Leo Stanley “Twin” Kijowski, 91, of Ford City, passed away Sunday, September 29, 2019, at Butler V.A. Community Living Center, after a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer.
He was born April, 26, 1928 in Ford City, to the late John and Josephine (Gongola) Kijowski.
Leo was an Army, 1st Cavalry, combat Infantry Rifleman veteran of the Korean War. In October of 1951, he was burnt over 55% of his body, 30% of which were 3rd degree burns, when a bomb exploded near him while on patrol. Leo was taken to the Burn Center at Fort Sam Houston Texas where he received several failed skin grafts. By accident, Leo overhead doctors talking about how skin grafts from a twin could produce much better results. Leo told the doctors of his twin, Leonard. Leonard who was fighting with the 7th Infantry of the Army was rushed away from the front lines and successfully donated skin to his brother. At the time, this was considered a ground breaking surgery and the story of the brothers was carried by almost every news source in this country. It was also featured in LIFE magazine as well as an episode of the weekly CBS network TV show, “We, The People”.
Leo spent a total of two years at the Fort Sam Houston Burn Center which included 1 full year where he was immobilized on his back and had his weight drop to as little as 75 lbs. He then spent two more years at the Aspinwall VA Hospital where he went through painful physical therapy and numerous plastic surgeries. At times during his hospitalization he came close to death and only survived because of the amazing doctors and nurses that he had and because of all of the prayers from those who knew him.
He was awarded the Military Order of the Purple Heart, the Good Conduct Medal, and the Korean Service Medal, and was honorably discharged on July 31, 1953. Upon returning home, Leo spent much time recuperating in veteran’s hospitals, but he furthered his education by attending St. Vincent’s College, and was involved in citizen efforts to improve Ford City. He joined the Ford City Lion’s Club and became one of its most active and productive leaders. Leo was a Lion for over thirty five years, serving as the Club president and chairman of numerous committees. Not only was he instrumental in activities that raised money for building and maintaining the Ford City Public Library, but he also guided the efforts involving the design and the raising of funds to erect the monument to our nation’s veterans in Ford Park. He was an active promoter of the annual Candlelight Service each Memorial Day, the Meals on Wheels Program, and the Youth Work Referral Service. The Lions presented him with the Achievement Award in 1970, the District Service Award for Lionism in 1981, and the Outstanding Humanitarian Award to Lionism and Community in 1983. Leo was a member of the Ford City Planning and Zoning Commission for six years, he helped to formulate the Comprehensive Master Plan that made possible the renewal of Ford City during its Renaissance and also involved in the planning and construction of the Ford Park gazebo. In 1995, he was inducted into the Ford City Hall of Fame. He was active in the Disabled American Veterans, American Legion, Veteran of Foreign Wars, Polish Falcons, and the former St. Francis of Paola Church.
He was retired from PPG Industries Ford City and was a former realtor with Century 21 – Roger Stone Agency in Kittanning.
To all of his nieces and nephews, Uncle Leo instilled the importance of family. He was always there helping us and giving advice as we grew up. Often times helping us financially if we needed it. Many of us learned from him how to drive a stick shift, put on a roof, make concrete, paint or how to do plumbing. And if the whole family had not been together for a while, he would make sure that someone was going to plan a family reunion at Polish Falcon Park in the near future. For many years when Poland was under communist rule he would put together care packages for distant relatives and drive them down to Pittsburgh’s South Side neighborhood where he would give them to people with “connections” to get them safely into Poland. We all learned so much from him. He will be greatly missed.
Survivors include his brothers, twin, Leonard Kijowski, of Ford City, and Walter Kijowski of Kittanning; nephews, Alan Kijowski of Buffalo Township, Dennis Kijowski of Ford City, Steve Kijowski of Kittanning, Tom Kijowski of Mt. Lebanon, Dave Kijowski of San Diego, Vincent Kijowski of Colleyville, Texas, Mike Kijowski of Martinsburg, West Virginia, Kenneth Kijowski of Seminole, Florida, Greg Kijowski of Delaware, Ohio, Robert Vargo of Kittanning, Tony Vargo of Hayes, Virginia, Raymond Cieslinski of Trappe, PA, John Copp of Virginia Beach, and Robert Copp of Russellville, Arkansas; and nieces, Rosanne Belasco of Kittanning, Paula Kijowski of Buffalo Township, Cathy Smith of Kittanning, Cindy Hanchin of Dublin, Ohio, Marsha Shiring of Ford City, Lisa Cippel of Ford City, Tammy Henry of Kittanning, and Nancy Cieslinski of Lithia, Florida.
In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by brothers, Alexander Kijowski, Frank “Shanghai” Kijowski, Edmond “Lefty” Kijowski; sisters Rose Cieslinski, Mary Copp and Janet Vargo; a nephew, Bobby Cieslinski; and nieces, Theresa Gaggini and Barbara Ferrero.
Visitation will be from 7–9 p.m., Tuesday, and from 2–4 pm and 7–9 p.m., Wednesday, in the Welch Funeral Home, 1032 Fourth Ave., Ford City. Prayers of transfer will be recited in the funeral home at 9:30 a.m., Thursday, followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 10 a.m., at St. Lawrence Roman Catholic Church, Cadogan. He will be laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. To send an online condolence to his family, please visit www.welchfh.com.