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Szyszko, Emilia A. June 4, 1937 - April 19, 2021

Emilia A. Szyszko, age 83, of Great Meadows, NJ died peacefully Monday, April 19, 2021 at Karen Ann Quinlan in Fredon, NJ.  Emilia was born June 4, 1937 in Pysznica, Poland to the late John and Maria (Andres) Ziarnowski.  In addition to her parents she was preceded in death by her beloved husband, Stephen in 1996 and her siblings, Michael Ziarnowski and Eugenia Baj.

Emilia Antonina Szyszko, beloved mother, grandmother, sister, cousin, aunt, and friend, was born on June 4, 1937 in Pszynica, Poland, and grew up in the Polish countryside during World War II.  She overcame several adversities during her childhood and bravely pursued opportunities that would shape the rest of her life.

Mom endured several losses early in her life. Her younger brother, Michael, died from diphtheria at age 6.  When she was 14, her mother, Maria, died. She helped to raise her three younger sisters, Eugenia, 12, Stanislawa, 6, and Hania, 4.  Her aunt in the United States promised Mom that she would help bring her over to America once her sisters were older.

At age 26, Mom emigrated to the United States with one suitcase and the promise of a new life.

We are eternally grateful to our great-aunt and uncle, Stefania and Julian (Mom Mom and Pop Pop) Koscielny, for making good on their promise to sponsor Mom’s travel to America.  She was set to come by boat, but she received a last-minute airline ticket from her aunt and flew to this country instead.  In turn, Mom would end up sponsoring her youngest sister, Hania, to travel to the US years later, and they would remain best friends the rest of her life.

Mom worked at the family delicatessen, Koscielny’s, in Frelinghuysen, NJ, where she met her husband of 28 years, Stephen Szyszko.  He frequented the deli for lunch while he was building Route 80 overpasses in the area. As the story goes, Mom was just learning English, and when Dad asked what was for lunch that day, Mom told him it was garbage soup. They had a laugh, as he quickly realized she meant cabbage soup. And the rest is history.

They were married at Ss. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church in Great Meadows, NJ in 1968.  She became stepmom to Stephen’s daughter, Theresa, and had three more children-Barbara, Stanley, and Amy.  The Church would remain an influential part of her life, and she instilled the principles of the Catholic faith in her children.

Mom continued to work as a cook for many years at the family deli and banquet hall, which was renamed Lyle Smith’s Big K. She cherished her close relationships with her cousin Emily Smith and friends and neighbors in the deli kitchen.  Our families celebrated many weddings, showers, graduations, and funerals together there.

Mom’s passion for cooking was most evident in her own home, where there was often a pot of soup simmering on the stove. She had a penchant for always having a home-cooked meal ready for anyone who walked through the door.  She loved to feed all our friends whenever they visited. Holidays are best remembered by the scents and tastes of traditional Polish dishes, preparations often taking days.    Mom’s pierogies were her specialty.  They are a labor of love and a family tradition passed down through generations. Making pierogies represents a rite of passage, especially curling the edges just as Mom did, a skill we are still trying to master.

Unexpectedly widowed 25 years ago, Mom carried on with unspoken grace and unwavering faith that she would one day be reunited with our dad, the love of her life.  Her days became filled with another love, her seven grandchildren.  She enjoyed watching them grow up, and she looked forward to their visits.  She traveled to Seattle several times to visit her youngest granddaughters.

She also enjoyed traveling to Poland every few years to visit her large, extended family. On her first trip back, she and Dad took her aunt back with them this time.  Her last trip would be in August 2019   with her daughter Amy and her two youngest granddaughters, time for which we are extremely grateful.

She saw the dramatic changes in her homeland that occurred over her lifetime, as she got to ride the subways in Warsaw and dine in outdoor cafes.

Although she enjoyed traveling, she was happiest at home where she enjoyed cooking, tending to her flowers and vegetable garden, and caring for her cat. She was able to live out her long life in her own home, the way she had always wanted.

We pray our mother, Emilia, is granted eternal life in Heaven with those who have gone before her.  And when she gets there, she will probably try to feed everyone.  So just as you taught us by your example Mom: we will love with all our heart, we will have the courage to travel to new places and follow our dreams, and we will persevere even when our hearts are broken, knowing we will be reunited with you one day in Heaven. Your memory will live on in all of us.

She is survived by her daughter, Barbara Higgins and husband Kieran, son Stanley Szyszko and wife Kerry, daughter Dr. Amy Szyszko and husband Patrick Strafer, step-daughter, Theresa Ziarnowski and husband Ziggy, two sisters, Stanislawa Dymora, Hania Wozniak, two half-brothers, Marian, Zygmunt, grandchildren, Andrew and wife Jessica, Kyle, Blake, Stephen, Caitie, Emma, Audrey, and many extended family members in Poland.

A Mass of Christian burial will be held on Saturday, April 24, 2021 at 10 am at Saints Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church, 360 US Hwy 46, Great Meadows, NJ with Rev. Grzegorz “Greg” Podsiadlo officiating.  Burial will be in Pequest Union Cemetery, Great Meadows following the mass.

Visitation will be held at the Cochran Funeral Home, 905 High Street, Hackettstown, NJ  07840 on Friday, April 23, 2021 from 4-8 pm.  For visitation, please observe current pandemic safety precautions including wearing masks and physical distancing.

Online condolences may be left at

For those desiring donations may be made to Saints Peter and Paul Church, Great Meadows in memory of Emilia.



  1. REPLY
    Tracy Stine says

    My thoughts and condolences with the family and friends of emily. I had the pleasure, on many occasions, to taste her wonderful food and partake in her even better company. She was an awesome grandma/aunt/sister/mom and I will miss seeing her smilin face. Thinking of the good times I was able to have with her thanks to Amy, Patrick, Barb, Kieran and the kids. Love you guys- here for you

  2. REPLY
    Pamela charous says

    I am so very sorry to be reading of “Mom’s” passing. You all know how much I loved her. Sitting together at every party. She had such a great, infectious laugh and beautiful smile.
    God be with you all at this terrible time. I will see you Friday and Saturday. Godspeed E🙏🏻

  3. REPLY
    Gecek says

    Your Mother is always with you. She lives inside your laughter, she’s crystallized in every tear drop. She’s the place you came from, your first home, and she’s the map you follow with every step you take. She’s your first love, your first friend, even your first enemy, but nothing on earth can separate you. Not time, not space……not even death! Sending prayers & hugs, The Gecek Family

  4. REPLY
    Rosemary Ahearn-Hasara says

    So very sorry. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all. From the Hasara family

  5. REPLY
    Jimmy & Pat Friel says

    Please accept our deepest condolences on your Mom’s passing. May your beautiful memories be a source of comfort during this difficult time. Your Mom accomplished so many things, successes, a wealth of hopes and dreams fulfilled and now a legacy to celebrate. You are all in our thoughts and prayers. May she RIP. Again, our deepest sympathy.

  6. REPLY
    Jimmy and Pat Friel says

    Please accept our deepest condolences on the passing of your Mom. May the beautiful memories you shared be a source of comfort during this difficult time. Your mother accomplished so many things, successes, a wealth of hopes and dreams fulfilled and now a legacy to celebrate! You are all in our thoughts and prayers. May she RIP. Again, our deepest sympathy.

  7. REPLY
    Klinger family says

    We are so sorry for your loss. Our thoughts and condolences are with you and your family during this time. She was a beautiful loving person, now with the angles. Peace and Love be with you always.

  8. REPLY
    Gibson family says

    We are so sorry about the loss of your beautiful mother. We too had the pleasure of knowing her through Amy and family when she would visit Seattle. She was always warm and kind with a smile on her face. Amy- you are a lot like her in many ways, always a loving and attentive mother and wife who enjoys feeding and caring for your family. She’ll live on through all of you. Love to you all during this difficult time.

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