Son pays tribute to ‘loving and steady’ blue-collar Buffalo father lost to COVID-19: ‘My dad was a great man’


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — “My dad was a great man. There are no buildings named after him, he left behind no fortune, and there are no books that tell his story. He was not great in the way we often try to define the term – he was great in that he was such a *good* man – good to his core, unfailingly good.”

John Pijanowski wrote a tribute to his dad on Twitter Wednesday night. It was the same day he lost his father, Don Pijanowski, to COVID-19. That tribute has since been seen by thousands of people.

Don Pijanowski was at every single game his four sons participated in growing up. He even threw pre-game dinners for the kids who didn’t have a great home life, and needed a nice meal before hitting the court or field. He ran youth nights at his church every Wednesday too. His youngest son, John, said the best way to describe him was “loving and steady.” He explained his father’s demeanor to News 4’s Kelsey Anderson via FaceTime Friday morning, and told her a story about his mom getting frustrated in the kitchen one night.

“My dad looked at me, I looked back at him, and he just gave me this little twinkle in his eye, little smile, made a little sigh and he just slowly got up, walked behind her and he put his hands on her shoulders at the sink,” John said. “I just watched them, and it was just so sweet. And I know how many times he’d put his hands on my shoulders as a kid. And there’s something about those huge, hardworking hands, so strong, when they held you so gently, you just felt so unbelievably safe.”

John can’t remember a time his father ever argued with his mom, Kate. When the two first met, Don would ride the bus an extra two miles a day, just so he could talk to her a few minutes longer.

“It’s kind of one of those classic American love stories,” John said.

John, who now lives in Arkansas, said he asked his dad regularly to move down south, once his mom passed away in 2007. But Don, who was born and raised in Buffalo, would never entertain that idea.

“He loved the winters, he loved the people (and) he loved the food,” he said.

On Sunday, March 29, John called his dad but Don didn’t answer. His brother, who lives in the area, went to check on the 87-year-old and found him not doing well. But even then, the family didn’t realize they’d lose their rock just three days later.

“Nobody who ever met him wasn’t stunned to hear that he was 87.”

Don was a blue-collar Buffalo guy in every definition of the term. John said his dad worked hard at Joy Manufacturing, providing for his family. He was also the first person to step up and help a neighbor in need.

So, for every other ‘Don’ in Buffalo, his son asks you to do your part: keep your distance and just stay home if you can.

“Be good neighbors.”

You never know what loving, hardworking, kind soul you could be putting at risk.

Read John’s full tribute below:

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