Thursday, June 29, 2006

Humble grocer quietly gave away millions

Waldemar Kaminski, who quietly ran a food stand in Broadway Market for more than 50 years, has been revealed to be a self-made millionaire and philanthropist who anonymously gave millions to Buffalo charities and neighbors in need.

He died at home Wednesday night from complications of a long illness. He was 88.

"He didn't want anyone to know him, but I just had to thank him," said Anne Gioia, co-founder of the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation, to which Kaminski donated several million dollars. "Now I think we should shout it from the rooftops."

He made his hidden fortune in the stock market, carefully investing his hard-earned money over the course of his lifetime. The sole luxury in his unadorned flat, situated directly above Kaminski Meats, was the computer that he used to track his investments.

"Sometimes I feel so guilty that there's so much, and it's just me," he said humbly to Cindy Eller, vice president for development at Roswell Park, when he showed her around the apartment he lived in for much of his life.

"He felt that if you died a wealthy person, you had not lived a worthwhile life," Gioia said. "I don't think he had any regrets."

Kaminski gave so much to so many that it's difficult to quantify just how much he's given.

He donated millions to Roswell Park - including $1 million for an endowed chair in pediatrics and $1 million to build a two-acre park on the institute's campus.

He gave handsomely to other groups as well, including the Father Baker Home, the Salvation Army, Hilbert College and Camp Good Days and Special Times. He even helped neighboring families with mortgage payments, college tuition and lines of credit at his stand. ...

"Sometimes I feel so guilty that there's so much, and it's just me." - Waldemar Kaminski

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