Clarence T. Dziurzynski (or “Ski” to his friends) was born September 19, 1933 in Everson, PA. He was raised in a large Polish-American family.
During the Korean War, Ski served in the Navy as an Aircraft Electrician on the USS Boxer. His time in the Navy, from 1952-1956, was not the end of his military service. His patriotism and sense of duty led him to serve in the Air Force from 1956 to 1961 as Systems Technician at Carswell AFB, TX. His daughter Karen, remembering her father and his service said, “He served as an aircraft maintenance mechanic for fighter jet aircraft. After Korea he was recruited by the Air Force to do the same thing.”
As a result of his combined service in the two branches, he earned six military service medals: China Service, United Nations, National Defense, Korean Service, and two for Good Conduct.
While in the Air Force, he married his wife, Georgia and together they had four children. Clarence and his family shared a sense of civic duty, and this is seen in the civil service and public service careers of his wife and children. Clarence is remembered as, “…tough, intelligent and resilient… such a good & decent & patriotic man… He was quiet but had a mischievous sense of humor. He did not tolerate racism at all whatsoever. He was proud that my Mom had a civil service career even if it sometimes conflicted with his 50s mentality.”
His service to his community and his country continued throughout his life. Ski was a graduate of the North American Tech School in Albuquerque, and worked with the Inhalation Technology Research Institution at Kirtland AFB as an Electronics Technician from 1961 to 1989. His biggest joy was playing softball as shortstop with the Albuquerque City League including championship Senior Teams from 1970 thru the 1990s. He was an Albuquerque resident for almost 60 years.
Clarence’s service during the Korean War affected him and his family long after his service had ended. According to his daughter,
“In our everyday lives he taught us to conserve water and toiletries, and he abhorred wastefulness and inefficiency. He taught us to lather up and then rinse off when bathing and not waste water. Just as he learned to do on board the ship. He taught me to appreciate being organized and to conserve water and supplies.
My father spoke of having to run down into the bowels of the ship when the enemy was bombing them. He said it was very scary because the whole ship would tremor and shake; and you knew it was being bombed and that there was destruction. He and his buddies prayed that the ship would be able to stay seaworthy even if damaged. He said you could feel the pressure of the ocean all around you and knew that they would drown if the ship was blown open. He said that later in life he came to realize that this was why he ended up living in landlocked New Mexico and not near large bodies of water.”
Clarence talked about his service and his mindset during the Korean War. He recounted being different from the other sailors and managed his fear in unique ways:
“When they went into port for a night on the town all the others went out on the town and were drinking and carousing. He chose instead to go to a very nice restaurant and ordered a multiple course gourmet meal. He grew up during the Great Depression and figured that if he was going to die in battle that he wanted to experience fine foods, wines, and desserts. Such a very classy and elegant thing to do. He never forgot that meal and every once-in-a-while during my childhood he would order something fancy that was like an item on that menu that he had tasted. Especially dessert.”
Clarence passed on March 26, 2016. He was survived by his wife of 58 years, Georgia (who passed in 2021); son, Eric and daughter, Karen, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.They were preceded in death by daughter Rene’ Ann in 2000 and son James Robert in 2013. He left behind a legacy of duty, service and civic contribution to those that perhaps never met him but owe him a significant debt.
Special thanks to Clarence’s daughter, Karen Dziurzynski Cox, for sharing recollections and information. Her contributions were invaluable to creating this profile.
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Korean War - Key Events
January 17, 1950
North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung proposes the “liberation” of South Korea to Soviet officials. Weeks of telegram exchanges between Beijing, Moscow, and P’yŏngyang follow, and by early spring Kim has secured assurances of support for the invasion from Soviet premier Joseph Stalin and Chinese leader Mao Zedong.
These events are taken from the Encyclopedia Britannica