4 APRIL 22, 2021 RIDGEWOOD TIMES WWW.QNS.COM
Ridgewood community mourns loss of homeless
man who is remembered for always helping others
BY GABRIELE HOLTERMANN
A memorial service was held for Pawel Felicjancik
at All Saints Priory in Ridgewood on April 16. Felicjancik,
who was homeless in recent years, died
on Easter Sunday aft er a long battle with alcoholism.
Felicjancik was born in Gdansk, Poland, where he
served in the Navy before he immigrated to the United
States in 1992. He was a divorced father of a son and
daughter and also had two grandchildren.
Adhering to social distancing restrictions, about
50 family members and friends attended the service
to pay their respect to a man, described by all as very
handsome and loving but stubborn.
Father Michael recalled the fi rst time he met Felicjancik
— or Paul, as he called him — four years ago.
It was Thanksgiving, and in the middle of preparing
a Thanksgiving meal for the senior center, a tall man
with a long beard and hair entered the kitchen. Father
Michael thought that Jesus had just walked in. Even
though the cleric hadn’t invited Felicjancik to help cook,
Felicjancik took over immediately.
Father Michael described how he had to remind Felicjancik
to wash his hand and put on a hair net, gloves
and an apron. Each instruction was met with a, “Don’t
worry,” eliciting laughter from the crowd.
Father Michael detailed the scene aft er he had asked
Felicjancik to take the turkeys out of the oven.
“He opens the oven, doesn’t turn it off , doesn’t let it
cool down, doesn’t put on oven mitts, sticks his hand in
the oven, takes the tray of burning hot metal and puts
it out on the counter. I said, ‘So this really must be Jesus’
because the oven was cooking at about 500 degrees.
And he put the tray down, he turned around, and he
went to the sink quietly, he put on the water, and he put
his hands in the water, and I said ‘Pawel,’ and he said ‘yes’
and I said ‘Don’t worry.”
Father Michael knew immediately who Felicjancik
was when he came into his life and shared that he was
grateful to be celebrating his liturgy, knowing that he
had been released from his suff ering.
“I’m sorry that I didn’t speak his language, but Pawel
belonged to me. In the same way, that he belonged
to all of you. And I know that I belonged to Pawel. In
the same way that you all belonged to Pawel,” Father
Sister Marianne, who fi rst met Felicjancik four years
ago, admitted that she was upset over his death.
“He was just a person you could love,” she said. “He
gave me light and gave me happiness. I was supposed
to be here to help him, but he helped me tremendously.
A memorial service was held for Pawel Felicjancik at All Saints Priory in Ridgewood on April 16.
Photos by Gabriele Holtermann
He was a defi nite light.”
Felicjancik’s friend Monica wanted him to be remembered
as sweet, kind, genuine and funny. She shared
that he was homeless on and off and that she would
bring him clothes and food. Sometimes, she had to feed
him because he was too sick.
“It was his addiction. He could have had help, but he
refused,” Monica said of the Felicjancik, who used to
work as a carpenter.
Krzysztof worked as Felicjancik’s foreman and
knew him for over 14 years, describing him as the best
carpenter he had worked with. Krzysztof recalled that
Felicjancik took a shower at his house one time, and he
urged him not to return to the street, but Felicjancik
“I said, ‘Don’t go back over there,’ but he went straight
under the bridge,” Krzysztof said.
Hoping to get Pawel off the streets, he off ered him a
job and a place to stay, but was turned down.
Father Michael showed Pawel’s family the basement,
which the church converted into a shelter space with a
kitchen with Felicjancik’s construction knowledge.
“It doesn’t look like the Marriott. This helps save the
Polish homeless community in this area. What we did
was we just took that whole group; they were all on
the street, they all refused to go into programs, but we
already had relationships with them. So we just picked
them up, and we brought them to the church,” Father
Michael said, who added that they off ered Felicjancik
to stay at their shelter many times, but he refused.
“I built that place; I’m not going to stay there,” Felicjancik
said, according to Father Michael.
His longtime friends shared that he was a great dad
and that they all would go on camping and skiing trips
with the kids, leading everyday lives, before he spiraled
further into alcoholism, which eventually led to a life
on the streets.
“He was a good friend. I call him at three o’clock in the
morning, ‘I have a problem,’ he doesn’t ask a question,
he just came,”said friend Tomasz Szmigiel, who met
Felicjancik in 1996.
The last time Felicjancik’s son Sebastian Felicjancik
saw his dad was two years ago. He had lived with his dad
for seven years and said that he didn’t know that he was
living on the streets. Sebastian, though, had suspected
the worst because not even the people closest to him
could get in touch.
He attributes his dad’s death to a series of bad choices
infl uenced by his illness. Sebastian and Felicjancik’s
godson Kevin Koza remembered a man they would go
on camping or fi shing trips with when they were kids
and who was a stand-up guy.
“My dad always said, ‘Out of anyone in the world, if
you ever had a problem, you go to him. He’ll take care
of you,’” Koza said.
Sebastian plans to spread some of his dad’s ashes
at the camping sites they used to frequent and wants
people to know this about his dad.
“I want them to know that, regardless of how they
knew him or what they saw while they were walking
down the street, the guy was a stand-up, oh gee, from
the block straight from Poland, like, super cool,” his son
said. “I’m talking coolest of the cool. He can be out there
hanging out with like rock stars because he’s just that