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Chester Z. Sadowski (1921-2017): Army Air Corps veteran sold eggs, raised produce

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SWANTON — Chester Z. Sadowski, whose family’s farming business evolved from sales from the back of a truck to a produce operation near Swanton, died Thursday in Swanton Health Care. He was 95.

He had Alzheimer’s disease, daughter Betty Jo Sadowski said.

Mr. Sadowski was born April 19, 1921, to Stella and John Sadowski and was raised on a Swanton Township farm owned by his father, a Polish immigrant. For decades, he grew produce on the family’s 120 acres, driving the green beans, peppers, and other items to the downtown Toledo market.

A back injury prompted him to switch to grain farming and livestock; the family at one time had 6,000 laying hens, Ms. Sadowski said. He started Sadowski’s Eggs during the 1960s and ran it for 25 years.

The family added a roadside stand on Airport Highway, later putting a building on the property. Now called Sadowski’s Produce, it’s still in the family, run by his son. There are greenhouses at the site, and the family is known for its sweet corn.

To make it as a farmer selling almost exclusively from retail, you have to eat, sleep, and breathe farming, relatives said.

“It’s 24/​7,” son Steve Sadowski said. “It’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle.”

Mr. Sadowski served in the Army Air Corps from July, 1942, until December, 1945, as an airplane maintenance mechanic, working on P-47 Thunderbolts on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific.

Damage from combat missions as well as wear from repeated carrier landings and takeoffs meant constant repair work for his planes.

That experience paid off back on the farm, Ms. Sadowski said. Often times, Mr. Sadowski bought older equipment and fixed it up to save money, and as long as something was running, he wouldn’t replace it.

“Things break all the time in farming,” she said. “And he knew how to put things back together.”

The mechanical inclination didn’t just lend itself to farm equipment. The family for years had an egg vending machine on the property; customers could come up, put in money, and get a dozen eggs.

“You’d set it outside like a pop machine,” Ms. Sadowski said. “You’d put in money and get a carton of eggs.”

Mr. Sadowski married the former Dorothy Kemmer on Nov. 15, 1949, and they had three children.

Community was important for Mr. Sadowski, despite his family and farming commitments. He worked on fund-raisers with the Swanton Exchange Club and other groups, was a member of the Swanton Elks, Lucas County Farm Bureau, and Trinity United Methodist Church, and served on both the Swanton Board of Education and Swanton Township Zoning Commission.

While on the school board in the 1950s, the district built the gymnasium at Swanton Middle School, as well as Park Elementary School.

Despite being in his 90s and of ill health, he still helped out around the farm, working with his family.

“We have a picture of him on a chair this summer, cleaning and sorting tomatoes by hand at 95,” Ms. Sadowski said.

Surviving are his wife, Dorothy; daughters, Sandra Dodge and Betty Jo Sadowski; son, Steve; four grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday at the Weigel Funeral Home, Swanton. Funeral services are at 11 a.m. Saturday at Trinity United Methodist Church, Swanton.

The family suggests tributes to the church, Heartland Hospice, or Swanton Health Care, or a charity of the donor’s choice.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.

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