A “Birthday In Heaven”: Celebrating The Joyful Life Of Frank Kutnicki, Of Blessed Memory


WITH the passage of time, a personal decision was taken to no longer mark the date of death of Frank Kutnicki (of blessed memory) publicly. On the other hand, his “birthday in heaven” is celebrated both privately and publicly; in a manner befitting a man whose essence is best described as one who lived life with a joie de vivre that few are ever able to achieve, this writer included. 

IN this regard, his joyful embrace of life immediately springs to mind, whenever July 31 nears. As such, even though no longer among the (earthly) living, celebrating Frank Kutnicki’s (of blessed memory) life well-lived feels like a natural outgrowth; a tribute and fitting legacy to mark his “birthday in heaven.”

INDEED, the above referenced joyfulness is fully resonant with those who knew him the best and miss his presence, until this day. Most especially, two loving sons; two siblings; a brother-in-law, more like his brother and best friend, as well as a “partner in crime”; an  extended family; close friends, and many devoted (tax) clients. So much so, a few noted (upon his sudden passing) that they looked forward to tax season, just to be able to spend time with him! In the history of gathering ones (dreaded) tax papers, how often has such a sentiment been expressed?

BUT those who missed out the most, knowing but not knowing (through pictures, videos, stories, and more) the quintessence of this most gentle and humble soul, are his precious little grandchildren. For it is out of the mouths of babes that reminders of Frank Kutnicki (of blessed memory) loom largest at this end.

HOW else can one explain such “out of the blue” comments, for example:

My saba (grandfather) is a “good ghost”, and he watches over me and the family in the shemayim (heavens) all the time.

Meanwhile, another chimes in:

Saba is the last star to go to sleep at night, he waits until I fall sleep.

YES, out of the mouths of babes.

IT is due to the above, and so much more, that this writer marks today with a most meaningful tradition; a “birthday in heaven” celebration. Designated with the release of balloons from atop a most scenic and tranquil overlook — high above Haifa’s stunning landscape — this vista is tailor-made for such a special day. It embodies the vast expanse of Frank Kutnicki’s (of blessed memory) open and generous heart, and the warm embrace missed by those who knew him the best.   

Happy Birthday in Heaven

BUT it would be remiss not to mention the genesis of this personal tradition; that which harks back to one week after landing in Israel, 13 years ago. No sooner did these feet hit the ground in Israel, his birthday loomed overhead, larger than life.

AND feeling as if it was impossible to even put one foot in front of the other, the aforementioned “brother-in-law, more like his brother and best friend, as well as a partner in crime”, came up with the idea to mark this day with a release of balloons (from our hearts to his) at a nearby trail that felt appropriately tranquil. Dear brother, thanks for that.

THE rest is “birthday in heaven” history…. 

ALAS, as someone whose spirit lightens when belting out a song, the following is not only hauntingly beautiful, but speaks to this heart  — just substitute Laura with Frank.


Frank Kutnicki, z”l: Honoring A Loved One Through A Life Well-Lived. Commentary By Adina Kutnicki

Image result for well lived life

Oftentimes when referring to the untimely death of another’s loved one, well-meaning people segue into the term “closure.” This tends to be the case whether the loss involves a child, spouse, parent, or sibling. Inevitably, “isn’t it time to move on”, its corollary implication, follows. 

The fact remains that while one doesn’t “get over it”, one can move through it. Its sting doesn’t “get better”, yet, in due course, it does feel different. 

Yes, it is true that the passage of time heals many deep wounds, the fact remains that said central losses aren’t subject to “closure”, per se. Rather, they are designated to a special place within the very inner recesses close to ones heart. Private. Cherished. Inherently, this is not a distinction without a difference.

Along this time continuum, as it relates to the unbearable loss of a loved one, the passing of my beloved husband, Frank Kutnicki, z”l – of blessed memory – resonates most. Significantly, a life well-lived leaves many unique markings, the scope (and loss) of which can also be felt beyond personal and familial confines. 

Alas, this is why concentrating on his life well-lived, as opposed to his very sudden and untimely death, frankly (no pun intended), has been a blessing. Even so, it is doubtful that I would have reached this critical passage of understanding without following the example of our beloved sons. Besides, where is it written that parents can’t learn from their children?

Intrinsically, a pivotal turning point came at two significant junctures, although unrecognized as such at the time. More tellingly, akin to his father, our youngest son comports himself in an understated, reserved and humble manner. Still waters run deep. And this precious quality has been instrumental towards a more hopeful outlook, to a place where my beloveds life well-lived became the central focus.

In a quiet and unassuming manner, in a quest to trace his father’s (paternal) familial roots, he undertook an actual journey from Israel to Poland. Intended as a tribute from a son to his father, unbeknownst, it became so much more.  And for extended family, friends and others, its basis is housed under the web platform of his alma mater, if interested.

Kutnicki Family Research

The story of the Kutnicki family of Otwock, Poland

Frontispiece of Otwock-Karczew Yizkor book


First, to my father Frank Kutnicki, z”l, who, along with hundreds of thousands of other children of Holocaust victims, grew up in torment knowing (and not knowing) what atrocities had been committed to their parents. As for the work involved, this project was possible thanks to the saintly patience and support of my wife Kayla, the encouragement of my uncle Larry Kutnicki, and the expertise of Jewish genealogy experts Yale Reisner and Anna Przybyszewska Drozd of the Zydowski Instytut Historyczny (Jewish Historical Institute) in Warsaw, Sebastian Rakowski of the Museum of Otwock, the kind librarians of the National Museum, Jerusalem, Israel and Daniela Malec, Polish translator and recent immigrant to Tel Aviv.

Lo and behold – about a year and a half onward – I was shocked to discover another project was quietly in the making; this time, a labor of love by both our sons. They compiled, “Celebrating the Life of Frank Kutnicki“, a pictorial and testimonial book of his life. Naturally, it’s his personal story and journey. It is compartmentalized into awesome encapsulations of a life well-lived. A more than well-deserved tribute to a beloved husband, father, brother, friend and highly regarded and respected professional.

It begins….

 In the beginning….Family Roots….Growing Up in Washington Heights….Boyhood Summers….High School Years….College Years….A Young Man….Love and Marriage….Newlyweds….Fatherhood….Building a Business….A Family Man….The Value of Money….A Loving and Beloved Husband….A Dearest Dad….A Playful Jokester….Celebrating Family Milestones….A Loyal Friend….Raising His Boys…A Proud Papa….Anniversary….Belated Honeymoon….Accomplishing Life Goals….Trip to Israel….Hiking….Brothers….Oy Vey!…A Proud Papa Again….An American Zionist….Enjoying the Empty Nest….In Memory….Missing Frank….A Friend Who Stood Tall….Azkara (Memorial)….Family Legacy….Dearly Missed….

Yes, in the beginning….the aforementioned inner recesses….akin to so many Jewish ceremonial markings….https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5I3bwsmgOM….https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQl5tb6mtJ4 ….https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9CkKuA86Mis

My dearest Frank, may you always rest in peace on Har HaMenuchot (Mount of Rest) in Jerusalem, Israel. And just as you treasured your Jewish homeland during your lifetime, so too you were returned to the Holy Land for eternity.
 אירוע: אזכרה לפרנק קוטניקי, ז”ל
מתי: יום ו’, 19.2
לכבוד חברים ובני משפחה
השנה אנחנו מציינים פטירתו של בעלנו, אבינו, אחנו, וחברנו, פרנק קוטניקי, ז”ל, ואנחנו מתכוונים לציין אותו בטקס אזכרה בקבר בבתי קברות הר המנוחות בירושלים.
לכל אלו שיכולים להשתתף, נא לענות למייל הזה, כולל מספר האנשים שמגיעים. פרטים נוספים מופיעים למטה. תודה.
Forever in our hearts.
Angelic Realms's photo.
(In Cambridge, Massachusetts, celebrating our son’s graduation from MIT. Indeed, a “very proud papa!”)