Walter Thomas Mianowski died peacefully on April 20, 2018, at the Care Center in Grand Marais. Walt was overjoyed to be home again in his beloved community after a short stay in Silver Bay.
He was born on February 18, 1927, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Walter Richard Mianowski and Irene (Jocz) Mianowski. Walt was given a treasured family name that he shared with his dad and an uncle.
The day he was born, Canada and the United States formally entered into diplomatic relations and the U.S. Senate passed the White-Duck Bill, Radio Act of 1927, establishing what is now the Federal Communications Commission.
Walt grew up during the Great Depression and only got to attend school through the eighth grade. He did not let the hardship of his early years deter him from living a life of friendship and service to family, church, and community.
His first job was as a press operator for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, at age 16, earning $21 per week—pretty good for a teenager in the 1940s but not a living wage.
He went into construction at 18, a vocation he would follow for nearly three decades. He worked on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, then Koppers, a big engineering and contraction company that sent him on projects in Ohio, Boston, and Baltimore.
Walt moved to Duluth in 1950. It was in Duluth that he met Jane Wilsey, who was teaching at the school in Esko. They fell in love and got married in 1952.
Walt’s work took them back to West Virginia for a short time, but they missed the North Shore and settled in Grand Marais. Walt worked on the construction of the Taconite Harbor plant and Jane began teaching in Grand Marais.
Walt worked for many years as the custodian at the old Grand Marais Elementary School. Prior to that he worked construction for Isak Hansen and C.O. Backlund. Walt and Jane owned and operated the Montgomery Ward catalogue store in Grand Marais from 1974-1985.
Walt loved to fish, especially at their cabin on Devil Track in the summer and curling in the winter. He was a life-long golfer, not stopping until he could no longer see the ball. He and Jane loved travel and visited many countries, as well as many trips within the U.S., including Texas, to see their son, John.
Walt believed deeply in community and public service. He was always looking for ways to help people, especially children. He helped form Little League Baseball in Grand Marais, served as the announcer at football games, served as a volunteer fire fighter, was a member of the Grand Marais City Council and served as mayor. Walt also served as a county commissioner, was a founding board member of the Violence Prevention Center, was a member of the Arrowhead Regional Development Commission and the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Board, a member of the Board for the Council on Aging, the Park Board, and an active member of First Congregational Church.
Walt was a long-time leader in the Lions Club, holding many offices including President and District Governor, and was awarded a life membership.
He became a Mason, completing the final degree to become a Shriner.
Generations of children remember Walt as Duffer the Clown, and more kids than can be counted have played with smiley balloons given to them by Walt. Over the years, Walt gave joy to young and old, leaving a legacy of laughter, kindness and friendship.
Walt was preceded in death by his parents, Walter and Irene, and his beloved wife, Jane.
He is survived by his son, John Mianowski, Grand Marais, his sister Dorothy (Jack) Muller, Zelienope, PA, and special friend Geri Jensen, and a niece and nephew.
A memorial service will be held at the Congregational church on July 21, 2018, at 11:00 a.m. The family requests that memorials be designated for the Shriners Hospitals for Children.