June 23, 2006, - 7:39 pm

Waldemar Kaminski, a Great Unsung American, RIP

By Debbie Schlussel
Until today, I’d never heard of Waldemar Kaminski. And that’s the way he wanted it.
This unsung Polish American is emblematic of everything that’s great about our country and how government is not always the solution. Whether you’re left, right, or in between, Kaminski is someone to be proud of.
For 50 years, Kaminski ran a small butcher shop/food stand at Buffalo’s Broadway Market. He only took a break to serve America in World War II and lived very modestly in an unadorned apartment. But secretly, Kaminski was a millionaire from wise stock market investments, and quietly gave away his millions to charities and neighbors in need.
Kaminski died Wednesday at the age of 88, and we think it’s important to recognize this great American. From the Buffalo News’ Owen Hearey:

waldemarkaminski.jpgwaldemarkaminski2.jpg

Definitely in Heaven:

Waldemar Kaminski, a GREAT AMERICAN, RIP

“He didn’t want anyone to know him, but I just had to thank him,” said Anne Gioia, co-founder of the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation, to which Kaminski donated several million dollars. “Now I think we should shout it from the rooftops.” . . .
“He felt that if you died a wealthy person, you had not lived a worthwhile life,” Gioia said. “I don’t think he had any regrets.”
Kaminski gave so much to so many that it’s difficult to quantify just how much he’s given.
He donated millions to Roswell Park – including $1 million for an endowed chair in pediatrics and $1 million to build a two-acre park on the institute’s campus.
He gave handsomely to other groups as well, including the Father Baker Home, the Salvation Army, Hilbert College and Camp Good Days and Special Times. He even helped neighboring families with mortgage payments, college tuition and lines of credit at his stand.
“It wasn’t a handout. He was supportive and helped them maintain their dignity,” said one of his nieces, Marsha Kaminski of Oakland, Calif.
“If they were helping themselves, he wanted to help, too,” Eller said.
His gifts were kept quiet both because of his deeply humble nature and for his personal safety. Kaminski had been beaten and robbed several times over the years, and publicly revealing his wealth would only make him a larger target.
But now that he has died, no one who knew him is holding their tongue. The green space he helped create will be named “Kaminski Park” in his honor. . . .
Born July 23, 1917, in the Albany area, Kaminski first came to Buffalo in 1927 when his family opened a small grocery store in the Broadway Market. At age 17, he opened two food stands of his own, sometimes working as many as 18 hours a day.
Though he was brilliant enough to pursue higher education, he turned down a college scholarship and kept working so his late brother, Dr. Chester Kaminski, could go to University of Buffalo Medical School.
His grocery career was interrupted only once – when he joined the Army during World War II. As a first sergeant, Kaminski trained more than 1,200 men between 1941 and 1946.

Thanks to reader and trusted friend J, who says of Kaminski, “An Angel Lived Among Us.” Amen to that.

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7 Responses

What a lovely, courageous, kind, and ethical man.

Freudianslippers on June 23, 2006 at 9:09 pm

These are the kind of great people we need in abundance. May his tribe increase! Thanks Debbie for this writeup.

anonymous twit on June 23, 2006 at 9:23 pm

Thanks for posting this Debbie. I’d never heard of him before but he definitely has my regards and my respect. A lot of the bad things and bad people in this country are literally depressing to hear about and actually put me in a bad mood if I think about them too much, so it’s great to hear about someone like this to remind us that there are still decent people left in America.

KnightoftheImpaler on June 25, 2006 at 8:45 pm

A real American.
RIP.

Thee_Bruno on June 26, 2006 at 10:22 am

I’ve tatken some pictures of his former business and storefront and posted them, too.
Here’s the link: http://tinyurl.com/r6j6f
Buffalo is really gritty. We are losing 7 people/day with the brain drain and population loss…there are some bright spots!

david on June 30, 2006 at 2:18 pm

It saddens me that although this man did great things for people he did not know. He did not appricate the family who took him in to theirs Back in 1945 he met a woman who he loved very much although they never married her family treated him as there own father grandfather greatgrandfather and even great great grandfather. They did everything for him. When his own family didnt bother with him. This other family threw him birthday parties, had him for every holiday for dinner. I could go on and on but the fact remains that he treated a stray cat better than them. He should of been better and I am NOT talking about money I am talking about appricating them more.He would promise them so much but couldnt remember the words Thank You for being such a great family to me. His Family only showed up after this man passed away. It breaks my heart. Wally you can not buy your way into heaven.

nameknown on July 24, 2008 at 6:20 pm

Thank you for sharing this inspiring story! I love hearing uplifting stories like this because it encourages me to be a better person. I am one of many
jewellers where I live, and lately business has been booming since I moved my shop to a college town. I would love to be able to help people as this man has. It is great to be able to help people out when they need it more than you. Thanks again.

Lyla Burns on March 12, 2012 at 5:46 pm

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