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Mechanic loses battle with brain cancer

By : Rachel Coker

Christopher Klimuszka, 37, of Vestal, died May 6 at his home after a battle with brain cancer. He was a motor equipment mechanic in Physical Facilities for nearly eight years.

Klimuszka touched the lives of many people on campus, from students to colleagues to Rodger Summers, vice president for student affairs.

“He’ll live in my heart forever,” said Jim Guditis, motor vehicle equipment supervisor. The two became close even though Guditis was 20 years Klimuszka’s senior.

Guditis said Klimuszka was responsible for maintaining the Off Campus College Transport buses and took particular pride in that work.

“He put his heart into the buses,” Guditis said. “He treated them as if they were his own. It’s going to be a tough act to follow.”

Summers recalled that Klimuszka bought little replicas of school buses and painted them blue to match the OCCT buses. He gave them to student drivers and others.

“He truly loved what he did and it was just so evident,” said Summers, who visited Klimuszka regularly when he was hospitalized in Syracuse. He said Klimuszka had a strong work ethic and wanted to be the best mechanic the University had ever had.

Guditis and Summers said Klimuszka was always eager to help other people, whether they needed to have their car fixed or were working on a home improvement project.

He also took part in Physical Facilities’ annual Take Your Child to Work Day. The workers in the garage would collect deposit bottles and cans and th

Christopher Klimuszka, who died Saturday, was involved with efforts to raffle bicycles for kids during Take Your Child to Work Day. This photograph is from 2000.
en use the money to buy bicycles that would be raffled off to children during the event. Klimuszka always helped the kids assemble their new bikes.

“He was just full of energy,” Guditis said. “His best day was that day.”

Klimuszka’s children, Brian and Brianna, received a plaque honoring their father during this year’s event.

Summers and Guditis said Klimuszka maintained a positive attitude throughout his illness.

“He just had such a powerful sense of who he was,” Summers said. “He kept saying he was going to beat it. He always looked forward.”

Once, when Summers was visiting Klimuszka at the hospital, he told him he was proud of the way he was fighting the disease.

“Chris patted me on my bald spot,” Summers said, “and told me, ‘You’re a good kid.’”

Several benefits were held at the University this year to help him and his family. Efforts led by employees in Physical Facilities have raised more than $30,000 so far, Guditis said.

Checks made out to Chris Klimuszka benefit may still be brought to the garage or sent to JoAnn Navarro’s office, he said.

Guditis said he remains committed to helping Klimuszka’s wife, Holly, and their children, especially his 14-year-old son.

“I can’t replace his dad, but if he ever needs me I’m only a phone call away,” Guditis said. “To know Chris is to love him. He’s the best guy in the world. It’s been hard.”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08