Celebrating the Life of
November 3rd, 1947 - August 21st, 2020
Our Virtual Celebration of Life for
from September 27th, 2020
My Mother. Our Danuta.
My mother, Danuta Widlo, was truly extraordinary. That reality is becoming dramatically evident to us daily, as her beloved extended family grapples with her unexpected death.
The grounded, humble, and always-real Danuta we thought we knew so well found it easy to hide her specialness. But listen to these little-known facts about her background, scenes that could so easily be part of a thrilling WWII movie!
Danuta’s mother had been a member of the Polish Underground Resistance which initiated the Warsaw Uprising in 1944 to liberate the city from German occupation. Her father was a soldier in the Polish Army which finally freed Janina’s unit. They were trapped underground in the sewers when Warsaw was destroyed and the uprising was brutally suppressed.
What a legacy! Doesn’t this history explain Danuta’s resilient strength? Both her parents were superheroes, just like her.
Danuta was born in a post-war, Polish resettlement camp in Diddington, England on November 3rd, 1947 to Janina and Roman Widlo. Polish forces abroad were not able to return to their homeland and they came to Britain where they were restricted in the work they could do. That is how the family came to settle in Pudsey, Yorkshire (with a new addition to the family, George Widlo, Danuta’s beloved brother).
It was here that Danuta spent a happy childhood attending primary school during the week and Polish school, girl guides, church, and the Polish club on weekends. Her mother worked as a dressmaker and her father worked in a woolen mill. Danuta was a quiet child who admitted later, in her slyly devilish way, that she often took pleasure in teasing and sparring with George.
The first great loss
A deep shadow would invariably cross Danuta’s face whenever she spoke about Janina’s death when she was twelve. It was an unspeakable loss at that vulnerable age, and the little girl within grownup Danuta felt it deeply for all of her life. Janina’s untimely death had left Roman alone with two children, and the Polish community rallied to connect the now single father with a Polish widow, Waleria Bisanz, who lived in London with her young daughter, Veronica. The two families blended in Farsley until Danuta followed her dreams and left for the United States in 1968.
A healer of body and spirit
She began working in New York as an X-ray technician at the Animal Medical Center, then enrolled in Hunter College for her Bachelor’s degree, followed by Chiropractic College and her Doctorate. She lived in the Evangeline, an apartment building in the West Village, moved to Tudor City and then lived at Roosevelt Hospital Housing where she met many of her closest friends to this day. As a young woman she hitchhiked cross-country and traveled the world by sailboat.
She opened her own chiropractic business on West 72nd Street in New York City, where she treated many with her Chiropractic skills along with homeopathy and spiritual methods. She spent much of her young adulthood attending, with a group of friends, a weekly spiritual circle in Greenwich Village. Spiritually became very important to Danuta’s life.
The always-practical Danuta would ultimately return to working as an X-ray technician in order to better support the unexpected visitor in her life (me). She continued her career as a mammography technician at Columbia Presbyterian until she retired in 2012.
After retirement, Danuta spent her time actively involved in her loving Upper West Side church (Broadway United Church of Christ). She took Polish classes at Hunter, frequented the opera and theater, read lots and lots of books, and traveled the country and world. She took pleasure in researching her family history, connecting with and visiting extended family in Poland. Keeping the family, especially the younger generation in touch with each other was very important to her. She also loved to volunteer at my school, helping teachers get ready for the beginning of every school year.
An unexpected joy
My mother never expected to become a mother. But from the instant we met she made it abundantly clear to me that motherhood brought unbounded joy to her. We were—are—very close. With the help of her family and dearest friends, she provided me with a rich life full of love, safety, and adventure.
As many of you know, Danuta was a very special human being. It’s hard to capture in mere words how incredible she was, because impact is something you feel. She always left you feeling heard, loved, and respected. Among many things, she was a superb listener—wise, empathetic, warm, loving, and never judgmental. She was an unforgettable aunt, sister, daughter, mother, and friend.
While she had survived cancer once before, this time Danuta decided it was her time to go. Though we all wish she could be on earth for an infinite number of years, we must remember that she lived a full life and truly left a mark on this world.
Danuta is always with us, in our hearts, minds, spirits, sky, animals, and trees.
We love you Danuta, more than you know. Thank you for being you.
Rest in peace, our sweet angel.
Danuta loved to spend time at "The Pool" (which is really a pond) in Central Park near her home. It was her special oasis. Please help us raise enough money so that we can adopt a bench in her honor and have a special place to visit whenever we want to spend time with her! All proceeds will go to the Central Park Conservancy.
Enjoy some of Danuta's favorite tunes as you view the photos below.
The gallery below is a tribute to Danuta Widlo from her family and friends.
Leonard Cohen was one of Danuta's beloved singers. This was her favorite song.