Home World Europe Jeffrey Krawczyk, sausage maker, entertainer, keeper of Polish culture, dies at 71

Jeffrey Krawczyk, sausage maker, entertainer, keeper of Polish culture, dies at 71
Jeffrey Krawczyk, sausage maker, entertainer, keeper of Polish culture, dies at 71 avatar

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The parties Jeffrey Krawczyk threw would rage until 4 a.m.

Decades ago, those nights in the northeast Minneapolis ballroom connected to his apartment would turn into monthly rousing folk music get-togethers. Always the life of the party, Krawczyk would savor his time in the spotlight, offering a varied food spread before breaking out into Polish dance moves.

After a life full of sausage-making at his family’s northeast Minneapolis shop and entertaining through music and dance, Krawczyk died Dec. 9 of natural causes. He was 71.

Family and friends describe him as a colorful performer, one who spent decades performing and educating others on dance and music from halfway across the world. He worked with the Ethnic Dance Theatre, ran dance camps that brought in performers from other communities and spread his Polish and eastern European culture to hundreds of people.

“He was able to kind of open that world up to them,” said his son Matt Krawczyk, 40, of Minneapolis.

From age 7 until the shop shut its doors in 1980, he worked at the Krawczyk’s sausage store, a northeast Minneapolis institution run by his family that his son Steve Krawczyk called “an old-school butcher shop.” He would toil away alongside his three brothers and parents, making meat while people flocked to the shop for Polish goods.

“There’s nothing like it that exists today,” said Steve Krawczyk, 48, of Lahaina, Hawaii.

Its sausage recipe is still a secret.

Owning the sausage shop put the Krawczyk family in the group of northeast Minneapolis businesses started by immigrant families, like Surdyk’s and the old Blackey’s Bakery. The families would vacation together on Lake Sullivan near Harding, Minn.

Krawczyk graduated from high school and then served in the Navy from July 1967 to March 1970. Upon his return, he jumped right back into sausage-making.

When Krawczyk’s dad retired, the sausage shop closed. For a while, Krawczyk worked sales and management jobs, then sold flooring at Home Depot. He retired around 2012.

After the shop closed, entertaining became his love in life, whether expressed through performances or gathering family at Christmas. He could play the stand-up bass, the accordion and a mandolin-related instrument called the tamburitza, but he couldn’t read music.

He had “an uncanny ability to pick up an instrument and start fiddling around with it, and he would learn how to play,” Steve Krawczyk said.

He was among the first artists to perform with the Ethnic Dance Theatre in Minneapolis. He also started adult dance camps, which brought in teachers from different ethnic communities, and led a Russian club at Hopkins High School.

Krawczyk ventured beyond the polka of his Polish roots to explore eastern European dance. He fell in love with the line and circle dances of the Balkans, said Donald LaCourse, artistic director of the Ethnic Dance Theatre, and they became his specialty.

“It was quite apparent that he loved what he was doing,” LaCourse said.

He moved to Brainerd about 15 years ago.

When dancing became too difficult later in life, he would play music and sing.

He kept up his easygoing spirit, epitomized by his catchphrase: “It’ll be fine.”

Services have been held.

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