Ron's aunt
New York, New York
Bronistawa (Kaczmarek) Milkowski  (1916-1961)
Born in Bay City, Michigan, four years after the family had emigrated to America, the third daughter of Jozef and Franciszka
Kaczmarek nonetheless inherited the traditional Polish moniker of "Bronistawa"; but, to everyone, she was always Bernice.
If Bernice's life could be described in two words, they would be "unfulfilled potential."  Throughout her teens, she displayed
great academic promise; but a tumultuous home life deprived her of an adequate environment in which to study.  Bernice's
mother, after two years of widowhood and with three small children at home, remarried out of financial desperation.  Husband
number two, Mike Japczyk, a successful entrepreneur, drank excessively.  His loud and often obnoxious behavior dominated
life in the home, and his three children from a previous marriage added even more confusion to the already cramped quarters
When Bernice's teacher visited the home and pleaded for a quiet corner in which Bernice could study, Franciszka failed to
grasp her daughter's need for privacy.  Depressed and deeply disappointed, Bernice left home at the age of 14 and joined her
older sister, Martha, in New York City.  In New York, Bernice refused to attend school, so Martha helped her obtain a job in
the only line of work she knew: the restaurant business.  After several stints in the kitchen, however, it became clear that
Bernice's real talent lay in entertaining people.  As a young woman she had blonde hair, big blue eyes, high cheekbones,
and a curvaceous figure.  She also played the harmonica quite well and danced gracefully.  Before long, she discovered her
niche entertaining sailors on shore liberty in New York, and she began dating some of them.  Men showered her with gifts,
and she never lacked for spending money.  In her early twenties, she landed a job with the Grace Line, working on cruise
ships steaming up and down the eastern coast of the United States, as well as Central and South America.  On board, she
served as a caregiver for children of wealthy passengers.  Although she had no children of her own, she developed a special
bond with youngsters, and parents showed their appreciation in the form of generous tips.  Sadly, money slipped too easily
through Bernice's fingers, or as her sister, Virginia, stated, "She blew it all."  Bernice suffered through two failed marriages;
first with Tony Padovan from New York, and, second, with Joe Milkowski, origins unknown.  As Bernice's disappointments
in life mounted, she turned increasingly to alcohol for escape and eventually died from liver failure in 1961at the age of 44.

Source: tape-recorded recollections of Virginia Plummer  (Oct. 28, 1996/Nov. 1, 1996)

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