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By Pat Gracey
contributing writer 

Kathryn Chwaz greets 106th birthday

The Spirit of Tehachapi


January 20, 2024


Kathryn Chwaz greets her 106th birthday at Linda's Elderly Care in Mojave.

On Jan. 15, 1918, a cold, winter day in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Kathryn Pointek (Chwaz) first opened her eyes to view the world to which she had been born. The year 1918 found Woodrow Wilson as President of the United States. Not only that, the U.S. was in the midst of World War I, which was called, "The war to end all wars."

This happy little girl was the daughter of Catherine and Jacob Pointek, both having arrived to this country from Austria. She and her siblings grew up in a loving, hardworking Catholic family, with the church being an integral part in their lives.

Kathryn was 10 years old when her brother, Francis, left for the seminary to study for the priesthood attending the Pontifical College Josephinum located in Columbus, Ohio.

Growing to adulthood, Kathryn and her older sister, Mary, decided to try their wings and moved to New York City to enter the working forces. Not too far from home but far enough to discover the expenses of being on one's own.

Wedding bells rang in 1946 when she and Frank Chwaz were married and began their life together. Adventure called to the newly weds when her brother, Father Francis Pointek, wrote to them telling them of the employment opportunities in California. Father Pointek had been ordained in 1940 and soon after sent to what was termed "the mission fields" of California. This was Post World War II days. The war had ended in 1945. The opportunities at U.S. Borax plant in Boron paid well. The couple drove across America and ended up in the Mojave Desert in the city and parish where her brother was Pastor of Santa Barbara's Church in Randsburg. Now, a ghost town, Randsburg had a good population of 3,000 souls at that time. Father Pointek also was Pastor of two mission churches, Saint Ann's church in Ridgecrest and Saint Joseph's in Boron.

As the couple drove across the lovely scenic parts of the country on their journey, it was a bit of a shock to view the Mojave Desert and find her brother's residence in a rather barren land. As they parked in front of Father Pointek's residence she told her husband, Frank, "Don't even take bags out of the car!" This was about 1948.

The couple did investigate the work advantages in Boron and Frank found employment there as an engineer at U.S. Borax and ended up working until retiring. Kathryn managed the Boron Department Store. Boron became a thriving community. So much so, that she asked her sister, Anne, to bring her two daughters, Janet and Lois. And, they came! They stayed, as well. The desert has its own beauty and one finds it has many advantages.

Saint Joseph's Church was fortunate to have Kathryn and Anne as faithful and helpful parishioners. Also civic minded, Kathryn was elected mayor twice and was a respected citizen. On her 100th birthday, six years ago, in Boron, she decided that perhaps she should not live alone anymore. She began living in Tehachapi with her niece, Janet Roper, with whom she spent the past five years and enjoyed many happy moments together sharing family memories. As is the case when one is "getting up in years," a good friend and nurse/caregiver was welcomed into the home. Nurse Kathleen Bloom has a few cheerful words about Kathryn, as well. This was written about Kathryn on her last year's birthday, but is still true today.

"Kathryn enjoys the simple things now in life and those that are part of her day. Her mind is still sharp and her wit catches you off guard. She has days when she is up to playing games or car rides. She enjoys sunshine and roses, having a book read, a good meal and a piece of buttered toast each day to name a few. Just the other day she wanted a lottery ticket! 'You never know, ' she said. 'It could be a winner.' She and Janet are very close. Their stories and memories would fill a book. As they grow older together, each day is a gift. Kathryn has always said her longevity was a gift from God and her good work ethic."

After the death of her dear niece, Janet, the desert is once again the home of Kathryn, who is residing at Linda's Elderly Care. We know she can enlighten many people about her 70 plus years in the great Mojave Desert.

May your birthday, and every day of the coming year, find you happy and well with God's blessing shining on one of his dear servants: Kathryn Pointek Chwaz.


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