his mother, Eleanor Lukowski of Fells Point; a brother, Thomas Lukowski of Ellicott City and a sister, Mary Anne Iwancio of Towson.

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