Sylvester D. “Syl” Kowski, 68, St. Cloud
June 17, 1948 – April 15, 2017
Sylvester Donald Kowski, age 68, of St. Cloud, died April 15, 2017, at home surrounded by his family.
Mass of Christian burial will be at 10:30 AM Thursday, April 20, 2017 at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in St. Cloud. Visitation will be Wednesday, April 19, 2017 from 5-8 PM at Benson Funeral Home in St. Cloud and one hour prior to services at church on Thursday. Syl was born June 17, 1948, in Albany, Minnesota, to Sylvester John and
Mildred (Ettel) Kowski.His grandparents were Henry and Anna (Pogatchnik) Kowski and Joseph and Christina (Goebel) Ettel. The fifth of seven children, Syl was endowed with good humor and strong intelligence. Attended elementary schools in Albany and Freeport (including the Flowing Well one-room schoolhouse which his mother also attended as a child), graduated Melrose High School in 1966, and attended four years of college at St. Cloud State, just shy of graduation: the Vietnam War draft left few choices for young men. Syl reluctantly joined the Army National Guard, but his hippie heart never left him. On September 11, 1971, he married the beautiful and compassionate Elaine Jacquemart, the nurse he’d met in the Sauk Centre Hospital ER after a traffic accident. Syl and Elaine had two children. Lance Sylvester, was born August 21, 1977, in St. Cloud, a ten-pound “keeper.” Daughter, Leah Scarleth-Tatiana, was born April 3, 1987, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and was lovingly adopted by them. Syl worked a variety of jobs: many years as a CDL truck driver with Fingerhut, making weekly trips to LA, CA, with his good buddy, Kmitch. He also worked for Vermeer (the big round bale company) in Ogden, UT. Finally he worked in the MN-Department of Corrections and acted as the AFSCME union leader giving him the opportunity to exercise his natural negotiation skills while navigating the halls of the Minnesota legislature. He was politically active, both professionally and personally, a fierce liberal devoted to giving voice and power to “the little guy,” the unions, and grassroots democracy. He was quite proud of the fact that as campaign manager, Mary Ellen Otremba was elected to Congress in conservative central Minnesota. Not so much religious but deeply spiritual, he found his greatest solace in nature. He instinctively absorbed phenology, noting the habits of birds and animals, the subtle changes through the seasons, the slant of light and change of weather patterns. Though he would deny it, Syl was a real artist when it came to wood. He could build darn near anything from homes for birds to homes for people (his magnus opus the house next to the State Forest Campground on Big Birch Lake). He could imagine, design, and execute nearly any project and left his creative mark in the several homes he and his family shared, as well as helping others improve theirs. He loved pine and cedar wood, crown molding, large windows with beautiful views. Blessed with good lifelong friends who recognized his integrity and loyalty; still he was never one to suffer fools, and had no time for phonies, sycophants, or incompetents. One glance or word could wither. Cursed with health issues (an injured back, arachnoiditis, multiple surgeries) the last half of his life, he remained stoic, brave, and real, the pain providing perspective and a certain zen approach to living each day with mellow joy and acceptance. “Day come, day go,” was a favorite phrase in retirement. Living in the moment is the best, if last option. Perhaps the greatest joy of Syl’s life was loving his two grandsons, Ethan and Mont, born in 2005 and 2009. Instrumental in raising them, a powerful role model of a man, and ever so gentle this second time around, the boys were lucky to love him, too. We pray his lessons remain deep in their hearts to guide their way. Syl is survived by his loving wife, Elaine; his happy, successful & excellent fisherman son, Lance; his favorite daughter-in-law with her twinkling eyes and laughter, Alecia (Anderson); his full of- potential daughter, Leah; beautiful grandsons, Ethan and Mont; sisters JoAnne Wolters and Sharon Kowski, brothers, Michael (Ginger), James (Shirle), Roy (Lynne). Other sister and brother of a different mother, Sue & Kevin Tschida. Syl was a favorite uncle, godfather, second father to many of our next generation: Scott, Randy, Beth, Mike, Sarah, and a host of others. The world has lost a good man. A great man, to those of us who love him.