Edward F. Wojnowski

The maintenance manager at a steel company was a local duckpin bowling champion in the 1950s and 1960s.

October 24, 2008|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Edward F. "Slim" Wojnowski, who had been a local duckpin bowling champion during the 1950s and 1960s and was an active member of the Polish-American community, died Monday of cancer at Gilchrist Hospice Care. He was 89.

Mr. Wojnowski was born in Baltimore, the son of Polish immigrants, and was raised in Fells Point and near Patterson Park.

He was a 1937 graduate of City College and attended the Maryland Institute College of Art.

In 1941, he began working as a machinist apprentice at Rustless Iron and Steel Co. in East Baltimore, which later became Armco Steel Corp. When he retired in 1982, he was general manager of plant maintenance.

"A creative machinist, he supervised the plant's Junior Achievement program," said his daughter, Geraldine W. Beach of Catonsville, a former Sunday Sun book and copy editor.

"His young entrepreneurs turned out an array of unique products - crab mallets, serving trays, desk sets, beverage holders - all made of stainless steel," she said. "Other community projects yielded flatware sets and flagpoles at various community buildings."

Mr. Wojnowski's interest in duckpin bowling began in his youth when he was working as a pinsetter at Patterson Bowling Lanes on Eastern Avenue.

"He learned the game well and bowled on the Rustless Iron and Steel team in citywide competition," his daughter said.

"In 1950, he bowled a memorable 220 game at the Patterson Lanes, a story he was always willing to retell," she said. "He rolled eight strikes out of 10 boxes, with strikes in the first five boxes. It was the fourth-highest game ever rolled in duckpins at the time."

Mr. Wojnowski won the Minor League Classic in 1951 but never defended the title because he moved on to the Major Leagues.

"He was ranked No. 2 by the National Duckpin Bowling Congress in 1956 and remained on the Top 10 list numerous times," his daughter said.

"There is still a commemorative photo of him at Patterson Lanes," Mrs. Beach said.

Mr. Wojnowski belonged to the "130 Club" and was a member of Patterson's 1954 national tournament duckpin team, which included bowlers Bernie Ruzin, Al Rush and Norm Hesselback.

In the 1950s, Mr. Wojnowski was a major figure during the heyday of The Evening Sun's city championship 30-game elimination duckpin bowling tournaments that were broadcast over WMAR-TV.

A work injury brought Mr. Wojnowski's duckpin career to a close.

"A back injury forced him to leave the lanes," Mrs. Beach said. "However, he never lost his love for the sport, and even in his 80s could still put on a scoring show at a family bowling party."

Though he lived in Lutherville for 50 years, Mr. Wojnowski remained an active member of the Polish-American community in Fells Point.

He and his wife of 65 years, the former Margie Kielek, danced Sunday afternoons at the Polish Home Hall on South Broadway and at neighboring churches.

Mr. Wojnowski had been president and vice president of the Polish Home for more than 12 years and was still managing the monthly Sunday dances until last month.

Favorite events were the community children's Christmas party, the New Year's Dance and the popular Bean Pickers Dance, which always drew a capacity crowd of dancers from as far as Virginia and Pennsylvania, his daughter said.

He was also a member and officer of the Polish Weekenders and AtEase Club.

Every year on Dec. 23, Mr. Wojnowski and his wife returned to Fells Point with friends to attended an event that was billed as an East Baltimore Christmas.

The annual event celebrated a traditional Polish Christmas with an evening of neighborhood caroling followed by a dinner of Polish food and dancing to a polka band at the Polish Home.

Mr. Wojnowski was a supporter of the Baltimore Harbor Endowment, which was renamed the Baltimore Waterfront Promenade in 1999, and its "Pave the Way" program whose goal was to construct a waterfront walkway from Locust Point to Canton.

"His hours earned him bricks, which he engraved with the names of his parents, siblings, children and grandson, and were installed at Belts Landing in Fells Point," his daughter said.

He also played a role in the planning of the National Katyn Memorial at Aliceanna and President streets that commemorates the slaughter of thousands of Polish army officers and soldiers by the Soviets in 1940 on the orders of Josef Stalin.

Mr. Wojnowski was a communicant for 50 years of St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Cockeysville.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. today at Holy Rosary Roman Catholic Church, 408 S. Chester St., where Mr. Wojnowski was baptized and married.

In addition to his wife and daughter, survivors include a son, Michael P. Wojnowski of Timonium; a grandson; and two great-grandchildren.

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