Obituary: Samuel Pawlak
Published in the Sentinel & Enterprise, May 2015
City of Fitchburg School Committee member;
Nashoba Regional High School principal;
honored Oakmont Regional H.S. basketball referee
FITCHBURG — Samuel Pawlak was born on November 20, 1944 to John Pawlak and Helen (Roberts) Pawlak. He passed away on May 12, 2015 after a long and courageous battle with ALS “Lou Gehrig’s disease.” Sam was diagnosed with ALS in 2013.
Sam’s life was dedicated to community and family and he had a lifelong commitment to education and sports. Sam’s greatest loves were family, education, community, and sports. He loved to visit Cape Cod, Vermont, Old Orchard Beach and certainly loved a good meal, wine and beer. He grew up in Foxboro and enjoyed playing on the Foxboro High School basketball, baseball and football teams and his brother Jack happily concedes that Sam was the athlete of the family. He graduated in 1965 and was inducted into the Foxboro HS Basketball Hall of Fame. Sam earned his Education degree from Fitchburg State College where he was also a member of the basketball and baseball teams.
Sam taught at Natick High School and Nashoba Regional High School. Sam served as a member of the City of Fitchburg School Committee and was a much beloved principal of Nashoba Regional High School and Administrator for the school district. He is an honorary member of the Nashoba Regional High School Hall of Fame. After his retirement, Sam began a new career in education working with special needs students at Oakmont Regional High School. Oakmont High School honored him in 2014 as a basketball referee and volunteer and he will be greatly missed by his student and pal Nick. A scholarship has been created in Sam’s honor and in the words of IAABO Board #44 who created the scholarship, “Sam refereed, understanding that sport transcends what happens on the court, and in the end it’s all about the character of the people who play, coach and officiate.” Sam retired as a high school referee in 2014 after reaching a milestone career as referee for 50 years. His humorous and animated style of refereeing extended beyond the high school games and the Leominster and Fitchburg Fire Departments often looked forward to his presence at their annual basketball competition.
He was a regular volunteer at the Children’s Hospital in Boston, MA, and enjoyed working with children and families in need of care.
He was honored in his retirement from refereeing by Clinton High School, Oakmont High School, Nashoba Regional High School and Fitchburg High School. After his diagnosis, Nashoba, Oakmont, Fitchburg High Schools and Children’s Hospital, Oakhill Country Club, Family Federal Bank and countless individuals participated in the ALS challenge and in fundraising efforts in Sam’s honor. Teams ran in Sam’s honor to raise money for the Sharon Timlin Memorial Road Race and the Falmouth road race-Compassionate Care ALS. His family is deeply grateful for the outpouring of support and the money raised to help fight ALS and to assist those who have been diagnosed.
He will be missed by those whom he routinely popped in on to have a beer, watch a game or to talk some politics and sports. He was overall leader for the “Pawlak Open” mini-golf tournament and he will be remembered with each passing of the Jacket. Sam’s life will be celebrated this summer at the family’s annual ‘Bippa-Palooza’.
Sam was predeceased by his parents and his wife, Joanlee (Enright) Pawlak. He leaves behind his children, Michael J. Pawlak and his wife, Donna, Kelly Cassidy and her husband, Jim, Mark Pawlak and his wife, Sheila, and Kimberly Pawlak; his grandchildren, Collin, Liam, Katie and Herman Pawlak, and Jack and Grace Cassidy; his brother, John “Jack” Pawlak and his wife, Kristie of Foxboro and their children, Karen, Robin and Elizabeth; and his sister, Gail T. French of Norton, MA, and her son, Steven.
PAWLAK — In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Compassionate Care ALS of Falmouth, MA, a charity close to Sam’s heart. Calling hours are Monday, May 18th in the Brandon Funeral Home, 305 Wanoosnoc Rd., Fitchburg, from 4:00 to 8:00 PM. At Sam’s request, funeral services and burial will be held privately.