Saturday, September 15, 2012

Surname Saturday - In Loving Memory Pisecny Louis 1930-1963

Louis Pisecny Sr & Louis Pisecny Sept 1963
Today, 14 Sept would have been my late father-in-law Louis Pisecny's birthday.  I don't know much about him never having met him other than he was born Lubomir Pisecny, oldest son of Anton and Anna Skanderova in Senici, Czechoslovakia in 1930.  To my knowledge he escaped to North America when he was about 18 years old to live with an Aunt Helen[e] Nadel in Chicago. He may have also visited New York, and Montreal before finally settling in Toronto.

At some point he changed his name to Louis and met and married my Italian mother in law. They had three children when tragedy struck in April of 1963.  Louis had purchased a motorboat and had taken it out for the first time the weekend of April 7th along with his father-in-law and brother-in-law.  No one is sure what happened but at some point Louis lost his footing and fell in the water near Marie Curtis Park.  His brother in law jumped in in an attempt to rescue him but was unable to locate him.  Eventually Louis drown, his brother-in-law pulled from the lake, taken to hospital and treated for hypothermia.

In Loving Memory Pisecny Louis 1930-1963
It took seven days of rescuers dragging Lake Ontario before his body was actually found.  Newspaper reports say that there was only one life jacket aboard and it was a child size one.  Life preservers were not mandatory in the province in 1963 so my mother-in-law became a very young widow with three children under four years old and another on the way.

It was during this time that Morton Shulman, Toronto's newly appointed Chief Coroner ordered an inquest into the drowning.  He had been a big advocate of making life jackets mandatory in Ontario and referenced the death as one more reason to pass this law.  It was a fight he had been battling for years and would continue to fight.

From an article written in July 2012 by David Wencer:

"In April of 1963, a father of three named Louis Pisecny drowned near Marie Curtis Park while trying out the new motorboat he had recently bought. No one on board had significant boating experience, and the only floatation device on board was a child’s life preserver. Once again, Shulman called an inquest, and once again he subpoenaed a representative from the Department of Transport to speak on the subject of life jackets. Of particular concern to Shulman was a newspaper article he had found, claiming that the federal government planned to relax the requirement of life jackets on small vessels."
Louis's death, although tragic was not in vain.  The inquest surrounding the tragedy created a great controversy but eventually helped make life jacket regulation mandatory in this province.   
Shulman was quoted in one of his autobiographies as saying, it appeared obvious to me that Pisecny’s death could be used to save other lives by pointing out to the public the need to have life jackets in small boats. It may have appeared obvious but various civil servants did not agree with me.”
My mother in law gave birth to a son six months later who I eventually married.  I have read several newspaper clippings on the drowning but up until this evening I had never found reference to it on the internet.  I have to wonder if it's a coincidence that tonight, on what would have been Louis's 82nd birthday I found one.  Maybe Louis wanted his story told...
Happy Birthday Louis.. R.I.P.
*Source: Historicist: Introducing Dr. Morton Shulman written by David Wencer 21 July 2012.  Accessed 14 Sept 2012.

2 comments :

Jacqi Stevens said...

What a tragic story, but thankfully one which eventually was used to save many more lives. However, a stranger taking a moment to read about it in the newspaper is much different than the experience of the family, whose every moment from that point forward was lived without him. That is so hard.

How sweet of you to share this story in remembrance of his birthday!

nuccia said...

Yes, his family experienced more hardship than is right to share here but my mother in law is a strong woman. She did what she had to do to survive but she got through it. Thank you for reading it.