WARREN - A local World War II veteran laid to rest on Wednesday was reminded earlier this year of the time he spent in the military when he was contacted by an 18-year-old man living in France who had in his possession the jacket that served as part of the veteran's dress uniform.
Family members said that despite never receiving his jacket, Paul "Lubianetzky" Lubiak was pleasantly surprised to receive a handwritten note in the mail from Robert Dimitri of Haute-Saone in eastern France.
Lubiak's original name, Lubianetzky, and serial number were still inside the jacket collar.
His son-in-law, Chris Gilger, said after the funeral he doesn't think Lubiak was disappointed that Dimitri kept the jacket instead of returning it.
"He had a good life and a lot of good memories. He was a good man and left us with a lot of wonderful memories as well," Gilger said.
Lubiak's family and friends gathered at the Carl W. Hall Funeral Home in Warren on Wednesday to celebrate the life of the 94-year-old World War II veteran, who died Sunday. They touched on his time in the war. However, most of their remarks were about the man they knew.
Tribune Chronicle / Virginia Shank
The family of Paul Lubiak, 94, of Cortland, leave the Carl W. Hall Funeral Home in Warren on Wednesday after celebrating the life of the World War II veteran, who died Sunday. Family members, from left, include his son-in-law and daughter, Chris and Margaret Gilger, and his wife of 67 years, Lena Lubiak, as well as other family members.
For example, Lauren Shaffer said she does not have a sad memory of her grandpa.
"He just wasn't that kind of guy. No matter what he always made me laugh," she recalled.
Lubiak was remembered as a Christian husband, father, grandfather, friend, businessman and war veteran.
"We cannot cover Paul's 94 years in the short time we have ... but each one of you can continue to keep the memories of him in your heart and carry them with you," said Pastor James Dittmar, who presided over the service.
Lubiak was born Feb. 14, 1919, in New York, N.Y., the son of Peter and Pauline Pashesnick Lubianetzky. A graduate of Warren G. Harding High School, he owned and operated Trumbull Window Cleaning for 50 years.
He was a veteran of the United States Army 82nd Airborne Division, and injured in a glider crash on D-Day that took the lives of all the other troops on the glider. He was treated for his injuries in England and returned to the 82nd. He also participated in the invasion of Sicily in 1943, before D-Day and the landings in France.
Lubiak married his wife, Lena, on March 2, 1946. Along with his wife and children, Paul P. Lubiak and Margaret Gilger, he also leaves nine grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
His daughter remembered her father's sense of humor and his love of flowers.
"I think of how he made his plants and flowers grow and flourish just as he helped his family grow and flourish. He was a really good dad. I have no complaints," she explained.
His son recalled his father as humble and compassionate but still stubborn. Borrowing from Hamlet, he explained "I could spend the rest of my life looking for a man like my father and never find him."
"He was a good father. We never went hungry. We always had clothes to wear to school," he said.
In April, when Dimitri first contacted Lubiak, he also sent the Cortland man a picture of himself and the jacket, which was later worn by French troops after the war and has different buttons on it. He said a friend of his found it in an attic along with other war memorabilia.
In a series of emails, Dimitri said he used Lubiak's serial number to find him online. From there he found a Tribune Chronicle article from 2011 when Lubiak was featured during weekly profiles of area veterans. Dimitri told Lubiak he was researching the campaigns that took place around his home during World War II.
Lubiak told the Tribune Chronicle in March that he doesn't remember what he did with the jacket or how it may have been left behind. He speculated that the jacket may have been left behind in a town where he was billeted, where it was common practice to have civilians do laundry for the troops.
He did say of Dimitri, ''I think he's a nice young man.''