Leonard F. Kaczmarek, who as an FBI agent investigated church burnings in the South during the 1960s and cases touching on the Cold War, as well as bank robberies and homicides, died Wednesday in Hospice of Northwest Ohio, South Detroit Avenue. He was 93.
Mr. Kaczmarek, of South Toledo, was in declining health recently, his daughter Deb Kaczmarek said.
He retired from the FBI’s Toledo office in 1982. From the mid-1980s into the 1990s, Mr. Kaczmarek taught law enforcement at Owens Community College. He shaped the careers and mindsets of hundreds who went on to become police officers in northwest Ohio, said Mike Schwanbeck, 37, a Toledo police officer who grew up across the street from Mr. Kaczmarek. They became especially close the last decade.
“Over the years he helped, giving me advice and pointers and steering me in the right direction,” Mr. Schwanback said. “Even though he had a stellar career in law enforcement and as a teacher, he had time for his family and reminded you of things like that. It’s good to have ambition with your career, but don’t forget the people who love you and are most important in your life.
“I don’t think he realized it, he was teaching me how to carry myself, not just as a police officer, but as a family man,” Mr. Schwanbeck said.
He was born Nov. 18, 1924, to Ann and Frank Kaczmarek and grew up in the Polish-American neighborhood around Nebraska and Junction avenues. He was a 1942 graduate of Macomber Vocational High School, attended the University of Notre Dame for a semester, and served stateside in the Marines during World War II. He received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Toledo.
He went to work for the Ford Motor Co. in Monroe but, with friends as lawyers and police officers, saw promise in a law enforcement career.
He became a Toledo police officer in 1952 and was promoted to detective sergeant. The FBI hired him in 1962. The previous two years, he’d taken law classes at UT.
After his training at the FBI Academy, he was assigned to the Atlanta field office. He investigated acts of violence, such as church burnings, targeting African-Americans who sought voting and other civil rights. He was on the case after demonstrators, led by Martin Luther King, Jr., were arrested as they tried to meet with Albany, Ga., officials to discuss desegregation. A commendation from J. Edgar Hoover was one of many he received.
“Most people think that law enforcement is running out and chasing someone. Ninety percent of the job is communication,” he told The Blade when he retired.
A turn at the Army’s language school at Monterey, Calif., honed his skills in Polish and other Slavic languages. He had some encounter with Cold War intrigue when assigned to Chicago.
“We didn’t know until we were grown some of the cases my father worked on,” his daughter Cindy Swan said. “Sometimes we didn’t see my father for days on end, and then we’d see him on the news — a homicide or drug bust down in Florida.”
Family driving vacations to the West, and stops at Disneyland, became a release.
“That’s how he balanced the craziness sometimes of that kind of work,” Ms. Swan said.
He and his wife were baseball fans, and he continued to renew his annual membership in the National Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, N.Y.
He and the former Phyllis Doman married Aug. 21, 1948. She died Sept. 1, 2002.
Surviving are his daughters Sharon Kaczmarek, Cindy Swan, and Deb Kaczmarek; son, Jim Kaczmarek; three grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be from 2-8 p.m. Wednesday at Sujkowski Funeral Home Northpointe, with a Fraternal Order of Police service at 6:30 p.m. and a Scripture service at 7 p.m. Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Thursday in St. Patrick of Heatherdowns Church, where he was a member.
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