Cover photo for John J. Jaruzelski's Obituary
John J. Jaruzelski Profile Photo
1924 John 2017

John J. Jaruzelski

October 4, 1924 — March 1, 2017

John J. Jaruzelski, Scientist, dies at 92.

John J. Jaruzelski, a resident of Westfield for 57 years, died on Wednesday, March 1, 2017, at the Center for Hope Hospice in Scotch Plains. He was 92.

John was born Janusz Jan Jaruzelski on October 4, 1924, in Siemionki, Poland on his father's estate on the shores of Lake Goplo, not far from Gniezno in western Poland. He was the eldest child of Wladyslaw Mikolaj Jaruzelski and Janina Anna Helena Jaruzelska, nee Jazwiecka. His early years were passed on the estate in the company of his two younger brothers Andrzej and Jerzy, often joined by their first cousin Piotr Jazwiecki. They were educated by tutors at home and spent much of their time hunting, fishing and swimming in the lake. When he was about 11, he was sent to Warsaw to enroll in a private school run by the German Lutherans. Though devout Catholics, the family selected this Lutheran school because it was considered the best academically in Warsaw. The friends and contacts made at this school were to prove important in John's surviving World War II.

This peaceful childhood came to an abrupt end when the Germans invaded Poland in 1939. Siemionki was near the German border and was quickly overrun by Nazi forces. The family home was seized and the manor house became the headquarters of the district's SS Sturmbannfuhrer. John's father was arrested by the Germans on October 11, 1939, and narrowly survived an infamous massacre at the Inowroclaw prison on the night of October 22/23. When, through the intervention of friends, John's father was released on February 12, 1940, the family fled to Warsaw to stay with relatives.

They spent the rest of the war in Warsaw, suffering the miseries of the Nazi occupation, moving frequently. John attended illegal underground schools because the Nazis had closed all educational facilities for Poles. To protect John from being deported to Germany for forced labor, his mother revised his birth year from 1924 to 1926 to make him appear younger, and 1926 became his birth year for all official documents from then on.

In late 1943, John, his parents, and his brother Andrzej were all arrested at their home by the Gestapo and incarcerated in the notorious Pawiak Prison, an interrogation center from which few emerged alive. They spent five months in Pawiak before being released on March 4, 1944 thanks to the intervention of family friends Maurycy Potocki of Jablonna and Jan Petkowski. John's father died only a few months later in June of 1944, but the rest of the family survived the Warsaw Uprising and the war. After the war in 1945, the family attempted to return to Siemionki. They were able to salvage some of their furniture and other possessions but were soon expelled from the house by the UB, the communist government's Secret Police, who ordered them to leave the district.

John enrolled as a chemistry student at Warsaw University. An opportunity to study at the University of Copenhagen gave John a path out of Communist Poland. He refused to return to Poland and despite pressure from the Polish authorities, the Danish Government protected him, at one point housing him in a prison for his own protection. He fondly recalled playing cards with the guards. Eventually, the Danish authorities solved the impasse by arranging for John to "escape" on to a ferry to Sweden where he obtained refuge, living for several years in Goteborg and performing manual labor in a paper plant and an ammonia factory.

In recognition of services to the Polish underground during the war, John received a scholarship from the Polish Government in Exile in London and traveled to the United States, arriving with about ten dollars in his pocket, to attend a Polish-American liberal arts school, Alliance College, in Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania. John graduated in 1951 with a B.S. in Chemistry. He went on to study at Pennsylvania State University where he obtained his PhD in Organic Chemistry in 1954.

Having finished his studies, he faced a major challenge, when the immigration authorities sought to deport him to Poland, despite the likelihood that he would face imprisonment or death as a defector if he were to return. His legal defense was arranged by a Connecticut couple, Hetty and Roswell Barratt. John won his legal case to stay in this country and on May 27, 1955 he became a U.S. citizen. As part of the naturalization process, he officially changed his first name from Janusz to John.

John soon moved to Pittsburgh where he worked in research first at Mellon Institute (now part of Carnegie Mellon) and then at U.S. Steel. While in Pittsburgh, he met Katharine Spencer Heywood at a church social and they were married at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania on July 7, 1956. His daughter Janina was born in Pittsburgh and in 1960, the family moved to Westfield, NJ, where John was to live for the rest of his life. His second child Barry was born in New Jersey.

John worked from 1960 until his retirement in 1992 as a research chemist at Exxon Research & Engineering in Linden, NJ. He was awarded 15 patents for his work in plastics and fuel additives. He served as President of the College Men's Club and Treasurer of Boy Scout Troop 77 at St. Paul's Church. He was a member of the Highland Swim Club and later the Echo Lake Country Club. A serious bridge player, he held numerous master points. He also enjoyed gardening, swimming and following the stock market.

With the softening of repression in communist Poland, John was able to return for a first visit in the 1960s and visited multiple times thereafter. He also traveled to England and Belgium repeatedly for work, to Cairo and Moscow to visit his daughter on her foreign service postings, to Cyprus to visit his closest friend from Alliance, and to the Bahamas to enjoy the beach with his longstanding bridge partner and their spouses.

John was predeceased by his wife Kathie who died in 1990, his brother-in-law Hal Heywood, sister-in-law Betty Heywood, and sister-in-law Dorota Jaruzelska. John is survived by his daughter Janina Jaruzelski of Dhaka, Bangladesh; his son Barry Jaruzelski, his daughter-in-law Jennifer and grand daughters Katharine and Alison Jaruzelski, all of Westfield, his nieces Martha Heywood of Lambertville, NJ and Sarah Heywood of Brookline, Massachusetts, and nephew John Heywood of Springfield, Missouri. He is also survived by numerous relatives in Warsaw, Poland, including his younger brothers Andrzej and Jerzy Jaruzelski, his niece Katarzyna Jaruzelska-Kastory, sister-in-law Ewa Jaruzelska and nephew Pawel Jaruzelski.

Visitation hours will be held at the Gray Funeral Home, 318 East Broad Street, Westfield, on the evening of Thursday, March 9 from 6 to 8 pm. A memorial service will be held on Friday, March 10 at 11 am at the Gray Funeral Home. Interment will be private, at Fairview Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the College Woman's Club, P.O. Box 2694, Westfield, NJ 07091 or to the College Men's Club, P.O. Box 841, Westfield, NJ 07091. To view John's life tribute, please go to:
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Service Schedule

Past Services

Life Celebration

Thursday, March 9, 2017

6:00 - 8:00 pm (Eastern time)

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Funeral Service

Friday, March 10, 2017

Starts at 11:00 am (Eastern time)

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Friday, March 10, 2017

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