Mary Jane (Corrigan) Zalewski
April 27, 1926 – August 10, 2011
Today we lost my grandmother, Mary Jane Zalewski, one of the world’s biggest fans of Irish heritage. Born in Ashland, Wisconsin on April 27, 1926 along with her twin brother, Tommy, to Maurice & Agnes (Braatz) Corrigan. Story has it that they were born so small that my great-grandmother would bundle them up and put them on the stove door to keep them warm. While in Milwaukee visiting her aunt Ethel Corrigan, who ended up marrying my grandfather’s cousin, Edy Strelka, she met my grandfather, Richard Zalewski. They tied the knot on October 11, 1947 and had their first child, my uncle, in 1948. My dad soon followed in 1951 and then my aunt in 1960.
Throughout my life, they always lived in the little house in Cedarburg, Wisconsin that we used to visit for Christmas Eve and many other times throughout the year. My paternal grandparents were very loving, as most grandparents, but they were also stern. Grandpa would scold us for sneaking into the basement or jumping into the window wells, but Grandpa and Grandma also used to have the greatest toys to play with including the matchbox car track and the puzzles. She was always a big fan of Ireland and anything Irish. Even though she was probably just as much German (and some French) than she was Irish, no one dared to correct her on it. She was a CORRIGAN and she was full-blooded Irish and that’s that!
When I was in my first year of college, my grandfather got sick and passed away on April 18, 1999. It was very sad to me since this was the first major death in my family and the first loss of a grandparent. I didn’t know how my grandmother would handle it. It turns out she did very well with herself. She drove (albeit slowly) where she needed to go, met with friends, knitted like she always did, and was usually in good spirits. Sadly, she fell while living alone and had to move to an assisted living center, but she still made the best of it. I ended up buying my grandparent’s old house from my grandmother and we currently still live here. It’s comforting at times. Unfortunately, during the last few years, Grandma started to forget things and had trouble getting around, but she was her normal self a lot of the time. Even at 85, she still loved her pizza and beer. I’m told that she passed away peacefully in her sleep and now she is in a better place, probably catching up with my Grandpa. He’s probably got the “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” vinyl record already playing on the record player.
You can view the memorial video I made for her funeral.
We’ll miss you, Grandma. Thanks for everything. Ireland has one less fan today.
How do I live without the ones I love?
Time still turns the pages of the book it’s burned
Place in time always on my mind
And the light you left remains but it’s so hard to stay
When I have so much to say and you’re so far away
I love you, you were ready
The pain is strong and urges rise
But I’ll see you when it let’s me
Your pain is gone, your hands untied
– Avenged Sevenfold, “So Far Away”