My mother, Anna Maria (Krakowiak) Babcock (born 1944) is from the Krakowiak Family; she was the middle child. Her parents are Wladislawa “Lottie” (Bulera) Krakowiak (November 12, 1914-December 13, 2007) and Janek “John” Krakowiak (October 24, 1907-December 1, 1967). Lottie’s and John’s other children include Peter Krakowiak, Maria Anna (Krakowiak) Spires Walker, and Larry Krakowiak.
Lottie’s parents were Wawryniec and Katarzyna (Mordka) Bulera, and John’s parents were Walenty and Jozefa (Stepnion) Krakowiak. Lottie had two sisters, Staca, and Marianna (Krakowiak) Drewin. Staca did not stay in touch with Lottie after her family immigrated to the United States in 1950, so I do not know what became of her. Marianna had three marriages, and had a son with each of her husbands. I only know the last name of her third husband, and not the names of the previous two.
Marianna’s sons have several children between them, and they likely have grandchildren and perhaps great grandchildren by now. Marianna and her family lived in Kielce, Poland, and I was able to visit and meet most of them (15 of them) when I studied abroad at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow Poland in 1992. Once Marianna died, no one remained in touch with each other, as only Marianna and Lottie communicated with each other at that time.
John is one of about 10 children from his family. As an adult, he had one glass eye. I don’t know what experience or situation caused him to get the glass eye. I do remember my grandmother telling about how John’s mother had told him that no one would ever want to marry him because of his glass eye. Once John married Lottie, and the family later moved to Germany, and then on to the United States, there were no further contacts or communications maintained between John or any of his family members.
From what I understand, both Lottie’s and John’s parents were farmers. When Lottie was a young girl, she herded geese on the farm – that was her job. In bare feet and on frosty mornings, she herded geese. My grandmother had about a third grade education, and was fluent in Polish and German. She took some classes in English upon coming to the United States, though never learned to write more in English than her name. She also did not drive and never had a driver’s license. She walked to her places of work (or was driven by others), and she walked to stores and businesses in the Village of Gowanda. She worked at the garden nurseries of Knowles and Fisher, and she also worked additional jobs, such as being a waitress at the local diner in Gowanda (now Olympia).
The Krakowiak Family came to the United States through Ellis Island, and to the Buffalo and Western New York State area, in 1950. Cousins to the Krakowiak’s were John and Josephine Tomaszewski of Gowanda, New York. John Tomaszewski secured a guarantee of employment for John Krakowiak at the Moench Tannery in Gowanda. Thus, the Krakowiak Family was guaranteed a sponsorship by the Tomaszewski’s, a condition that was required of immigrants for entry into the United States at that time. The Krakowiak Family (all but John) moved to Germany from Poland in about 1948. The reasons for the family’s move were to escape the effects of World War II, and to seek a better life in the United States. They did not want to experience another war in Europe.
As a result of their citizenship in Poland, Germany was the best route out of Europe for them. So, Lottie and her young family traveled on foot and by train to Germany where she worked at two or three large corporate farms, particularly in the kitchen. (In her later years, Lottie was able to secure a number of financial security payments from the German government due to proof of her work at the farms.)
For about two years, Lottie worked on the farms until the Polish government allowed John to leave Poland. Lottie and the children were forced to wait those two years because the Polish government had desired John to remain in Poland. It was a tense situation during the wait because the family worried that John might not be allowed to leave Poland. Once he died and reunited with his family, they sailed to the United States from Germany.
Once in Gowanda, the Krakowiak’s lived with the Tomaszewski’s until John was able to purchase a house. The Krakowiak Family then remained on Union Street in Gowanda, often experiencing flooding in the basements of the two different homes in which they had lived due to rising waters and/or flooding by the Cattaraugus Creek that runs through the center of town.
For about the last one to two years of his life, John developed and suffered from cancer. My family believes that the cancer was caused by John’s handling of the many chemicals at the Tannery without any protections. John died from the cancer in 1964 when he was 60 years old. My grandmother, “Babcia,” as we called her and is the word for “grandmother” in Polish, was healthy and well, living independently until she was 86 years old, at which time she was placed in the Gowanda Nursing Home. She died as a resident of the Nursing Home when she was 93, about seven years after moving there.
My father, Bruce Babcock, married my mother, Anna (Krakowiak) Babock in 1963. In 1971, I was born, and the following year, my brother was born.
My aunt, Maria (Krakowiak) Spires (and later, Walker) was already married to Eugene Spires (May 7, 1919-November 7, 1993) when I was born. Maria and Gene had two children, Desiree “Desa” (Spires) O’Malley and Phillip Spires. Desiree is married to Joseph O’Malley. They have one son, Joey, and live in Connecticut. I met Joey when he was a baby. Phil married Dawn (Clark) Spires on October 17, 1992. They have one son, Benjamin – named after his great grandfather, Ben Spires. Phil is a Corrections Officer.
After my uncle, Gene, died after struggling with cancer for two years, Maria met Roger Walker. Gene was 25 years older than Maria, and had been previously married. Gene’s first wife died from cancer. Maria then married Roger; they live in Florida.
My uncle, Gene, was also a veteran of World War II, having served in the US Army, fighting in France during the war. Gene worked for the State of New York at the Gowanda Psychiatric Center in the maintenance department, and as a painter. Gene and Maria also operated a farm; and Gene owned a gun shop for many years, being a licensed firearms dealer. My aunt also worked for the State of New York at the Gowanda Psychiatric Center, as well as when mental health patients were transitioned to community housing, then still being employed by the State through J.N. Adam Developmental Center. She retired from there after about 27 years of State service.
To my knowledge, Peter Krakowiak never married, nor had any children. Once he graduated from high school, he went into the Navy. Once he completed his service in the Navy, he moved to and lived in Chicago for the remainder of his life. My family has not heard from him in many years; he had kept in touch with my aunt, but she stopped hearing from him many years ago.
Larry also moved to and lived in Chicago for several years, where he was married to and divorced from a woman named, Pam. Sometime following the divorce, he moved back to Gowanda, where he has lived and worked since then. He does not have any children.
Much of the Tomaszewski Family still lives in or near Gowanda, though I am aware of John’s and Josephine’s oldest son and his family living in Chicago. John and Josephine had three children, including two boys and a girl. When the boys became adults, they married and had children. The daughter, Gloria, is single and does not have any children. The eldest son of John and Josephine is an airline pilot, likely long retired by now. He may have also served in the Vietnam War, as I recall. The Tomaszewski’s, therefore, are cousins, far-removed, from me; they would be considered my third cousins.
Other family related to the Krakowiak side of my family include the Covelli’s from Buffalo, New York, and the Turdly’s from Brooklyn, New York City.
John and Lottie Krakowiak, and John and Josephine Tomaszewski, are bured in Holy Cross Cemetery of St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Gowanda, New York. Eugene Spires is also buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Gowanda.
To follow is a collection of photos that I have of the Krakowiak’s, Drewin’s, Babcock’s, Spires’, O’Malley’s. and Clark’s.
Author’s Note: Information and images identifying my brother have been removed from this post as of April 27, 2016 as a courtesy per his request.
Bruce and Anna Babcock, and Parents at Wedding, July 1963, Gowanda, New YorkThis is a photo of my parents on their wedding day in July 1963. From left to right are Emmett Sprague, Bernice Gale (Briggs) Babcock Sprague, Bruce Babcock, Anna (Krakowiak) Babcock, Wladislawa “Lottie” (Bulera) Krakowiak, and John Krakowiak.
This is a photo of me when I was about two weeks old, just after I was baptized at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Gowanda, New York. In the photo are: front, left to right: Phil Spires; Desiree Spires, Me (the baby), Maria (Krakowiak) Spires, and Eugene Spires; rear, left to right: Anna (Krakowiak) Babcock, Emmett Sprague, Bernice Gale (Briggs) Babcock Sprague, Wladislawa “Lottie” (Bulera) Krakowiak, and Fr. Rog. My dad took the picture.
All photos of my cousin’s wedding reception were taken by family friend, Alice Tschopp.
I hope that you have enjoyed my information and photo record of the Krakowiak side of my family!
Eighty-five: Valley Bugle (1985). Gowanda Central High School Yearbook. Gowanda, NY: Jostens.
Photos and information of Michele Babcock-Nice (2014), 1974-1992. Snellville, Georgia.
Photos and information of Wladislawa “Lottie” (Bulera) Krakowiak, 1950-2007. Gowanda, New York. Now the Property of Michele Babcock-Nice (2014). Snellville, Georgia.
Tschopp (1992). Photos of wedding reception of Phil Spires and Dawn (Clark) Spires. Property of Michele Babcock-Nice (1992). Gowanda, New York.
Other photographers of other professional photos, unknown.