Stephen Milan Pitoniak, 95, passed away at the Iroquois Nursing Home in Jamesville, N.Y., on April 12, 2020. Stephen (Steve) was born in Syracuse N.Y. As a youth he lived on State Fair Blvd., in Lakeland, N.Y. There, with his parents, Joseph (a Czechoslovakia immigrant) and Mary, three brothers and two sisters, he grew up living in a refurbished army barrack that his family called home.
The last of six children, Steve had many youthful tales such as riding their cow, swimming in Onondaga Lake, jumping off the Long Branch Bridge into the lake, and working at the various amusement parks that once circled Onondaga Lake. After graduating from Solvay High School, Steve went to work at Porter-Cable Tool Factory where he met the beautiful love of his life, Betty.
Steve tried to enlist in the Army-Air Force, but was rejected due to a medical condition. Instead of using his medical deferment, Steve saved his money, got an operation and was accepted into the Army Air Force. He became a B-24 bomber nose gunner in the 465th Bomb Group stationed in Italy. He flew 31 missions into north Italy, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Germany, and Yugoslavia. Although never shot down, there were sometimes up to 100 holes in the plane from flack. Steve was able to talk about every detail of his missions since he was responsible for recording the events of each mission.
Upon his return at the end of the war he married Betty and welcomed their first child, Stephen. They lived in barracks with other returning veterans at the Hancock Air Force base near Mattydale. Eventually, with the help of two of his brothers (Joe and Frank) and brother-in-law (Harry Komrowski), he built his home near East Syracuse where he resided for 64 years.
Steve worked his way up the promotion ladder to become a foreman and finally a Superintendent of building construction for JD Taylor overseeing the construction of over 70 buildings. He was proud of his accomplishments and often pointed out these building to his children.
Steve continued to work for Taylor until he retired at age 62. However, Steve was not the type to sit still and soon re-entered the work force as a carpenter for the Syracuse City School District. Soon his talents were realized and for several years he was appointed by the city as the Superintendent for the construction of schools in the city.
Steve had an enormous number of interests including hunting, fishing, golfing, bowling, horseshoes and of course dedicated SU sports fan. An avid reader, loved historic sites and traveled with Betty across the United States. He was a life-time communicant of the St. Matthew’s Church in East Syracuse, President of the Board of Education for Fly Road School and a life-time member of the East Syracuse Volunteer Fire Department. Despite his hard construction life he was always able to get up in the middle of the night to go to a fire to help and still go to work in the morning. He never refused to help anyone in need.
Steve was devoted to his children. He played with them as children, attended their school events, loved to take them on trips, stressed the importance of education, and was always there for them throughout their lives. He was a great dad.
Steve always had a goal of living to 100. Unfortunately, in his 90's he was struck with the cruel slow development of Alzheimer's. He fought through a broken pelvis, pneumonia, and fractured hip. He never gave up. He recognized his children, enjoyed road trips with them, asking them to remind him of things he forgot, and always asked how their families were doing.
On Easter Sunday his heart finally surrendered his body’s struggle to continue participating in the wonders of life that he so treasured. We are sure his soul never surrendered. We will miss him.
Steve was predeceased (1996) by his wife Betty (Berger); his sisters, Mary and Agnes; and his brothers, Joseph, Frank, and John. Steve is survived by his children, Stephen (Kathleen) Pitoniak, Richard (Bertha) Pitoniak, and Patricia Kuhl (Richard). He had five grandchildren, (Zachary Pitoniak, Joseph Pitoniak, Sean Michael Pitoniak, and Heather (Kuhl) Papandrea and Adam Kuhl); and nine great grandchildren.
Memorial donations may be made in Stephen's name to the East Syracuse Volunteer Fire Department (go to https://greatnonprofits.org/city/east-syracuse/NY. and scroll down to "East Syracuse Fire Department Inc."
A private burial service was arranged by Delaney, Greabell, Adydan Funeral Home in East Syracuse, N.Y. A memorial service will be held at a later date.
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