Chester H. Skwara, 86 years old, passed away peacefully Nov. 10 at Stony Brook University Medical Center after a brief illness.
Chester was born in Riverhead on June 2, 1924, to Antone and Catherine Lachick Skwara. The family moved to Peconic where they owned and operated a 50-acre potato farm. He was predeceased by all his siblings, Peter, Edward “Stretch” and Antone “Spara” Skwara, Ann Littlejohn and Helen Stepnoski.
He graduated from Southold High School in 1942, where he excelled in basketball, baseball and track. Chester’s ability behind home plate, as a catcher, was recognized when he was asked by the Brooklyn Dodgers to join their farm team. He was fondly given the nickname “Shorty” while playing for the semi-pro baseball team in Peconic.
He served in the U.S. Army for two years as an intelligence officer in Korea and received an honorable discharge.
Chester happily ran the family farm and was innovative in the eyes of the farming community for planting strawberries, cabbage, cauliflower, sprouts, cranberry beans, string beans and cantaloupes.
He married the love of his life, Joyce Marie Markisz from Holyoke, Mass., on May 20, 1950. They had four children, Chester H. Skwara Jr. of Greenville, S.C., Captain David M. Skwara of Annapolis, Md., Paula Skwara Croteau of Southold and Patricia Skwara Knez of Riverhead.
As a devoted member of Our Lady of Ostrabrama R.C. Church in Cutchogue, Chester was active in the Holy Name Society and sang in the church choir. He was also a Grand Knight in the Greenport Chapter of the Knights of Columbus and was on the Peconic school board.
In 1968 the family farm was sold and Chester went on to work for St. Patrick R.C. Church in Southold and then for the Southold Highway Department for 10 years.
Retiring in 1996 at the age of 72, Chester lived an extremely active and happy life. He continued his love of farming by working daily at his daughter Paula and son-in-law Michael Croteau’s vineyard in Southold. He was happiest when he was on the tractor mowing between the vines, picking blueberries or driving his pickup. Chester had an exquisite 2007 merlot named in his honor, “Chet’s Red,” in celebration of his 85th birthday. He was extremely proud to be involved in viticulture on the North Fork.
An accomplished chef, he has recently had a cookbook, “Farmhouse Kitchen Favorites,” dedicated to him for his years of assisting at Farmhouse Kitchen Cooking School. There was nothing more beautiful to him than the North Fork and the fruits and vegetables produced here.
Chester believed that family came first. He leaves behind his beloved grandchildren, Andrew Skwara of Tallahassee, Fla., Evan Skwara of Greenville, S.C., April Skwara Rice of Jacksonville, Fla., Andrea Skwara of New York City, Ivy Jane Croteau and Markis Reidy Croteau, both of Southold, and Laura Ashley Knez of Riverhead. His first great-granddaughter, Emily Rice, is due in March 2011.
The family surrounded him with love during his brief illness and held a wake Nov. 12 at Defriest-Grattan Funeral Home in Southold. A funeral Mass followed on Nov. 13 at Our Lady of Ostrabrama R.C. Church in Cutchogue. A traditional Polish banquet was held is his honor at the Croteaux farm on South Harbor Road in Southold following his burial.
It was his wish that donations made to Stony Brook University Medical Center, vascular surgery department.