Tom Ciszewski never met a stranger. He passed from this life Mon., Sept 27, 2021 after a long, heroic battle with Lewy Body disease.
Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10 am on Saturday, October 2 at St. Francis Church, with Rev. Jeff Windy officiating. Visitation will be from 4 to 8 pm on Friday, October 1 at Ottawa Funeral Home. He will be buried at St. Columba Cemetery, with military honors.
Born Thomas Dominic Ciszewski to Joseph and Helen (Puchala) Ciszewski on December 18, 1939 in the Polish Chicago neighborhood of Bucktown, he was raised in the St. Hedwig Catholic community and in fact spoke only Polish until second grade. He graduated from Holy Trinity High School in 1957 and on a dare, applied to nursing school at Alexian Brothers Hospital in Chicago. He graduated with his R.N. in 1960. He then went on to study anesthesiology at St. Mary’s of Nazareth Hospital in Chicago, where he met his first wife, June Inoralski. He graduated in 1962 as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, the first in his family to achieve an advanced education. Tom and June were married in 1963. They settled down, started a family and Tom went to work at Children’s Memorial Hospital.
In 1966 at the height of the Vietnam War, Tom was drafted. Commissioned as a first Lt. he was sent, along with his family, to Bad Kreuznak, Germany where he practiced anesthesia at the 56th Gen Hospital, caring for severely injured soldiers from the jungles of Vietnam. He ended up putting in over 23 years with the Army Reserve, retiring as a Lt. Col. in 1989.
Following his active duty, he was offered the position of Chief Nurse Anesthetist at Ryburn-King Memorial Hospital in Ottawa, Il. The new hospital, Community Hospital of Ottawa, was built in 1973-74, and Tom served as project manager and liaison officer for the move to the new hospital. Along with the 78 Artil. Battalion out of Peru and the 801st General Hospital in Chicago, he arranged the logistics for ambulances, trucks, and personnel needed for the move.
After 5 years in Ottawa, he was offered a position in a private anesthesia practice in Hot Springs, Arkansas. It sounded too good to be true, but after much deliberation decided to take his chances. The chief nurse anesthetist in the practice was a Mrs. Virginia Dwyer, the future President Bill Clinton’s mother. As it turned out, being a Yankee Polish Catholic in a Southern Baptist Community didn’t bode well, and after 2 years, Tom, June and the kids headed back up north. Tom went to work at Hine’s VA and about a year later, was offered his old job back at CHO as Chief of the Anesthesia Department.
In 1982 Tom lost June, the love of his life, to cancer. He was devastated and buried himself in his work. His patients adored him. He was besieged with requests from people who were either having surgery themselves or a family member was requesting him to be their anesthetist. He was particularly adept with children, allaying their fears and treating them to “Chinese perfume”. He ran his dept like a tight ship, one of the few medical managers who actually performed patient care. In 1984 he married Catherine Pool, another nurse at CHO and they went on to enjoy over 37 years of marriage.
Tom retired from CHO in 2005. He continued to do some part time anesthesia work, and helped his wife Cathy with her horses. He loved carpentry and was always upgrading their rickety old barn into a structure that would last. He also loved camping and fishing, singing in the St. Francis Church choir, traveling, and attending his children and nephews assorted athletic events. He was involved with the Ottawa Jaycees, Big Indian Creek Protectiver Assn., St. Francis Church where he served as a trustee for over 25 years, the Ottawa Barbershoppers, the Knights of Columbus, the Ill. Valley Horsemen’s Assn., and served as a board member of the Reddick Mansion Assn.
Tom is survived by his wife Cathy, son Greg (Rhonda), daughter Theresa (Scott) Rodgers, brother Jim Ciszewski, sister MaryAnn (Rocco) Ranallo, sister Susan (Dave Shidler) Pawlicki, sister -in-law Leslie Pool (Laercio Cunha), and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his wife June, parents Joe and Helen Ciszewski, and brother Gregory in infancy.
Pallbearers will be Mike Pluska, Ron Zaremba, Tom Rohden, Jason Pawlicki, Tristan Cunha, Rocco Ranallo, Chad and Chase Wheeler.
Memorials can be made to St. Francis Church, the Reddick Mansion Assn., or Pet Project of La Salle County.
To send flowers to Thomas' family, please visit our floral store.