BY DIANE BUKOWSKI
December 25, 2016
Mon.Dec. 26, 2-8 pm Sawyer-Fuller Funeral Home 2125 12 Mile w. of Woodward Berkley, MI
Tues. Dec. 27, Family Hour 9:30 AM Mass 10 AM Church of the Transfiguration 25225 Code Rd. (w. of Lahser at Ten Mile) Southfield, MI
SOUTHFIELD—Dorothy Loretta Ellis Bukowski, 94, mother of this paper’s editor and her six siblings, died December 22, 2016 in hospice, succumbing to complications from surgery performed at Southfield’s Providence Hospital earlier in November. Mrs. Bukowski and her late husband of 60 years, Robert Bukowski, also had ten grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
I am the oldest of Robert and Dorothy Bukowski’s seven children, all born and raised in Detroit after our parents’ marriage on Oct. 18, 1947. One sibling, Paul Bernard Bukowski, passed away Oct. 29, 1972 in a car accident.
This is a personal eulogy to my dear Mother, who along with my father was always there for everyone in their extended family, and loved each one of us equally despite differences that developed as we grew older. They taught us to love others as well, instilling no racial bias into our upbringing.
I left my family home near 7 Mile and Greenfield at the age of 18, moving deeper into the city. My parents were the last white family to remain in our immediate Detroit neighborhood, despite the racist real-estate blockbusters who descended on the area after the 1967 rebellion. They finally moved to another Black-majority city, Southfield, in the 1980’s, only after their new neighbors encouraged them to do so because of rising problems with drug dealing in their neighborhood. They always maintained fond ties with their neighbors in both communities.
My mother was born in New York City, N.Y. on Feb. 5, 1922. She was raised there with her dear sisters Gloria and Ardith until her own mother, Dorothy (nee Grotz) Ellis, passed in 1931. For several years afterwards, she was raised by her maternal grandmother and relatives and always had fond memories of that time in her life. When her father, Arthur Ellis, remarried, the family moved first to Chicago and then here to Detroit.
My mother attended the all-female Rosary College outside Chicago, and then graduated from the University of Detroit in 1943, one of only a few women among hundreds of men attending the school at that time.
She worked for a time as a kindergarten teacher, during which time she told me she learned never to raise her voice with the children, a lesson that carried over into our own upbringing. She also worked at Henry Ford’s main plant for a time during the war doing clerical work. She made lifelong women friends during her time at those schools and jobs. I was always astonished at the number of birthday cards she got every year from across the country.
Dorothy Ellis married my father Robert Bukowski, a native of Bay City, Michigan, on Oct. 18, 1947. They lived for a short while in an apartment building on Lothrop in Detroit, near West Grand Blvd. and Second. That was my first home. When my mother became pregnant with my brother Michael, they moved to a small bungalow at 19189 Murray Hill, where they raised the rest of us—Mark, Paul, John, Eileen and Jean.
I will never know how my mother did it, cooped up in that little house with seven children. She told me the fifties were a blur to her. The family had no car for several years. My father traveled to his job by streetcar and bus and took us grocery-shopping in a little red wagon. After he finally bought a car, he used it to work at the small tax and accounting firm he established in 1959, the Bob Bukowski Tax Service, at 7 Mile and Conant. He worked very hard to support all of us, coming home during tax season to fall asleep on the couch. My brother John and sister Eileen later went to work with him, and carried the business on after he retired.
My mother did not learn to drive until many decades later, but when she did, it was like letting a bird out of its cage. I was highly distressed when she gave up driving at the age of 92, knowing how much it had meant to her.
My family belonged to Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish during its time in Detroit. I was astonished to discover in 1983, when our union local AFSCME 457 participated in a march commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1963 March on Washington, that famed civil rights hero and martyr Viola Liuzzo also belonged to our parish. I met Mrs. Liuzzo’s children on that march. I discovered Dr. King, union leaders Walter Reuther and Jimmy Hoffa, and numerous other nationally known icons attended her funeral held in our small church, which had been converted from the grade school’s gymnasium.
Viola Liuzzo’s spirit must have lived on in my parents, both of whom supported me in my lifetime of political work. My father brought my sister Eileen to see me speak at an anti-war rally in Kennedy Square in the early ‘70’s. He always told people he was proud that I was a “fighter.” My parents had a subscription to the Michigan Citizen during the time I reported for it from 2000 to 2010. They shared the paper with their next-door neighbor and close friend Roy McAlister, Sr. after finishing it.
When I was falsely arrested for covering a fatal state trooper chase on E. Davison in 2008, my mother and some siblings came to support me during my sentencing hearing. My mother’s hearing was failing at the time, and she did not hear Judge Michael Hathaway say at the beginning that he was not going to give me prison time, so she sat through the sentencing in agonized suspense until he gave me probation and community service. But she did hear the many supporters who had come for the hearing tell her what a wonderful daughter she had.
My Aunt Gloria, Uncle Don and my favorite cousin Tim Shuster also supported me during that trial. They sent supportive emails to me throughout the trial. Every time my Aunt Gloria, who is my godmother, sends me a card, she always tells me to keep on with my work fighting for the people.
As my siblings grew older, they had their own children of course. My mother and dad were always there to help take care of their grandchildren, especially when my sisters’ initial marriages ended in divorce and they needed the help. Every holiday season, we were all welcomed into their Southfield home. My mother cooked wonderful holiday meals for all of us, assisted by my sisters and sisters-in-law (I never did learn to cook—I think my mother didn’t want me to be a housewife.)
After my Dad passed in 2008, and my mother later gave up driving, my siblings John, Eileen and Jean visited overnight, did housework, cooking, shopping and other chores for my mother. We all took her on various excursions during that time. My last outing with my mother was our visit to the DIA this year to see its “Dance Art” exhibit, and then go to lunch at . Many times, my mother did not feel well enough to go out, however, so then I would visit with her at home, bringing us a Jet’s vegetarian pizza for dinner, flowers, and mystery books I had taken to reading at night to relieve the stress of reporting on Detroit’s distressing circumstances in the Voice of Detroit.
My last memory of my dear Mother a week before she went to Providence Hospital is of her standing in the doorway of our home, waving good-bye and telling me to drive safely, as she always did. I took the photo at the top of this memorial of her at that time, comfortable and happy in her home. She told me to be sure to send it to her dear sister Gloria, her closest friend and confidante for 92 years.
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