American Veteran 04


Anthony "Tony" Rakowski

October 31, 1942 ~ July 3, 2019 (age 76)
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Anthony Steven Joseph Rakowski, Dorr, MI, son of the late Theodore and Charlotte (Kyowski) Rakowski, was born Oct. 31, 1942. He grew up in Wyoming, MI. He attended Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church and Catholic Central High School - joining the Army shortly after graduating. In the mid 1960’s, soon after his tour with the Army, Tony purchased the large brick school building in Dorr and immediately built an apartment in the upper level. He opened a shop on the main level that he named Back Dorr Antique and Gifts, which remained a viable business for the next 50 years. Tony always had an interest in antiques - buying, selling, restoring, and collecting. He also had a keen interest in local history and amassed quite a collection of written works along with local and family artifacts, and religious icons - statuary and works of art. He was especially proud of his Polish ancestry although he often iterated that he was convinced he had more Polska Roma (Russian/Polish Gypsy) running through his veins than his parents would ever admit. Because of his love and appreciation for local history, he was involved in the 1969 history written about Dorr for its centennial celebration, and worked with a group of volunteers who organized the 4th of July festivities that year centering on Dorr’s history. Seven years later, in 1976, in honor of our country’s bicentennial, Tony again got involved in a much greater way and was instrumental in getting pictures, doing interviews, and verifying legends and stories for the subsequent history of Dorr and its people to celebrate our nation’s 200th birthday. For a few years, Tony and a group of college student studying drama and theater at Aquinas developed quite a “Spook house” in the upper levels of the school for Halloween. Many a young tyke and some older ones as well got the bejeebers scared out of them, only to turn around and do it again. Christmas was another great time at Tony’s. One year a friend of his had a 14’ tree dropped off at Tony’s. He solicited help from a few of the local folks and youngsters that hung around; Tony managed to get the tree up and decorated one evening on the upper stairway landing. It was an effort that went well into the night but finally the lights were lit and everyone regaled at the sight to be seen. Toasting themselves and each other with hot cocoa, coffee, and whatever else might be around, Christmas came went and the tree was still there. Epiphany came and went; the tree stood proud. The space was unheated so the greenery lasted for a while but Ash Wednesday was nearly here and it had to go. Unfortunately, the enthusiasm held by everyone before Christmas wasn’t there so much after Christmas. Winter settled in; the days were short and the nights were long. The promise of spring was still off on the horizon. Eventually all the lights and ornaments were removed, the guidelines were snipped, and the tree came down without too much incident. That was probably 25 - 30 years ago and I am quite sure there are still pine needles on the upper landing - to be swept up and discarded. Over the years, Tony hosted art classes, was a t-ball coach (with the diamond in his backyard), and continued to help with the Dorr 4th of July celebrations. For several years he had a museum in one of the large classrooms in his home, he helped with the immigration process of some Polish refugees, did some foster care, and most recently (for several years) volunteered at Annetta Jansen’s Project Hope in Dorr. From the first Sunday he lived in Dorr until he could no longer negotiate the steps in and out of his upstairs apartment, he attended St. Stanislaus Catholic Church in Hilliards. Seldom did he miss a Sunday celebration; and after retirement, he took in weekday Mass as well. Anyone who knew Tony knew also of his love for the Blessed Virgin Mary and knew well his fondness for and commitment to praying the rosary. It was a rare occasion when Tony was not clutching his large, well-polished and well-worn rosary. He also had a great reverence for his patron Saint; statues, pictures, and holy cards of Saint Anthony were throughout his home. One of the early folks Tony met after moving to Dorr was Thelma Hilliard, a great-granddaughter of Capt. Lonson Hilliard and the last one of that family. Capt. Hilliard donated the land for the railroad siding which became known as Hilliard’s Station and eventually the burg that grew from that siding was simply called Hilliards. When Thelma took ill, Tony looked after her. Upon her death, she bequeathed to Tony the many Hilliard family items she treasured so dearly. Tony often voiced that when he died he wanted to be buried in a Volkswagen shipping crate, seated in his rocking chair next to a good reading lamp, with a fair amount of reading material, a wood stove, an ample supply of split firewood, a cup of coffee, and his Pall Mall cigarettes. The shipping crate was in reference to the first few vehicles that Tony had when he moved to Dorr. These were Volkswagen mini-vans (he insisted they were station wagons or a bus). When resting or at mealtime, sitting at the table he usually preferred a rocking chair. He always had some musty and faded book or journals to be read from mid-September through early April. His wood stove would be lit, providing ambiance and warmth; a tea kettle would be whistling away - signaling that another cup of Hills Bros. instant coffee could be just moments away, if he felt so inclined. A January evening, sitting in the rocking chair, sipping a cup of coffee, toking on a pack-a-day smoke, and browsing through the latest Antique Trader magazine was Tony’s idea of a perfect winding down of another good day. Later, topping off the cup of coffee, grabbing his rosary, and heading off to bed for evening prayers and restful sleep would prime and recharge him for the next day’s business. Besides his antique and appraisal business, Tony worked for Bell Fibre Products Company in Wyoming, MI - retiring from there after many years of service. For the most part, he enjoyed working at Bell Fibre and built several friendships that lasted well into his retirement years. Besides his parents, Tony was predeceased by his brother Tom, who passed away in 1986. He is survived by a sister-in-law, nieces, nephews and a few cousins. A Mass of Christian Burial will take place at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, July 9, 2019 at Saint Stanislaus Catholic Church in Hilliards - burial to follow at the church cemetery. There will be visitation at Kubiak-Cook Funeral Home in Dorr on Monday from 4-7 p.m. with a Rosary at 6:30. RIP Tony.

Donations may be made to:

Annetta Jansen Ministries/Project Hope
1808 143rd Ave. PO Box 241, Dorr MI 49323
Tel: 1-616-681-4673

St. Stanislaus Catholic Church
1871 136th Ave., Dorr MI 49323
Tel: 1-269-793-7268

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