ED PINKOWSKI HONORED BY FLORIDA INSTITUTE
This story appeared in POLONIA TODAY, APRIL 2003 issue, page 7
Resume - Edward Pinkowski
St. Petersburg, Fla. (PMN) - The discoverer of General Thaddeus Kosciuszko's last residence in America and General Casimir Pulaski's tomb in Savannah, Georgia, has won another prestigious award.
Edward Pinkowski of Cooper City, Florida, received the Distinguished Service Award of the American Institute of Polish Culture in St. Petersburg, the heart of Pinellas County, which has more people of Polish descent than any other county in Florida. Wallace West, President of the organization, who presented the award, called Pinkowski "another star" in a "galaxy of eminent Americans who have significantly contributed to enhancing the image of Poles in America."
Others who received the award in previous years included the late Dr. Jan Karski, who warned the British and American governments of the holocaust, in which millions of Polish Jews and Catholics were exterminated; W. S. Kuniczak, famous author of "Thousand Hour Day" and other books; and Jan Nowak-Jezioranski, who also received the highest medal that the President of the United States could give to a civilian. Dr. Iwo Cyprian Pogonowski, who received the award several years ago, was in the audience with his wife, President of the Polish Club in Sarasota, Florida.
Dr. Przemyslaw Grudzinski, the ambassador of Poland, congratulated Pinkowski for his work "in the promotion of Polish heritage in the United States." He wrote, "Your diligent work and outstanding achievements in nurturing Polish culture and tradition have made it possible for numerous Polish-Americans to find a peaceful harbor to cherish and rekindle their ethnic background."
KOSCIUSZKO AND PULASKI
Because of his research, Pinkowski purchased the house in Philadelphia in which Kosciuszko was a boarder in 1797-98 and in which, with the help of Thomas Jefferson, who was then vice president of the United States, he thought of leaving his fortune for the education of black slaves, and put up a historical marker on the sidewalk to recall General Washington's engineer during the American Revolution.
The marker, erected in 1967, five years before the federal government restored the house as a national memorial to General Kosciuszko, at a cost of $400,000, provided many photo opportunities for wreath laying ceremonies and other appearances. They included the visit to Philadelphia of Erma Bombeck, syndicated humorist, and John Cardinal Krol, head of the Philadelphia Archdiocese.
But, Pinkowski's greatest impact was in de-mystifying General Pulaski's grave. After years of research, he proved that the commanding officer of General Washington's cavalry forces was not buried at sea, although he died on the Wasp, which was tied up at a finger pier of the Bonaventure plantation in Georgia. At the time, the privately owned Wasp, whose crew consisted of slaves and a few officers from South Carolina, was being used to take French artillery guns out of Savannah.
When Pulaski died on the Wasp on the afternoon of October 15,1779, Eleazar Phillips, the ship's bookkeeper, made a coffin out of yellow pine lumber, which he found stockpiled on the Bonaventure Plantation, whose owner fled to a British island off the Atlantic coast during the fighting in Savannah. After that some of the slaves carried Pulaski's corpse off the Wasp and its captain, Samuel Bulfinch, directed it to the next plantation down the river, known as Greenwich, which Jane Bowen inherited after her husband died on a business trip to London. She buried Pulaski secretly at night so that the British forces, who were only three miles away, would not know where the grave was.
IRON BOX IN SAVANNAH
Most importantly, her grandson, who was often taken to Pulaski's grave, brought in a few gravediggers in December, 1852, and removed the remains of the Polish hero to whom Savannah wanted to pay tribute. The bones, which the doctors of Savannah studied for almost a year, were lined up neatly in an iron box, sealed, and marked with Pulaski's name and rank on the cover. The box was then moved to a shelf in the brick vault under the Pulaski monument in Savannah.
Unfortunately, in 1971, when Pinkowski fitted all of the pieces of the mystery together, no person had access to the brick vault. The soil and water of Monterey Square surrounded it. No one saw the iron box again until the tall Pulaski Monument was taken down in the summer of 1996 for restoration.
Since then Dr. James Metis, coroner of Savannah, and his forensic team have kept the bones in a police morgue and study them as necessary, comparing them with physical and historical evidence. They do not want to release their findings until DNA evidence is available.
Among the mounting evidence, for example, is that the bones indicate Pulaski had a crook in his neck, which meantthat he spent most of his life on horseback and used his saddle for a pillow. The teeth were in pretty good shape and provided plenty of DNA to work with, and x-rays of the bones proved that the British cannon ball that knocked General Pulaski off his horse on October 9,1779, did not splinter his bones, but only caused heavy bleeding.
The x-rays also showed that Pulaski suffered a broken right arm in prior years. Pinkowski found that Pulaski broke it in 1770 in a guerrilla war and could not write for several weeks. His aide de camp, who wrote for him, was unable to find a doctor in the Polish mountains, where they had a camp, to take care of the broken arm.
When West presented the Distinguished Service Award, he said "it was this kind of determination to validate history that led him to rescue General Pulaski from a watery grave and prove beyond a shadow of doubt that his remains were buried beneath the monument in Monterey Square in Savannah, Georgia."
Myths have never stopped Pinkowski from doing a thorough, complete job of investigation. Trying to sort out the myths from the facts was not always easy. No matter what earlier historians wrote, Pinkowski traveled as far as necessary to verify a point or two. His adventures in cemeteries, both in the United States and Poland, remote places, and writings about little-known Polish pioneers in various parts of the country are legendary in the family. The family room of his small but comfortable home in Cooper City, Florida, where he lives with his wife of 60 years, has a small pillow embroidered with the words, "Home Away from Home."
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