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Joseph F. Babiarz

August 26, 1927 June 5, 2018
Joseph F. Babiarz
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Obituary for Joseph F. Babiarz

Joseph F. Babiarz, Senior

Joseph Babiarz was born on August 26, 1927 to Stanislaw and Bernice Babiarz in Detroit, Michigan.

Mr. Babiarz, known to most one and all as “Joe,” died June 5, 2018, at age 90 in his home in Boca Raton, Florida surrounded by family and friends and his wife of 69 years, Ruth.

He and Ruth met while working at Gratiot Central Market in Detroit as teenagers. He worked at the meat market and her at the cheese stand. He attended elementary school at Transfiguration in Detroit and then Pershing High School. Joe often told the story of asking her out on a date and spending his entire week’s wages. His boss was astounded and said that was not a wise way to spend his money. He replied:”One day, I am going to marry that girl.” They agreed to marry after he returned from enlisted service in the U.S. Army Air Corps. Joe served overseas and told his sons that he had flown over the North Pole nine times and of summer days when the sun virtually never set. He told of the bitter cold in the North Atlantic and an air base in Greenland with icebergs the size of buildings and the need to light fires underneath Jeeps to thaw out their frozen engines. He was awarded the World War II “Victory Medal” by Capt. H.K. Horning, U.S. Army Air Corps. He was discharged from the Army Air Corps at Westover Field, Massachusetts.

After returning from service he wasted no time in marrying his sweetheart, Ruth and enrolling at Michigan State University on the GI bill. He proposed to Ruth at the MSU East Lansing’s campus landmark, Beaumont Tower. He boasted that he gave the signal and got the operator to ring the famed tower’s carillon bells after she said yes. They married on August 7, 1948. He continued an Army passion for boxing and was a ‘Golden Gloves’ boxer at MSU. He sparred with the legendary boxer Chuck Davey. He said getting hit by a Davey punch was like getting run over by a Mack truck. By his graduation in 1951 with a B.A. in hand his, eldest daughter Ruth and son Joseph were born. They would have four more sons and one daughter.

Joe is survived by his beloved wife, Ruth Babiarz and children, Ruth (John) Sliva, Joseph (Sue) Babiaz, Jr., Barbara (Louis) Skierra, Bruce (Janet) Babiarz, Richard (Dee) Babiarz, James (Holly) Babiarz, and Jeff Babiarz. He is also survived by his grandchildren, Stefanie (Robbie), John, Parker, Margaret, Michael, Mikhaila, Zachary, and Grace and sister, Lydia Martino. Joe is preceded in death by his parents, Stanislaw and Bernice, sister, Alice and brother, Irvin.

With a growing family to support, Joe worked multiple jobs, including as a Recreation Director for the Detroit Parks & Recreation Department before landing a job in labor relations for General Motors at its Willow Run Hydra-Matic division in 1952.

He continued his studies and earned a Master of Arts Degree from Wayne State University in 1962 and worked his way into the executive ranks at GM becoming a Corporate Personnel Director before joining Kelsey Hayes Corporation, where he retired as Vice President of Industrial Relations for the global automotive wheel and brake manufacturing company headquartered in Romulus, Michigan. Kelsey Hayes, was founded as a wooden wheel manufacturer and made steel wheels, aluminum wheels and was among the first to build anti-lock brakes. He earned his Doctor of Business Administration from Indiana Northern University in June of 1970.

As a labor negotiator he was noted for the constant presence of a cigar and he gained considerable weight. Under doctor’s orders, he was told you can smoke, and be fat but you can’t be fat, smoke and be old. He cut back on the calories but never gave up his cigars or martinis. He ran his first of many Detroit Free Press Marathons at age 50. He and Ruth remained life-long Spartan fans and often visited the campus for football games and visits with three sons who graduated from MSU.

Joe negotiated countless management-labor agreements with the UAW, Teamsters and AFL-CIO covering tens of thousands of automotive workers at GM and Kelsey-Hayes manufacturing plants across the United States, Canada and Europe.

He remained active in teaching as a sideline job for many years at Wayne State University, where he taught master’s students in Industrial Psychology. He also taught at Universities in Indiana and Davenport, Iowa. He was hired by the Crown Prince of Qatar, Amin Bin Hamad Al-Thani, to assist him with his Ph.D. thesis in Chicago. On the Prince’s graduation he presented Joe with a gold Presidential Rolex watch as a token of appreciation. Joe proudly wore his Rolex and told anyone who was interested that it was a gift from a Prince, who now presides as the Amir Al-Thani.

Shortly after his retirement, Joe and Ruth moved from Farmington Hills to Boca Raton, Florida where he resided until his death. Joe was well known to everyone in his Boca neighborhood for his long runs and later long walks, cigar smoking, poker playing and inventing reasons to have parties with the neighbors. On frequent visits with their children and grandchildren in Michigan, they would stay with family and Joe loved going to formal cigar dinners at the Detroit Athletic Club.

Friends may visit at Lynch & Sons Funeral Home, 1368 N. Crooks Road (between 14-15 Mile Rds.) Thursday, June 14th, 4-8pm. A Funeral Mass will be celebrated at Church of St. Owen, 6869 Franklin Road, Bloomfield Hills, Friday, June 15th at 11am. Friends may visit at church beginning at 10:30am.

Burial will take place in Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Detroit.

Memorials appreciated to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital or The Shriners.

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