Twenty-three years ago, Edwin K. Danowski, then 55, was dealing with serious health conditions and a long-term disability from an auto accident when at 29, he was hit by a drunk driver.
After a career as vice president of operations for MEI, with global responsibilities in compensation, benefits and planning for S.C. Johnson Wax, Danowski’s doctor encouraged him to retire early to preserve what he could of his health.
“It was life changing,” he admitted. “I was left with only early retirement benefits, no Social Security, noMedicare and for about three months, I just wasn’t sure what I was going to do. The bottom just fell out.”
No longer able to work in his field, his livelihood for decades, Danowski, who had received major awards from the company, had no idea what would become of him.
“All of a sudden, (the late) Sam Johnson reached out to me and asked me if I would do some consulting for him,” he said. “I ended up doing this for 15 years, and in the process I wrote down a lot of things I talked on. I got to know top minds in planning, organizing and running a business. I developed some other things myself and traveled to different countries to help the executives here and around the country. I ended up writing a consulting book, and Johnson Wax started selling it.”
In addition to his consulting work, Danowski utilized newfound free time to explore his creative side; and after attending a watercolor workshop, realized he had talent as an artist.
In addition to creating paintings that have been displayed in galleries, television programs and art shows, he
|All of Edwin K. Danowski’s books are available through Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. Each are available as hard copy or eBook.|
served as an artist in residence at Whittier School in Milwaukee and is a member of the Wisconsin Watercolor Society. He frequently writes poetry to accompany his paintings.
“Following 9/11, I did three paintings and had them converted to prints and with the help of the American Red Cross, my congressman and the president of the United States, I was able to get signed copies of one of the prints to each of the families of those that perished at the three locations,” he said. “Some of them are still hanging in the firehouses in New York.”
Living with one kidney, ankylosing spondylitis – a form of spinal arthritis – and a variety of other chronic and life-threatening health conditions, Danowski, 78, also helped Mardell, his wife of nearly 57 years, through long-term effects from the encephalitis she contracted during her fourth pregnancy and continues to care for his son who suffers effects of the illness.
“At that time, I did not know if she would live or die, nor did I know if our baby would survive. Thankfully, both made it, but it was a slow recovery for Mardy,” he said. “The reality of it is that both my wife and I traveled our respective roads with challenges to our health sort of on parallel tracks at the same time. At times it was like both being in a tunnel and not knowing what was coming from the other way, but God certainly was there and I certainly felt his help.”
The author of eight books, Danowski feels the closest connection to his latest, “Planning Your Way to Heaven,” a book which came about after a regular Saturday morning men’s Scripture study at his parish, St. Lucy in Racine.
“During one such session (last) summer, some of the men were talking about how we just don’t seem to be able to fit in as much time as we should, dedicating enough of it to our faith journey,” he explained. “I thought about the business book I had just finished and thought maybe if I could teach CEOs and their direct reports how to plan better to truly accomplish what it is they want to get done, then maybe there is a way to apply some of those same skill sets in a modified way to accomplishing more with our faith journey, and that led to this book.”
Danowski explained the book has two distinct parts, a “how to” section and a segment with a number of things to encourage readers to start reflections on something relative to their faith journey, with hopes it will strengthen their resolve to live more fully for God. As with all but one of his other books, he created the artwork on the cover.
“Creativity has been my outlet since becoming disabled,” he said, adding that he also co-created a cartoon strip, published with a friend of his and co-created church music for the choir at his former parish.
“Through everything, I saw how God helped me by opening far more windows than the doors that were closed by health challenges,” he said. “Life has certainly had its challenges. But, I know that God does walk with me every step of the way. We, as his people, need to try to understand that and look to him for his guidance. We know that his love is always there.”
Danowski and Mardy are the parents of five biological children and two “daughters” from China who consider them their adopted American parents. The couple also has 11 grandchildren – including one from Korea, two from China and one from Honduras – and they are the reasons Danowski has written so many books.
“I think the biggest thing is that it is important for me to share and pass on my stories to my grandkids in today’s world; and I wanted them to know that this grandpa that they knew, who was a big time executive, artist and writer was successful at something,” he said. “I want them to know that God was always there as an underpinning and he wants to share in their lives and others. I worry about young people today. You don’t see them at church, and when old folks die off, what is left? Maybe if they know that Grandpa was successful in something, they might believe me that with God, they can accomplish anything.”