First Responders 07

Thomas Harston Ulanski

March 7, 1944 ~ December 21, 2019 (age 75)

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Firefighter 526

Thomas “Tom” Harston Ulanski peacefully made his spiritual journey home Saturday, 21, December 2019 with his loving family by his side. Thomas was born Tuesday, 07, March 1944 in Flint, Michigan to devote Catholics, Helen Kuchrawy Ulanski, and Edward Joseph Ulanski. He was welcomed into this life by his big sister Elaine Ann. Thomas and Elaine would welcome their little sister Diane Mary, four years later. Thomas was born a strong-willed fighter, at barely four pounds, and he would remain a fighter for the rest of his life. It was said that Thomas was so small he could fit into a shoebox.

Thomas was the apple of his mother’s eye and she affectionately referred to him as Tommy. She wanted nothing more than to have a son and Thomas Harston fulfilled Helen’s prayer. Tommy started life living on Tilden Street in Flint, Michigan. His family moved to Philadelphia Avenue in Flint, Michigan where he would spend his growing years. As a child, Tommy would suffer great hardship, heartache, and loss. At just six years old Tommy tended to his dying mother; getting her food and drink, boiling water for bandages, heating bandages in the oven, and changing her open wound dressings. Helen would send Tommy to the neighborhood store, placing several safety pins on his jacket sleeves. She would tell him, “When you get to the corner, whatever way the head of the pin faces that is the way you turn. Take the pin off and do the same for the next corner with the next pin.” Each sleeve had safety pins, one sleeve for the way to the store and one sleeve for the way home. Tommy’s mother passed on the 14, August 1950. The night Helen passed, Tommy was unwillingly taken from his home, fighting and crying with a couch cushion in his arms. Tommy spent the night at his Aunt Mary’s and when he returned home his beloved mother was forever gone. Tommy had lost his mother to breast cancer and would never again know the gentle touch, tender kiss, loving arms, kind words, or warm heart of a mother. In a short period Tommy would not only lose his mother, but also his best schoolmate and friend, and his maternal grandparents, Anna and Harry Kuchrawy. These events would make Tommy the stoic man he grew to be. These life-changing events would structure Tommy’s personality and the rest of his life.

Thomas spent the next few years living, at home, with his dad and two sisters. Although their paternal grandmother helped care for them, Tommy and his older sister Elaine spent most days tending to their own needs and their little sister Diane’s needs. In 1953, at age nine, Tommy’s dad remarried and life would again take a drastic change for him and his sisters. From then on Elaine, Tommy, and Diane would spend every holiday, school break, and summer vacation at their maternal Aunt Mary’s farm in Clio, Michigan. Tommy would learn a great many things from Mary, but most of all they would learn their mother’s Catholic roots through their Aunt Mary’s devotion to her Lord. Tommy would also learn to cook delicious food from the “Old World.” Tommy would be taught how to work with his hands, and what a day of hard work can bring. Tommy’s Aunt Mary would be responsible for his school shopping, birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, and other personal needs. He would feel like an outsider in his own home when his father remarried. His time at home would be spent doing chores, attending school and church, doing odd jobs, or running the neighborhood streets to find solace with friends. Tommy’s father’s marriage would bring him six siblings Robert (Bobby), Mary Anne (Mik), Therese (Terry), Joseph (Joe), Sharon (Sherry) who passed away in infancy, James (Jim). 

Tommy’s school days would be spent at St. Agnes Catholic School, from first grade through twelfth. Here he would take on the nickname Tom. He would make many friends attending St. Agnes (Tom Ahearne, Joel Ahearne, Mike Ahearne, Ken Stone). Tom would also make memories at St Agnes, but the best memory he would make during this time would be the day he laid eyes on his future wife, Kathryn “Kathy” Ann Sheppard, in 1960 at a friend’s house. When he first saw Kathryn he said to himself, “I’m going to marry that girl.” For Tom the spark was instant, true love at first sight, but for Kathryn that spark would take a little more time to ignite. She would have to peel away the “bad boy” image she had of him before she could see her “future husband,” but once she did there was no looking back. It would be two years before Tom would ask Kathryn on their first date. 

Thomas was always a hard worker. From a very young age, he worked to earn money. As a child, he mowed neighbors' lawns, shoveled snow for neighbors, ran a paper route, and worked other odd jobs. At eighteen he took a job at AC Spark Plug (AC Delco/Delphi). Tom started as a Janitor, then worked his way into the Tool and Die department, and within a few years, he would make his career as a Skill Tradesman. After 36 years of service, in December of 1998, Tom retired. Tom always said how thankful he was for the years he had at the “shop”. He was grateful for the steady income, good life it afforded, and the many benefits it provided him even after retirement.

Thomas made good on his word and married his one-and-only true love, Kathryn, on Saturday, 24, October 1964. They spent fifty-five amazing years together and with their true grit, they overcame every obstacle thrown their way. The young couple made their home in Clio, Michigan on five acres given to them by Tom’s Aunt Mary. Tom’s prayer in life would be to have children while he was young and live long enough to see them grow to adulthood. Part of that prayer was answered when they had their firstborn Thomas “Tommy” Michael in October 1965. They would have three more children; Theo Edward October 1966, Kathryn “Kitty” Florence March 1968, Samantha Helen February 1970. Tom was proud of his children, but he was most proud of his relationship with his wife, Kathy. Tom enjoyed vacationing with Kathy and their young children and would take them on camping trips, adventures to Cedar Point, and touring the United States. When the children got older Tom and Kathy enjoyed traveling to places like Hawaii, Fiji, Alaska, and taking Caribbean cruises. Tom had the second half of his prayer answered as he saw all four of his children grow to adulthood and have children of their own. In November of 1984, he became part of the grandpa club when his beautiful granddaughter Erika Rachel Strong was born. The grandfather club was a joy to be a part of and he would have that title to ten more children! (Nancy Autumn Bauman, Anna Michelle Bauman, Corey Lukas Strong, Tyler Ernest Burtrum, Hannah Victoria Ulanski, Melonie-Anne Burtrum, Harstan Thomas Joseph Ulanski, Averelle Brynn Ulanski, Hailey Colleen Ulanski, Mason Andrew Ulanski ). Tom was double blessed when he became a Great-grandpa to Joshua Shane Stafford and Eleanor Grace Butler.  

In 1998, Tom and Kathy moved to Tom’s hunting cabin in Manton, Michigan. They purchased property down the road from the hunting cabin and began to build their retirement home. Friends and neighbors affectionately refer to their home as “The Castle on the Hill.” Tom took a lot of pride in the work he and Kathy put into their home, from the unique wildlife scene stair railing designed by Kathy and carved out by Tom to the beautiful China cabinet Tom designed in his head and built without a blueprint. Together, Tom and Kathy made Manton their home. They made countless friends with many neighbors. They enjoyed the country living amongst the Amish and they welcomed their friendships in this unique community. The Manton community brought Tom special friends like Ken Buszek, Gary Heine, Dale Mohler, Simeon Petre, Brian Ruether, Kevin Tidy, and many, many more.

Thomas had a special place in his heart for a girl named Madison “Maddie” Matilda Ulanski. The little bundle of fur was a gift to Kathy from her children and grandchildren. Tom had agreed to allow them to get Kathy a Shi-Tzu puppy for Christmas 2003. He claimed it would be her dog and he didn’t want much to do with her, but that little girl stole his heart and he stole hers. Maddie was Tom’s sidekick and where ever he was she was or wanted to be. From tractor rides to Tom’s daily walks Maddie was his faithful companion. Maddie passed in 2016 and Tom’s heart was broken. With tear-filled eyes, he would speak of his love for Maddie until the very end. 

Tom was always tinkering on a new project and often had several projects going at one time, but Tom found his true calling when he joined the Manton Colfax Fire Department as a Volunteer Fireman. Tom was so proud of his work with the department he ordered vanity plates with his call number, 526. Tom served on the department for more than twenty years, retiring his Lieutenant hat when he received the dreaded news of a diagnosis of Glioblastoma. He fought his last fire at age 73, two weeks before his diagnosis.

Thomas Ulanski’s family would like to extend gratitude and much love to Ken Buszek, you were the truest of friends. Rain or shine, sleet, and snow you made the daily visit to Tom and often twice daily. You stuck by his side, encouraged him at his lowest points, and gave him something to look forward to every day. From the physical therapy you helped him with to the quiet, friendly, comforting visits you provided in his final days, we cannot thank you enough. Your solace to Tom was never wavering and for that my dear friend, we love and thank you. We also extend our thank you and grand appreciation to your wife, Cindy Buszek, for the friendship and solace she has provided Kathy throughout this trying time and for being so understanding of your husband’s daily visits; so understanding that a good many of them you came along just to be there for Kathy. You are both good souls and Heaven holds a special place for the two of you, although we are sure the tour guide will have to wait to show you your place in Heaven, because of course, Tom will have some catching up to do with Ken.

A heartfelt thank you and much love to Brian Ruether for being not only the “pharmacist on call,” but also an “adopted son” to Tom. Tom loved and looked to you as a son. He was as proud of you, your accomplishments, and your family as he was of his children. He loved your wife and your children the same as he did you. We appreciate everything you have done for Tom and Kathy and all you have been to Tom and Kathy. Thank you to Crissy, Miaha, Emma, and Wyatt for being a second family to Tom. He cherished every moment he had with all of you. He would have done ANYTHING to help you or to bring a smile to your faces. …And to Ruether’s Pharmacy, I hope you will forgive Tom’s “tab” for those candy bars he took in his bedridden days.

Much appreciation and gratitude to the Hospice of Michigan staff. Special thanks to Nurse Kristi Keeder, for always being readily available for Tom and for the countless times you were there to answer questions and comfort his family as they went through this trying time. We needed a soul like you and the Universe gave us you. To the night nurses Bryann DeZeeuw and Karen Bartholomew, you two are the best! Your timely house calls to relieve issues that arose, provide comfort and reassurance, and simply be the gentle reassuring voice Tom needed to hear. Bryann, thank you for giving Tom a reason to smile in knowing he correctly pronounced your name. Karen, thank you for being that reassuring voice and face we needed when the end had come. TREMENDOUS thanks and gratitude to Nikki Havens, Tom’s bath and companion aide. There is no truer and pure soul than you. We cannot thank you enough for your kind and gentle touch and always giving Tom the dignity he deserved. To Julie Ramussen, thank you for providing him the care he deserved and needed when he returned home. Katie Ranes, thank you for the time spent comforting our broken hearts and reassuring us all our feelings were normal. 

Heartfelt thank you to Father Michael Janowski and St.Theresa’s Catholic Church of Manton, for coming at a moment's call, to Tom’s side, as he neared the end. Father Michael Janowski, we cannot extend enough gratitude for your tremendous gifts you provide Tom in his hour of need. He truly felt the Lord’s presence as you offered him his final rights of confession, anointment, sacrament, and Blessing. Watching Tom take the nourishment of the Lord after three days without substance was our miracle. Hearing Tom speak so clearly, “Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Lord,” as you told him he was forgiven of all sin was a true blessing, not only to him but to all who love him. Tom’s family and friends can have peace of mind and joy in their hearts knowing he is saved and at peace.

The entire Ulanski family wishes to extend a heartfelt thank you to the Manton Colfax-Greenwood Fire Department for giving Tom his final ride in the fire truck he began his volunteer fireman career in. It was a heartwarming sight to see Tom leave his home for the last time in Fire Engine 502. We cannot thank you ALL enough for allowing Tom this honor. Fire Chief Jason Nelson, thank you for giving the go-ahead. A special thank you to Dale Mohler and Kevin Tidy for answering the call in the early morning hours of Tom’s passing, your dedication to making this one last wish possible is immeasurable. Lieutenant 526 signing off… 

Tom was preceded in death by his Beloved Furbaby: Madison “Maddie” Ulanski; Dearest Mother: Helen Kuchrawy Ulanski; Father: Edward Joseph Ulanski; Father-in-law: Theo Edgar Sheppard; Grandmothers Anna Yorasoak Kuchrawy and Anastasia Ulanski; Grandfathers: Stanley Ulanski, Gregory Harry Kuchrawy, Aunts: Mary Kuchawry Aleff Simon, Anna Kuchrawy, Susanna Kuchrawy, Cecelia “Marie” Hazel Ulanski; Uncles, Andrew Kuchrawy, Peter Kuchrawy, Joseph Kuchrawy, Walter J. Ulanski; Son-in-law, Richard Thomas Strong; many extended family members and special friends.

Tom is survived by his soulmate and Wife: Kathy Ulanski; Sons: Thomas Ulanski (Sheri), Theo Ulanski (Teri); Daughters: Kitty Strong, Samantha Hernandez (Gary White); Grandchildren: Erika Strong, Nancy Bauman, Anna Bauman, Corey Lukas Strong, Tyler Burtrum (Tabitha Yamaguchi-Burtrum), Hannah Ulanski, Melonie-Anne Burtrum, Harstan Ulanski, Avery Ulanski, Hailey Ulanski, Mason Ulanski; Great-grandchildren: Joshua Stafford, Eleanor Butler; Sisters: Elaine Schuster, Diane Moore (Mike Reynolds), Mik Stone, Terri Ulanski; Brother: Joe Ulanski (Jeannie); mother-in-law: Florence Sheppard, Sisters-in-law: Peggy Edson (Jim), Sharon Agle (Leroy), Brothers-in-law: Larry Sheppard, Jerry Sheppard, many beloved Aunts, Uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins and numerous friends.

A Celebration of Life and Reception was held on Saturday 04, January 2020 at 2:00 p.m. at the Colfax Greenwood Fire Department 4950 North 31 Road Manton, Michigan 49663. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made, in honor of Tom, to a charity of your choice.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Thomas Harston Ulanski, please visit our floral store.


Celebration of Life
January 4, 2020

2:00 PM to 4:00 PM
Colfax-Greenwood Fire Department
4950 North 31 Road
Manton, MI 49663

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