Michael D.K. Minkiewicz of West Tisbury, 85, died on Sept. 11, 2018, at Falmouth Hospital from complications related to Parkinson’s disease.
He was born in Warsaw, Poland, where his father was an engineer at Ursus manufacturing. Their happy life was tragically interrupted by the Nazi invasion of September 1939. They escaped via Romania, and eventually to France, where several attempts to obtain passage were finally successful. Leaving from Portugal, they sailed to Baltimore, then took the train to Montreal. Their first morning, his father tried to order hot chocolate, and Mike was very surprised to get a chocolate ice cream soda! A strange new world!
His father had tutored him throughout their journey, and Mike was well ahead of his peers when he started school. He completed high school early, and received his B.Eng. in Honors Physics from McGill University in 1953, age 19. After some graduate work he was employed at Canadian Marconi, where he was swept up in the “Canadian Brain Drain,” as American military contractors sought out engineering talent for a rapidly expanding industry. He, along with 20 of his co-workers, came to Airborne Instruments Laboratory, first in Mineola, then Deer Park, N.Y. His specialty was radar systems, and he worked on projects in places ranging from Florida to the Marshall Islands to Alaska.
On a visit home to Montreal in 1963, he met Catherine Hospodarewska through mutual friends. Her parents had also emigrated from Poland during the war, she was an architectural student at McGill, and she loved skiing and cars; what could be a better fit? They were married the next year, and set up home in Hampstead, then Huntington, N.Y. Their children, Christianna and Andrew, were born during the early ’70s.
Mike was an avid and skilled sportsman, and his family followed as best they could. Skiing in the Laurentians, Vermont, Europe, and Colorado. Racquet sports: squash and tennis; he was fast and accurate. Rock climbing and hiking (Catherine would take the back trail and bring lunch). Driving his Corvette in gymkhanas. And then he got into sailing! Starting off in a Sunfish, he soon discovered you could race those too. Moving up to a Greenwich 24 and then a Pearson 30, he was a member of Lloyd Harbor and Centerport Yacht clubs, and served on race committees there as well as chairing the junior sailing program.
In the ’80s the military industry slowed down, with many companies cutting back and even closing. Mike chose early retirement, and accepted an offer from MITRE, in Bedford. This entailed a family move to Wayland, west of Boston. By now the children were growing up and off to college, even getting married. Not too long, and it was retirement for real. First, the empty-nesters moved to Brookline to sample a more urban lifestyle. Along the way they had purchased a “camp” in Martha’s Vineyard, hidden away in North Tisbury, where they found a congenial lifestyle, and Mike took up fishing with his usual ardor. And with Cathy’s retirement, they rebuilt the house as a year-round residence.
Both of them contributed to several carpentry projects, such as decks and pergola, sheds and fence. And there was gardening to be done; Mike helped with the heavy lifting. The many organizations on the Island provided opportunities for social involvement. Mike was a member of the First and Third men’s lunch group, Vineyard Haven Yacht Club, the Rod and Gun Club, and MV Surfcasters, and volunteered with Habitat for Humanity.
He is survived by his wife Cathy, his children, Christianna and Andrew, as well as daughter-in-law Kate Myers and their children, Annie, Sophie, Mikey, and Mary Clare. Memorial services are planned for later in the year.
In lieu of flowers, please direct your generosity to the Martha’s Vineyard Fishermen’s Preservation Trust, P.O. Box 96, Menemsha, MA 02552.