Northeast Minneapolis giant Walt Dziedzic dies at 85
Walt Dziedzic, a lifelong Minneapolis public servant whose commitment and colorful character took him from fighting in the Korean War to playing professional baseball, working the streets as a police officer and serving in elected office, has died.
Dziedzic, who had been ailing in recent weeks, died Saturday of natural causes at North Memorial Health Hospital in Robbinsdale. He was 85.
Because of his lifelong prominence in sports and civic realms, the Dziedzic name remains synonymous with northeast Minneapolis.
Dziedzic and his wife, Pat, raised six children, including state Sen. Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis. Two of their sons became Minneapolis firefighters. Son Joe, who played hockey at the University of Minnesota and for the Pittsburgh Penguins, runs a hockey training center in Roseville.
After 47 years of public service, Dziedzic decided in 2009 not to seek re-election to the citys Park and Recreation Board. At the time, he said his wife had encouraged him to take a break. The time has come. It just seemed right. I thought I was getting a little old for the job, he said, before quickly adding, although I still give them a battle.
He always could. But Dziedzic was endearingly combative, usually polite and willing to talk. Gregarious and blustery, Dziedzic was a gentle teddy bear of a man. He was as likely to be playing with his young granddaughter at a DFL convention as he was to be chatting up delegates. He was always eager to talk about his beloved dog Jake, who preceded him in death.
Former Minneapolis City Council Member Barbara Johnson, a member of another north Minneapolis political dynasty as the daughter of the late Council President Alice Rainville, knew Dziedzic from her own childhood. He was the sweetest man ever. My mother adored him, she said.
Dziedzic lived almost all of his life in northeast Minneapolis, where he was well-known. His commitment, big personality and savvy at working the levers of power are credited with developing northeast into a formidable citywide force.
He graduated from Edison High School, earning nine letters in three sports. His children followed him there. He played professional baseball and fought in the Korean War before returning to begin his career as a police officer. He served on the City Council for 22 years and spent 12 years as a park board member representing the east side.
He was elected to an open seat on the City Council in 1976 and served alongside Rainville. When he first ran, Dziedzic aimed to bring a grocery store to northeast Minneapolis and he did at the Quarry development.
Johnson recalled Saturday how one of Dziedzics television interviews years ago stuck with her. He said it was an honor to have a constituent call the office for help; it meant that you were viewed as someone they could count on, she said.
When he retired, Dziedzic said he was proud of a lot of things built on his watch, but thats not what he considered the most important work.
I took the peoples concerns and answered them whether I was in the squad car, the City Council or the parks, Dziedzic said.
His retirement letter to supporters said, It was a pleasure to serve you. We did it together.
Dziedzic is survived by his wife, Pat, and their six children. Services are pending.
Rochelle Olson 612-673-1747 Twitter: @rochelleolson