'Never took for granted the greatest blessings in his life'

Ted Wozek remembered for love of family, Worth

By William Jones

Theodore Wozek’s love for his family, years of hard work and involvement in the village of Worth are on the minds of friends and relatives after his death last week.

Mr. Wozek succumbed to pancreatic cancer after a four-year fight and died Oct. 26 at his home in Worth. He was 78.

Mr. Wozek, Ted to everyone who knew him, was diagnosed with cancer in 2005 and had surgery to remove part of his pancreas. At the time, he recovered well and did not need radiation therapy, his son Thomas said. Last spring, Mr. Wozek started to lose weight again, and doctors considered removing the rest of his panaceas; however, that would have left him with a debilitating form of diabetes, so he started radiation treatments, Thomas said.

Through it all, Ted kept up his traditions of going to mass every week at Our Lady of the Ridge and sitting in on nearly every Worth Village Board meeting.

“I never heard my father once get down about the cancer,” Thomas said.

“He was a fantastic resident and a great man,” former Worth Mayor Ed Guzdziol said. Guzdziol came to know Mr. Wozek and his family after teaching his daughter at Worth Junior High School, and as mayor appointed Wozek to Worth’s beautification committee.

Mr. Wozek was born in Chicago, where he grew up with his future wife of 55 years, Donna. Both Ted’s and Donna’s relatives came to the United States together from Poland, and their parents always wanted the two of them to get together, Ted, however, was five years older than Donna.

“He was constantly teasing me,” Donna said.

Mr. Wozek was drafted into the United States Army during the Korean War, but was stationed in Alaska because his brother, Edward, was already fighting overseas. During his time in the Army, Ted constantly wrote letters to Donna, sometimes two a week; but she didn’t respond to all of them because she was trying to concentrate on being an honors student in high school, she said. Still, it didn’t take long for the two to realize they wanted to be together, she added.

Mr. Wozek came home in October 1953, and by Donna’s birthday on Dec. 21 put a ring on her finger. The couple was wed the following year.

According to Thomas, Mr. Wozek held two jobs for most of his life. He worked from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. inspecting trains for the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company, then from 5 to 9 p.m. at the post office in downtown Chicago. He worked for the former for 46 years, retiring in 1996, and for the latter 37 years, retiring in the early 1990s.

At Mr. Wozek’s retirement party from the post office, co-workers said he was always very thoughtful, according to Thomas. The work was manually intensive labor, and while many of the younger guys around the office didn’t care, Ted would go out of his way to carry bags for the female employees and anyone else who needed help, Thomas said, citing stories from his father’s co-workers.

Mr. Wozek spent much of his free time gardening, which led to his involvement with the beautification committee after he retired, Thomas said. Donna said he was always interested in nature, and aside from the work he did outside went out of his way to feed critters in the area. Donna said she would try to discourage him from feeding certain animals like raccoons and rodents.

“He told me they’ve got to eat, too,” she said.

After his retirement, Mr. Wozek became more involved in Worth, where he was often seen providing information to or levying complaints before the Village Board. Worth Trustee Mary Rhein, who worked with Ted on the beautification committee for the last two years, said his involvement at meetings was never politically motivated, always just to get his message across and bring something to the attention of the board.

“He was sincere,” Rhein said. “He had a great devotion to the village.”

Mr. Wozek only missed one meeting when he was hospitalized, but otherwise attended all beautification committee events, almost always with his camera, Rhein said. He would take pictures and have them the following meeting in plastic bags for everyone on the committee. He even showed up for Worth’s planting day the same day as his granddaughter’s wedding this year, putting in a few hours of service before going home to get ready for the event, Rhein said.

“He was one of the nicest, kindest father-like figures around,” Rhein said. “He was a phenomenal person.”

Thomas said he remembers his father as an even-tempered, loving jokester who was a good father, never missed mass and always worked hard for his family. When he retired, Mr. Wozek spent most of his time with his grandchildren.

“He didn’t just sit on the sofa and watch TV,” he said.

He also spent much of his time with Donna. Whenever she had to go out somewhere, Ted went with her, Thomas said.

“They kind of rekindled the time they didn’t have together when they both worked,” he said. “My dad never took for granted the greatest blessings in his life.”