John Zaleski

Published on Wed, Nov 20, 2013
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John Zaleski was born in Sayreville, New Jersey on June 19, 1918 to immigrants from Poland, Anthony and Agata Zaleski. He passed on November 15, 2013 at the Hospice House in Bellingham, WA. John, a long time Blaine resident of 35 years, spent the last three years at Birchwood Adult Family Home in Bellingham.

During his life of 95 years he provided for his family working at many different jobs. He was a butcher and cook at Vassar 
College and in Chatauqua, N.Y. He attended Hemphill Diesel School leading to a position as Maintenance Millwright for Hercules Powder Company during World War II. After the war he found short term jobs in the Klamath Falls, OR area as body guard, truck driver, potato and grain bucker, and filling station operator. In 1946 John began work for Deep River Timber Company in WA state. When the Naselle Air Defense Command Radar Station opened in 1952, he operated diesel power generators as a civilian for the United States Air Force. In 1965 when the Naselle Air Force Station closed, he accepted a similar position at the Blaine Air Force Station working there until it was closed in 1989 when he was able to retire.

John met Emily Lewis, of Warrensburg, N.Y. while they were both employed at Vassar College and they married in January 1942. After a short time in New Jersey, they adventurously set out by ‘covered truck’ for the west coast. When John and Emily finally reached Naselle they bought a wooded parcel where John built their home.  

Known for his lush and prolific gardens, he began gardening before the age of 10 to help his parents and could be seen tilling and working the garden until he was almost 90.  In Blaine, it was his joy to often provide flowers for the altar at St. Anne’s Catholic Church.  

John served in many leadership positions with the Naselle Grange and the Haynie Grange. He was a member of the Mt. Baker Rock Club to which he donated pounds of polished agates. He proudly donated gemstones to a priest in Florida who used them for religious icons. John volunteered at the Blaine Senior Center and he served as a sacristan of St. Anne’s Parish in Blaine for many years. He shared his love of music with the Lynden Senior Center Chorus and especially loved playing the dust pan with the Looney Tunes Kitchen Band. Between rock-hunting trips while John and Emily were snowbirds, he helped other volunteers build Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Quartzsite, AZ.

John found peace and quiet in the garden or working with his rock collection. He greatly enjoyed the outdoors, photography, and had a lifelong fascination with trains. His hands were massive and always busy providing for others. He had a great laugh and rich sense of humor. His daughters will always be reminded of him by the sound of a train whistle, the sight of dahlias and a meal of kielbasa and kapusta. Often known as “Butch” to his wife, John’s “Mamie” predeceased him in 1998. His brother Joe also predeceased him.  John is survived by his four daughters: Mary Zaleski (Rich Lamkin), Sequim, Washington; Marty Nichols (Roger), Bellingham, Washington; Joan Johnson (Jay), Palm Desert, California; and Meg Zaleski (Alan Graegham), Vancouver, Washington. Two sisters: Mary Alchermes, Florida and Martha Prasnal (Andrew), Florida. Sister-in-law Jeanne Zaleski, Louisiana. Two grandchildren:  Travis Nichols (Lauren DeLand), Spokane, Washington and Barrett Nichols (Elizabeth Barker), Bellingham, Washington. Three step-grandchildren: Bill Lamkin (Lois), Lucinia Borgen (John) and Melaney Leidigh (Tim Ditler) all in the Portland, OR and Vancouver, WA area.

You are welcome to celebrate John’s life at St. Anne’s Catholic Church, 604 “H” Street, Blaine, Washington at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, November 23, 2013.  

The family thanks Hospice House and Birchwood Adult Family Home for their loving care. Memorials may be sent to Whatcom Hospice Foundation, 2901 Squalicum Parkway, Bellingham, WA 98225.