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FELIX PETER DZWONKOSKI, JR.

Born: February 10, 1940
Died: May 19, 2017

Peter Dzwonkoski was born in New Haven, son of Felix Peter Dzwonkoski and Frances Read Dzwonkoski. He grew up in the New Haven suburb of Branford, graduating from Branford High School.

Peter was a member of Pierson College, majored in English and lettered on the J.V. football team.

After graduation he taught English at a local Connecticut prep school. He then went to Indiana University where he earned his Ph.D. in English in 1970, met his first wife Elizabeth Schmidt and his daughter Julia was born. He subsequently taught at Phillips Academy and then returned to Yale to work at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library for 5 years. In his 50th Reunion bio Peter describes his Yale work and his move to University of Rochester where his career spanned 23 years until his retirement in 2001:

Yale acquired the archive of Ezra Pound, in whose mountains of paper I spent most of five years, sorting through the seemingly endless and endlessly fascinating Pound correspondence. I fell in love with the work, learned a lot, came to know books as books, actually spent lunch hours in the Sterling bibliography room and in the YCAL stacks, just handling volume after volume, which is, in the end, the only way one can really know books.

One day in 1977 Margaret Perry, then acting director of libraries at Rochester, visited to pursue her research on Countee Cullen in the Beinecke's astonishing James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection of Negro Arts and Letters, of which I was in charge. The University of Rochester rare books job was open, she made me an offer I didn't refuse, I was hired, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Hired to develop the Library's literacy collections, I acquired over the years the archives of Rochesterian Henry W. Clune, novelists Frederick Exley and John Gardner, the poet William Heyen, WPA executive Jerre Mangione, the Pittsburgh Poetry Series, and the Black writer John A. Williams.

[I assisted} collectors like Sydney Ross and Ray Borst, whose splendid collections of John Ruskin and Henry David Thoreau now reside permanently at Rochester. My account of some of these acquisitions may be read in the March 2003 number of RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Cultural Heritage: http://rbm.acrl.org/content/4/1/27.full.pdf.

Peter served as general editor for the three-volume American Literary Publishing Houses in the Dictionary of Literary Biography series. He published a regular column "Book Lights" on books and book collecting for 33 years. He started and operated Dewydell Books and Prints, an on-line used and rare book selling business with an active inventory between 8,000 and 10,000 items at any one time.

Peter's first marriage terminated in divorce. On July 27, 1996, he married Cassandra (Cass) Zarzycki, an elementary school teacher and a long-time friend. "Peter had," she said, "tens of thousands of books, all over our house and in the barn."

Peter and Cass shared a love of travel and after they both retired in 2001, they took many, long and fascinating trips, including a 79 day cruise throughout Asia and the Pacific, from Samoa to Singapore, Japan and China to Australia and New Zealand. Another memorable voyage was 45 days in the Mediterranean from Barcelona to Greece, Cypress and Egypt. Peter and Cass also transited the Panama Canal twice and once cruised 600 miles up the Amazon River to the Opera House in Manaus.

Peter was honored by selection to the Branford High School Hall of Fame for his stardom on the high school football team. In September 2017 after Peter's death, retired New Haven Register sports writer, Bob Barton, remembered Peter 60 years earlier kicking the extra point for Branford that beat St. Mary's High 13-12 in September 1957.

After retirement, Peter and Cass continued to reside in Rochester but bought a home in Florida for escape from the Rochester Winters. Peter died of heart disease while in Florida. A funeral mass was celebrated in Rochester where he was interred.

Peter leaves his widow, his daughter Julia, his younger brother David, Yale 1975, of Virginia Beach, his sisters Judith Ahern (husband Vincent) of Richmond, Virginia, and Diana Whiteway of Virginia Beach, and his special niece Colleen Aspin and her son Jonathan and many other relatives and friends.

His friend, the poet William Heyen, delivered an original poem in memory of Peter at his funeral.

Robert G. Oliver
With thanks to his widow Cassandra




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