Henry Nowakowski, “Hank”, born October 1, 1928, passed away at his Toledo home during the early hours of Friday, February 23, 2018. A life-long resident of the Toledo area, his most cherished memories were about those whom he loved deeply, especially his late wife Norma “Jean” (Fleitz), and time spent in the midst of his large and extended family. Henry’s many family members, caretakers, work associates and friends mourn his loss.
Many found his candor and humor to be both disarming and a major part of his charm. In spite of the lack of an extensive formal education, he was well read, well spoken, and well- travelled. He was never hesitant to join in intelligent conversations with family, friends and strangers alike. When asked he always said that he went to the school of hard knocks.
Hank was the sixth of nine children born to Steven and Alexandria (Grochowski) Nowakowski, both Polish immigrants. From the time 19 year old Hank spied future wife Norma Jean at a construction site of her father’s, he knew his life would be pledged to cherishing “Jean,” a promise well kept. February 19th would have been their 69th wedding anniversary. Together, they built a business to support their growing family, raised their nine children, two granddaughters and a few nieces. They sent them through Catholic education at St. Joe’s Sylvania, St Ursula Academy and St. Francis HS, on to college or trade school, and into the world. Jean and Hank were members of St. Joseph Catholic Church, Sylvania, for over 65 years where up until just a few months ago Hank and several members were still able to worship together at 9am mass.
Henry loved learning; he often spoke fondly about the Martin School and being a star baseball player while there. He attended Woodward High School—years later his company redid the plumbing and mechanical work in that building. Hank left high school before graduation to help support his parents and siblings, giving his full weekly paycheck to his mom right up until his wedding day. He was a self-made man, founding Hank’s Plumbing and Heating in 1954 along with his wife Jean. Early on, Hank trained as a plumber with Red Palm; and later bought out his company. He was president of the NW Ohio Mechanical Contractors Association at a time when contract negotiations were contentious. He was chosen for the position because of his ability to be fair and understand both sides of the issues. Throughout his life he was known to be a kind and benevolent employer while at the same time expecting an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. Five of his children (John, Chip, Jeff, Mark, Carolyn) have kept HPH Mechanical successful and expanding to the present day.
As a youth growing up in the Reynolds Corner area of Toledo, Hank caddied at Inverness Country Club where he was introduced to his other life’s passion, golf. His scratch play and ability to hit the ball was one of his greatest pleasures. Hank’s “hole in one”, hit on the fly, on the 17th hole at Highland Meadows as well as his double eagle scored on a course in South Africa were two of his all-time favorite shots. When asked what he tipped the caddy in South Africa, he responded that he gave him his golf shoes as the caddy had none.
Hank and Jean were members of Highland Meadows Golf Club since 1959 and were also members at Fiddlesticks Country Club in Ft. Myers, Florida where they had a winter home. Earlier this week, he told his family he missed the Florida sunshine, traveling the world, and his weekly fishing trips, but was glad to be at home, watching the birds, Turner Classic Movies and the Golf Channel.
Music and dancing also mattered to Hank; “Dance with me Henry” must have been written for him. Alexa became his new best friend; she and Burl Ives chased away the tears and kept a smile at the kitchen table. And, as Hank would wish us to know from the closing words of his favorite-- Lawrence Welk: “And though it’s sweet sorrow to part, you know you’ll always remain in my heart”.
The family would especially like to thank Darlene Kiker, both Jean and Hank’s constant caregiver and “special friend” of the past seven years. She, along with ProMedica Hospice, Senior Care (Denise, Vicky, Amanda, Lori), Lee Kramer of Wellness Rx, Fitness, Dr. Monica Young, and a number of others, allowed Henry his dignity and ability to stay in his home.
He is survived by children Marilyn (Bruce) Fredrickson of Boulder, CO; James (Marsha) of Atlanta, GA; John (Cynthia) Sylvania; Catherine Schannell (Maumee), Henry “Chip” (Patsy) Ottawa Lake, MI; Jeffery, Oregon, OH; Mark, Toledo; Carolyn (Thomas) Saine of Toledo; Janet (John) Bali, Minooka, IL and West Glacier, MT, 23 grandchildren, 11 great grandchildren as well as two sisters, Barbara Sniegowski (South Bend, IN) and Wanda Samiec (Swanton). He was predeceased by siblings Eugene, Raymond, Irene, Steven, and twin sisters who died at birth.
The family invite friends to call at the Reeb Funeral Home, 5712 North Main Street, Sylvania, Ohio on Thursday, March 1, 2018 from 2pm—8 pm. There will be a memorial service at 7pm. Hank’s life and a rite of Christian Burial will be celebrated by Monsignor Metzger at 10 am on Friday March 2, 2018 at St. Joseph’s Church, Sylvania where the service will be live streamed at stjoesylvania.org. Interment will follow at Toledo Memorial Park. The family suggests tributes in Hank’s honor be made to ProMedica Hospice Care or Senior Care Management, and St. Joseph’s Church, Sylvania.