A man’s character is his fortune.
– Polish proverb
Walter Zebrowski was a very wealthy man.
He was variously a professional soldier, an egg farmer and a developer, respectively in his native Poland, in Burnaby and finally in Whistler. But career titles hardly begin to tell the story of his 83 years.
Zebrowski died last week in Montreal, after being in and out of hospital there for several weeks with heart problems. He had suffered a stroke in February. His only daughter, Eva, took him to Montreal nearly two months ago.
He published his biography last year, in English and Polish, titled In Search of Freedom; Tales of World War Two. The book details how he was wounded on the first day of the Second World War, how he fled Poland and wound up in France. There he began a journey that saw him circumnavigate Europe during the course of the war, twice escaping from Nazi soldiers in France, surviving a U-boat attack in the North Atlantic, crossing Siberia in a box car in the middle of winter, training in the Middle East and then taking part in the pivotal battle of Monte Cassino as the Allies advanced through Italy to Germany.
At the conclusion of the war, Zebrowski continued his journey, to Canada. Starting, once again, with virtually nothing he built a successful egg farming business in Burnaby. After nearly 15 years in Burnaby he moved to Whistler for "semi-retirement" and developed much of the Whistler Highlands/Nordic subdivision, as well as starting the Whistler Water Works Company and the Whistler Television Society. He was also a founding member of the Whistler Rotary Club.
His book tells some of his story in Whistler, but leaves out many of the anecdotal details that people who knew him remember, such as driving himself to the hospital after suffering a heart attack.
Zebrowski was a do-er, who worked for everything he ever got and didn’t ask for anything in return. His determination and stubbornness were exemplified by Eva Lake, the small lake in Nordic he created and named after his daughter. Various government officials told him the water couldn’t be controlled, but Zebrowski thought otherwise and built a small weir to create the lake.
Then he was told fish wouldn’t survive in the lake, but Zebrowski stocked it anyway and the fish survived. Up until the time he went into hospital he would visit the lake on a regular basis to feed the fish bread crumbs, the fish swimming to the surface as soon as he arrived.
Zebrowski did well by developing real estate in Nordic, but he was very generous with his wealth. He made a significant donation to the construction of the Meadow Park Arena, and he donated the skis he carried through Europe during the war to the Whistler Museum. Despite his wealth, Zebrowski lived modestly in the condominium he bought more than 25 years ago on Cavendish Way, a street named after one of the roads at Monte Cassino.
A memorial service is planned for the weekend of July 20. Zebrowski’s ashes will be spread on Sproatt Mountain, where the antenna and dish of the Whistler Television Society are located.