Growing up on Brilowski Road
By Kris Leonhardt
STEVENS POINT – Growing up on Brilowski Road conjures memories of barley soup and straw mattresses for 94-year-old Gladys Maziarka.
She was one of five boys and three girls born to Frank & Cecelia Brilowski in an area known as Route 2 at the time.
“(Brilowski) was my maiden name. My dad had a farm there and my uncle, Joe, so that whole area was Brilowskis,” she explained.
Bruno Maziarka lived a mile and a half away from Gladys and her family.
“We were neighbors, but I didn’t associate with the boys (in Bruno’s family,) only his sister Lucille,” Gladys recalled. “When he went into service, I would write letters to him. We were just friends.
Trying to keep up Bruno’s morale, Gladys wrote letters during a three-year period, while he was in the service.
“When he got home from service, then he asked me if I wanted a date, you know, to go out to eat and stuff like that; just casual. He came home in November, and we were married in June,” she said.
The couple married June 1, 1946, at St. Stanislaus Catholic.
“My parents redid their upstairs; they made it into an apartment for us on Brilowski Road,” she explained.
A son, Edward, and a daughter, Brenda, were born on Brilowski Road.
In 1959, Bruno and Gladys built their own home in Stevens Point, in which Gladys still resides.
Bruno worked as a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, while Gladys was the office manager for a company called Weber Tackle, which shut down in 1978.
“All of the tackle was being made in the foreign countries. They couldn’t sell anything here, because everything was so cheap. They could make a dozen of them for a dollar. Here they were maybe a dollar a piece,” she said.
Gladys then worked part-time at Sentry Insurance before retiring.
After her son and daughter were grown, Gladys took up bowling and golf, qualifying for the Channel 7 tournament for a total of 15 years.
In later years, as her husband’s health began to deteriorate, Gladys helped care for the man who seemed to be invincible.
“I could write a book on that guy. It is just unreal what he went through,” she said. “He had more than nine lives; he had the lives of two cats.
The lives of two cats
“Bruno’s parents came from Poland to the United States. His parents and siblings lived in Posen, Illinois, until he was three years old. His parents were very poor and got swindled out of money by a stockbroker named Rozner, who convinced them to sell and buy a farm in Stevens Point,” Gladys said.
“Mrs. Maziarka died at age 54, when Bruno was 16 years old. His dad moved back to Chicago, leaving Bruno alone on that farm.”
Bruno enlisted in the United States Army one year later. He and a friend drove to Milwaukee in a Model T Ford, with 15 cents in his pocket.
He then did his Army training and maneuvers in Georgia.
One day while sitting in his pup tent under a set of pines, an electrical storm snuck up on the troop.
“He was writing a letter when an electric bolt came down and struck one of the pine trees, traveled into the tent and struck Bruno, throwing him out. All of his Army buddies started praying for him as his heart had stopped. Medics were called and they gave him CPR and he finally came to,” Gladys said.
“After training, he left on a ship to Europe. While on this ship, he came down with pneumonia, where they gave him kerosene to drink. They got to London and (he) was taken to a hospital there.”
While recovering, Bruno was separated from his unit. He later had to set out on his own to track them down in France, where he would operate as a radio dispatcher.
While in the service, he was stationed at Normandy Beach; Rhine Beach; Ardennes, France; central Europe; and was in the Battle of the Bulge.
He earned the Victory Medal, American Theater Ribbon, European-African-Middle Eastern Theater Ribbon, with one silver Battle Star and three overseas service medals.
“He always volunteered, because all of the other guys had families,” Gladys said.
“During one of the wars, he was hit with shrapnel in his hand.”
“His brother Edward was a paratrooper; he was shot down over Germany and ended up in a concentration camp where he died from lack of proper care,” she recalled.
“Bruno was stationed a couple of miles from there and was going to visit him the next day; however, (Edward) died before he got there.”
Bruno was discharged Dec. 5, 1945.
In 1986, Bruno had a major health setback when a heart valve ruptured.
“At that time, there was only a 25 percent chance of surviving, but he did it,” Gladys recalled.
Ten years later, he had five bypasses. He recovered, but Bruno was not done with the challenges life would bring him. Years later, he was headed for more surgery.
“He had surgery on diverticulitis pockets…He was bleeding internally, so they had to open him up again,” Gladys explained.
Bruno continued to have complications, but persevered.
“He was quite a character; he still would go fishing and hunting and all of that stuff. He didn’t give up,” she said.
“And then in ice fishing, he fell through the ice twice. His buddies had to save him.
After numerous complications, Bruno passed away in May 2013, but left behind a legacy of bravery and strength, as well as the heart of the woman he met on Brilowski Road.