Longtime veteran of the foodservice industry Tom R. Kujawa, VP of account services at the Marlin Company, passed away on Thursday, June 2, 2011. He began his marketing research career at Noble and Associates and in 1975 joined the Marlin Company.

Below is his bio as it appeared June 5, 2011 on the Springfield News-Leader Web site:
He was a big man in so many ways. Six foot five with a yard-long stride. He looked down, saw needs and reached to help. Tom R. Kujawa, 59, passed away, Thursday, June 2, 2011, and we lost a giant of a man.
Tom was born November 11, 1951 to Walter and Mary Kujawa in Evansville, IN, where he grew up and graduated from high school.

A gifted multi-sport athlete, Tom loved competition. He played shortstop in Little League, became a high school tight end, lettered in college tennis, and was a feared home run hitter in slow-pitch church league softball. As an adult, he was even occasionally successful in the office sports pools.

Tom always answered the call of adventure. Between high school and college, he played lead guitar in a rock band, then panhandled and hitchhiked up and down the coast of California. He loved music and was a great fan of Bob Dylan, being especially intrigued by Dylan's lyrics, a natural for a future communicator and talented writer.

In Springfield, Tom met Lenette, an Evangel University music major, and they married on February 15, 1975. He graduated from Evangel in 1980 with a B.S. in psychology. Throughout the years, he maintained his loyalty to the university. He and Lenette were annual members of the Evangel President's Club and together, established a keyboard scholarship at Evangel in memory of Dr. June Kean, a professor of music.

After college, Tom worked for the State of Missouri counseling in group homes for troubled teens. He began his marketing research career at Noble and Associates and in 1975 joined the Marlin Company, contributing his knowledge of foodservice marketing and research and was ultimately promoted to V.P. of Account Services. His knowledge, friendships and contributions in the foodservice industry made him a leader in the field. At Marlin, he was a mentor for many interns from Evangel, Missouri State and Drury. He was held in fond esteem by those who worked with him and is remembered by his co-workers as strategic, smart and compassionate with a wry sense of humor, and for his athletic airport walk that would get him back more quickly to his beloved wife and home.

In addition, Tom partnered with Lenette in their business Aflair to bring creativity, spontaneity, and joy to those celebrating weddings, parties, and other special events.

He gathered several nicknames through his life---The Cossack, from his Polish heritage, and The Grizz, as in grizzly bear for his love of the outdoors. He felt he was closest to God in nature and loved the mountains, especially the serenity of the Smokies and the thrill of the Rockies. He even loved outdoor yard work, growing herbs for another of his passions, cooking. No one equaled Tom as a host and chef (think perfect creme brulee). For an office talent show, while others were singing or reciting, he presented macerated strawberries.

Tom was also big in heart and soul. He lived his faith with honesty, integrity and giving, according to his favorite Scripture, James 1:19 ‚"be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger". He always took time to counsel anyone who had a problem. For many years, he brought cheer to families with seriously ill children staying at the Ronald McDonald House by fixing and serving Christmas dinner. He was a dedicated CASA supporter and represented children as their advocate in the court system. He took youth choir groups on outings.

Because Tom lived his faith, it was common for him to give generously. While on a business trip, a co-worker saw him return to a homeless man they'd passed on the street and give him $100 "because he needed it more than I did."

Survivors include his wife Lenette, parents Walter and Mary Kujawa, Springfield, brother and sister-in-law Michael Kujawa and Christa Hoffmann, Bonita, CA, beloved godchildren and many friends as close as family.

Tom will be missed for his hearty laugh, his charm, his honesty and integrity, his warmth and creativity, and for what he gave to so many.

Visitation will be from 6-8 p.m. at Greenlawn East on Tuesday, June 7. His memorial service will be at Wednesday, June 8 at 1:00 p.m. at Ridgecrest Baptist Church with Rev. Jude Fouquier and Rev. Hosea Bilyeau officiating.

Flowers are welcome, as are donations to:

  • CASA of SW Missouri, P.O. Box 14364, Springfield, MO 65814. Credit card donations may be made by calling 417-864-6202. Please ask for Debbie and indicate Kujawa Memorial.
  • Kujawa Keyboard Scholarship, c/o Evangel University,1111 N. Glenstone Avenue, Springfield, MO 65802. Online donations may be made at http://www.evangel.edu/. Click "Give Online to Evangel".

The online Guest Book can be visited here.