Eugene “Gene” S. Orlowski, 87, of Newtown died unexpectedly in his sleep on June 30 at his home. With his wife of 61 years, Angela, he had just celebrated his 87th birthday with his four daughters and five grandchildren days earlier at a family gathering in Cooperstown, N.Y.
He was born in Chicago, on June 12, 1930, to Caroline Napora and Stanley Orlowski. An outstanding student, Mr Orlowski served as president and valedictorian of the Class of 1948 at Crane Technical High School in Chicago. In 1953, he graduated salutatorian with a degree in chemical engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology.
Enticed by the prospect of working in Saudi Arabia, his first job out of college was with Aramco (Arabian-American Oil Company) in New York City. During this time, he met Angela “Lil” Luiso through a mutual friend. But instead of Saudi Arabia, Mr Orlowski was sent to Provo, Utah, when drafted into the Army during the Korean War. There, he worked on the development of chemical warfare, but took a greater interest in the area geology and collecting geode rocks.
He received an early honorable discharge in order to complete his MBA from New York University. After learning his fiancée Lil could not accompany him to Saudi Arabia, he left Aramco and joined the General Electric (GE) Manufacturing Training Program. In October 1955, the couple was married.
They set off for Mr Orlowski’s first assignment in Morrison, Ill., and then in 1957, the couple was transferred to Schenectady, N.Y., where their first daughter, Caroline, was born. The following year, a second daughter, Eugenia “Gigi,” was born when the family was transferred to Lynn, Mass. In 1959, Mr Orlowski received his first permanent assignment with GE in the Aerospace Program in Philadelphia. There, he worked on the Mercury and Gemini Programs, and helped develop essential technologies for the Apollo missions. Two more daughters, Phyllis and Andria, were born in the Philadelphia area.
In 1968, Mr Orlowski joined Perkin Elmer in Danbury and moved the family of six to a spacious house in Newtown, where the couple lived ever since. Mr Orlowski studied Connecticut wildlife and created a nature preserve on the three-acre property. He enjoyed watching herons and other birds visit the pond he created — he even loved bats. His designated work crew of daughters helped build a kayak for the pond and more ambitious paddling on the Housatonic River.
When the aerospace industry went into recession, Mr Orlowski was laid off. Forced to reinvent himself in the 1970s, he sold real estate and started a local engineering and house construction business with his brother-in-law, Nick. After taking a position as a tunnel engineer with the New York Board of Water Supply, Mr Orlowski thought his work troubles were over. But in late 1975, the city teetered on bankruptcy and the job did not survive the subsequent fiscal cutbacks.
Mr Orlowski’s interest in other cultures was sparked after daughters Gigi and Phyllis traveled overseas as exchange students. The family also hosted an AFS student, Natalie, from France. In December 1978, Mr Orlowski was finally able to realize his dream to go to Saudi Arabia by taking a two-year construction management assignment. He read extensively on Arabian culture and even enjoyed his one night in a Saudi traffic jail, where work colleagues had to bring him food. In 1979, Mr Orlowski reunited with Lil and his daughters in Italy for a wonderful vacation touring the country and later traveled to Poland.
In 1980, Mr Orlowski joined Stone and Webster and worked on nuclear power plant projects, including Millstone. He especially enjoyed an assignment in Kula Lumper, Malaysia, where Mei, another of his “adopted AFS daughters” showed him around the city. At age 65, he was asked to temporarily consult with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in New York City, where he worked on subway projects — an assignment that lasted 20 years, until his retirement at age 85.
Mr Orlowski enjoyed much professional and personal fulfillment in his senior years. He and Lil continued to travel the world, sometimes with their dear friends, Marie and Ralph Angell. He also researched the genealogy of his Polish immigrant parents. His greatest joy was helping his daughters raise his grandchildren. Though he struggled with a declining memory and other issues of old age in his final years, he maintained always his wit and humor.
His wife, Lil; his four daughters, Caroline, Eugenia and husband Bruce Grouse, Phyllis, and Andria; his grandchildren, Max, Julian, and Desmond Gialanella and Kiya and Kassandra Moscoso; his sister, Clara Kozma; brothers-in-law, Edward Flanagan and Nicholas Luiso; sisters-in-law, Marcella Flanagan and Margaret Luiso; nieces and nephew; and many other relatives and friends survive him.
A memorial mass celebrating Mr Orlowski’s life will be conducted on Friday, July 7, at 11 am, at St Rose of Lima Church, 46 Church Hill Road, Newtown.
Donations in his memory may be made to Connecticut Nature Conservancy, 55 Church Street, New Haven CT 06510 or a charity of one’s choice.