Life Story Funeral Homes®
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Life Story Funeral Homes®
The exclusive providers of the Life Story Experience

Thomas F. Piatkowski

August 6, 2023
Raleigh, NC




Thomas Frank Piatkowski of Raleigh, NC., passed away peacefully on August 6, 2023, with his wife Helen-Grace holding his hand. Tom was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan on October 24, 1938, the first of six children of Stephan L. and Felice M. (Glowacki) Piatkowski. Except for a few years in Flint, Michigan during WWII, Tom's schooling was in Ann Arbor at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish and the Univ. of Michigan (BSE, MSE, PhD) where he was the student speaker at the 1960 Graduation ceremonies at UofM Stadium.

Tom met Helen-Grace (H.G.) Sullivan at the Newman Center at UofM; they were married on December 29, 1964, and together adventured through life with three children, several pets, and across many states. Their first child, Anna Christyna, was born in Tuskegee, Alabama; Kathryn Grace and John Stefan were born in Hanover, New Hampshire.

Tom prepared for and worked diligently at everything he did: whether as child learning to play multiple instruments, or later composing publicly performed classic Christmas Carols, for many years he was "Papa fix it" teaching his children about gardens, tools, and house projects, or as a professor of Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering, and Computer Science.

Tom's first professional position was at Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) as Assistant Professor of Engineering and Director of the Computer Center; then to Dartmouth College, where Myron Tribus, Dean of the Thayer School of Engineering, was a role model and mentor. In his life theme of being fully prepared, and to enhance his understanding of the jobs that most of his students would have after graduation, Tom next worked in industry, for several years at IBM's facility in Research Triangle Park and for a short time at Burroughs Corp. in Pennsylvania. The IBM position as principal technical author and artwork editor of IBM's System Network Architecture Format and Protocol Reference Manual (the SNA FAP Manual) was particularly challenging and very fulfilling. He returned to academia with a move to Iowa State Univ.; in 1985, he was appointed Chairman of Computer Science at SUNY-Binghamton. With the appointment in 1990 as Chairman of Electrical Engineering at Western Michigan University, Tom and H.G. returned to Michigan.

While Tom's professional work was about rapidly evolving and forward-looking technology (computing moved from punched cards to smartphones), his demeanor and style could often be described as "old school" – conscientious, courteous, punctual, somewhat formal. He enjoyed making things work better; his toolbox was always the first thing packed when travelling by car … the packing of any container – box, car, or canoe – was skillful! His artistic sense was instinctive, whether designing landscaping, hanging pictures, setting the silverware, or addressing an envelope in his self-designed "old school" script. Tom's outside interests varied widely through the years: self-taught calligraphy skills, making hand-turned wooden candle holders with his children for Christmas gifts, and even attaining a glider pilot license. His family and friends remember his big smile and hearty laugh, his lifelong love of music (both performed and experienced), and the many travels and camping/canoeing trips with family and friends, the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota being a favorite destination.

In retirement, Tom spent many hours digitizing family memorabilia for his Piatkowski-Glowacki family as well as family trees of H.G.'s family, always interested in learning what new features the CorelDRAW Suite had to improve his current project. Photos from special occasions and trips were quickly organized, "improved," and loaded to SmugMug for the participants to enjoy. His "PapaWorks" colophon always signaled a special gift.

Even after he was diagnosed with Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA) in 2012 and gradually robbed of his voice and writing, he continued to entertain with his meticulously designed treasure hunts (with photo clues for youngsters), quickly drawn animal sketches, and of course the inevitable prank or two (many a niece, nephew or grandchild woke up to figure out that a small Reese's peanut butter cup was hiding in their shoe!).

Tom was pre-deceased by his beloved daughter Anna Pope, brother Stanley, and sister Jeanine Fletcher. In addition to his wife, he is survived by Kate and Jay Corpus and their children John and Emme Corpus, John Piatkowski and Maria Killos and their children Owen and Kyle Piatkowski. Brother Frank (Eliza Wojtaszek) and sisters Mary (Tom Lennon) and Helen Campbell and many nieces and nephews.

The family is grateful to the staff at the Cardinal at North Hills Connections and private caregivers for their kind and compassionate care of Tom. A Funeral Mass and Inurnment will take place in Raleigh, NC.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions to the Triangle Aphasia Project (TAP), Unlimited, 171 High House Road Suite 11, Cary, NC 27511 or on the TAP website: or to a charity of your choice are much appreciated.

Friday, October 27 from 1-3pm, a "Celebration of the Life of Tom Piatkowski" will be held at Weber's Restaurant, 3050 Jackson Road, Ann Arbor, MI; family and friends are invited to share their stories and memories.

City of Oaks Funeral Home

4900 Green Road

Raleigh NC 27616