Alfred B. Wisniewski, 80, led Polish war memorial project

July 08, 2003|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Alfred B. Wisniewski, a retired bar owner who led the effort to build a Polish World War II memorial in Baltimore, died of cancer Thursday at the Veterans Affairs Rehabilitation and Extended Care Center in Baltimore. The Fells Point resident was 80.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Chester Street, he graduated from Holy Rosary Parochial School before attending Polytechnic Institute.

He worked briefly at the Glenn L. Martin aircraft plant in Middle River before enlisting in the Navy and serving in North Africa during World War II.

Returning to Baltimore, he purchased Eddie's Cafe, a once-popular waterfront tavern at Pratt and South streets. After it was claimed for Inner Harbor redevelopment, he bought and managed the Brandywine Motel in Prince George's County. He sold the business and retired in 1978.

Family members said he spent much of his time in the past two decades as chairman of the National Katyn Memorial Project, the group that commissioned the $1.4 million Katyn Memorial monument at Aliceanna and President streets. The memorial honors 15,400 Polish Army officers killed by Soviet soldiers whose bodies were found in mass graves in the former Soviet Union's Katyn Forest.

The 12-ton, 44-foot-high bronze memorial depicts soldiers emerging from flames. At its dedication in November 2000, Mr. Wisniewski was so overcome by emotion that he had difficulty reading his speech.

Friends said Mr. Wisniewski made the memorial a crusade.

"He worked patiently and faithfully, and was the driving force behind the monument," said Stanley A. Ciesielski, founder of the Polish Heritage Association of Maryland.

At a 2001 ceremony held at the Polish Embassy in Washington, Mr. Wisniewski was given the Medal of Meritorious Service by the Polish government.

Plans for a memorial service are incomplete.

Survivors include three brothers, Albin Wisniewski of Owings, Sylvester Wisniewski of Mill Hall, Pa., and Leo Wisniewski of Baltimore; and a sister, Dorothy M. Wisniewski of Baltimore.

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