IMAGE: Don Krzysiak

It's a somber day as a Mid-Michigan community prepares to say goodbye to a renowned restaurant owner.

The founder of the Krzysiak's House Restaurant in Bay City died on Friday, Dec. 7.

Don Krzysiak founded the Polish restaurant with his wife Lois in 1979. With a handful of employees at the time, they served up traditional Polish and American cuisine.

It has been a staple in Bay City's southend ever since.

There's a memorial service at Saint Hyacinth Church in Bay City from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m.

A funeral mass will follow.

Today the business employs more than 70 people and serves as many as 900 customers day.

"Don was not just a boss, a restaurant owner, but he was everybody's friend he was a really great guy," said Ruth Downing, a manager at Krzysiak's House. "He's going to be missed by a lot of people."

Almost every inch of Krzysiak's House is filled with the memories of Don Krzysiak's life.

The restaurant patriarch passed away from his battle with pancreatic cancer.

"You're never prepared for this and you never want this day to come, you think he's sick and he's going to get better but then he doesn't," Downing said. "But at least he's not here in pain."

Downing has been the jack of all trades at Krzysiak's for 35 years. That's almost the full span of the restaurant's 39-year history.

This is the first workday she won't be hearing from her beloved boss.

"Well he calls me every Saturday morning and he says 'Ruthie what are you doing? Are you home sleeping or are you supposed to be at work?' and he would ask me how business is and are they doing OK and do you need anything?" Downing said. 

Big Don, as he's called, loved taking drives with his wife Lois, trips to the casino, spending time with his family and of course Polka music.

The Army veteran will be remembered for his charitable spirit helping local organizations all around Mid-Michigan.

"I mean a lot of people liked Don not just here in Bay City but all the UAWs we catered to them and the Salvation Army I mean he was just a very well liked man in this community," Downing said.

The restaurant is business as usual but with a sense of loss in the air.

Downing said Don wouldn't have wanted them to close not even for a day, so they're staying open in his honor.

His son, Donnie, is planning to take over in his father's place.

"Don is what made this restaurant what it is today and I think Donnie is going to continue his dad's legacy and I'll be here as long as I can to help him," Downing said.

Generations of customers continue to spend their family dinners at Krzysiak's creating memories of their own while remembering the man that made it such a wonderful place to be.

"I think we're just all going to miss him and I don't think anyone is ever going to forget Don Krzysiak, I know I won't," Downing said.

There was a memorial service at the Ambrose Funeral Home in Bay City on Sunday, Dec. 9 from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. 

He was 74-years-old.

Copyright 2018 WNEM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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