April 16, 2014

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Slain pizzeria owner remembered as compassionate man

LORAIN — Police and a community are still searching for answers regarding who shot and killed David Kowalczyk, the owner of Granny D’s Pizza.
A candlelight vigil was held in front of the East Erie Avenue restaurant Monday night, where mourners laid crosses and flowers on the doorstep and hung signs saying Kowalczyk will be sadly missed. Blue, yellow and purple candles left pools of wax over much of the concrete entrance by Tuesday morning.
Lorain Police Chief Cel Rivera said Tuesday police are trying to determine whether Kowalczyk’s shooting was related to two other armed robberies in recent weeks, one on June 16 when an off-duty security guard was forced to the ground at gunpoint during the robbery of Chapman’s Grocery on G Street and a second last week when a patron was shot in the stomach when he tried to follow a man who had robbed Jack and Diane’s Lounge on West Erie Avenue.
Nancy Michaels, Kowalczyk’s girlfriend of
25 years, said on Tuesday that even though her boyfriend was well-liked in the community, few knew him personally.
“Everybody knew David as the guy who would go down to the bar and have couple drinks or as a guy who made pizzas,” she said. “But he was a very passionate man who was 100 percent about his family and lived for his children.”
Often, though, it was complete strangers who received a glimpse into how kind Kowalczyk was. Once, when a pregnant woman came into the restaurant saying she was homeless and hungry, he gave her a pizza and something to drink for free. A few minutes after she left, a man who identified himself as her boyfriend came back to pick up sunglasses that she had left on a chair.
“David said to me, ‘Nancy, I think I was scammed again, but I’d rather be scammed 10 more times than let someone who really needs food go hungry,’” Michaels said.
Another time, a man walked into the restaurant asking if he could do some work in exchange for food. Kowalczyk agreed to give the man food for free, but the man was adamant about working for it.
“He told the man there wasn’t any work, but as he walked out of the store, David yelled after him ‘Hey, there’s a little section of the parking lot that probably wouldn’t hurt to be swept, and it might take just enough time for your pizza to cook,’” Michaels said.
Michaels said various circumstances kept her and Kowalczyk from ever getting married, but her four children always knew him as their stepfather.
“They knew they had a dad and they also had a Dave,” she said. “When my oldest daughter had her child, he became Grand-Dave. That was unique. That was special.”
Kowalczyk assumed ownership of Granny D’s Pizza in 1982. Michaels said he loved polka music and rollerblading, but put his family above everything else.
When his parents became sick, he spent five years taking time off work and away from Michaels in order to be with them. They died within 18 months of each other — his mother of pancreatic cancer in February 2005 and his father of complications due to congestive heart failure in August 2006.
“This is a man who put life on hold when his parents became sick,” she said. “Five years of his life where his sole purpose was to support his parents when they were dying.”
Police have offered a $2,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for Kowalczyk’s death. Anyone with information on either incident can call Lorain police detectives at (440) 204-2105.
Contact Adam Wright at 329-7151 or awright@chroniclet.com.

062707pizza.jpgBruce Bishop / Chronicle
Memorials for David Kowalczyk were placed outside Granny D’s Pizza on East Erie Avenue.
Listen to the 911 tape