I’m writing to sadly share that my dad Don Solarek passed away last week. He was quiet, thoughtful, and would gladly walk in New York City from the Battery to Harlem.
Don always had time to chat with me, share a story, give a lesson, and encourage me. He helped me with my paper route at 6 am when it was 3º in Rochester. He came to every high school cross country race and wrestling match—which were often held around 3:30 pm. Likely not an easy task with his full-time job.
Don provided for me through college, helping pay tuition and sending me abroad to Japan and Ecuador. In 1999, Don visited me in Buenos Aires where we stayed in an 1890’s mansion converted into a boarding house.
While he didn’t have the entrepreneur's spirit, he believed I did and loaned me money to support my new, unproven business in NYC. The company Solarek Studio owes more than just its name to Don.
Dad, thank you.
Please find his obituary below.
Donald Frank Solarek, age 79, passed away at Huntersville Oaks Nursing Home in North Carolina on January 30, 2020. Donald was born on October 21, 1940, to the late William Frank Solarek and the late Loretta Lynn Solarek.
Don was a celebrated athlete, military serviceman, engineer, and father. Born in Salamanca, New York, Don grew up in a traditional Catholic home and helped set up pins at his grandfather’s bar and bowling alley. He fondly recalled ice skating on freshwater ponds with his older brother, the late Thomas Solarek, and one Thanksgiving plucking the feathers out of a turkey to help prepare the holiday meal.
When the family moved to Rochester, New York, Don took up tennis, badminton, and soccer. While at Rush-Henrietta High School, Don won the Monroe Country Section 5 Tennis Championship and Leaders Corps Scholarship award, and was named Homecoming King.
Upon graduation in 1959, Don enrolled at Syracuse University and was elected head of his Kappa Sigma pledge class. In 1960, he changed course, enrolled in the United States Army, and soon found himself stationed in Rochefort, France. On weekend leaves from the 89th Engineer Company, the platoon visited Barcelona, London, and Paris, where he visited the Museé Rodin and the Théatre National de L'Opera. After fulfilling his two-year commitment, Don sailed back to the Americas, landing in New York City, where one night he walked with servicemen up the Bowery to Harlem.
Upon his return to Rochester, Don joined the Monroe County Water Authority and met Kathryn Hayden, whom he married in 1964. In 1965, Don and Kathy welcomed their first son Brian, and two years later had their second son Bradley. In between work and helping raise newborns, Don earned an Associates Degree at the newly formed Monroe Community College.
In 1967, Don joined Xerox Corporation, the international provider of copiers and office equipment, as an engineer. Xerox, which was embarking a growth spree, flew Don and selected running co-workers to competitive races held across the country against Fortune 500 companies.
In 1975, Don and Kathy welcomed their third son Jason, and moved the family to Fairport, NY, a colonial town on the Erie Canal located just outside of Rochester. Two years later, they welcomed their fourth son Gregory.
Don was known to ride his bike 15 miles to work, then run home. Then, the next day run to work and bike home in the evening. Starting in 1992, Don won a series of cross country races and earned the Upstate New York Cross Country Series Championship master’s title three times.
Don served ’team Xerox’ for 30 plus years. He won a special competition for finding a solution to utilize Xerox's massive computer network more efficiently, and retired in 2000.
In his retirement years, Don enjoyed running, biking, tennis, chess, and horseshoes. Don was an avid reader, and enjoyed the radio show 'Coast to Coast.’ In 2007, a surprise came in the form of CSX train derailment that propelled a few 20-ton train cars to land in his yard and on to his Ford Probe car. In 2018, Don, who had been diagnosed with dementia a few years prior, moved to North Carolina to be closer to his children.
Don will truly be missed by all who knew him.
Don is survived by his four sons, Brian P. Solarek, Bradley S. Solarek (Karen), Jason M. Solarek, Gregory M. Solarek (Leslie), two grandchildren, and a soon-to-be third grandchild this spring.
Cabarrus Funeral Cremation & Cemetery of Concord, NC, served the Solarek family.