Charlotte Russell Partridge and Miriam Frink Papers, 1862-1980

Biography/History

Chester Joseph Szymczak was born on June 22, 1915 in Milwaukee. His parents were immigrants from Poland and the family lived on the city's North Side. Szymczak studied journalism and liberal arts at Marquette University, and he graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in comparative literature. He worked as a radio and newspaper editor and later held jobs with the Associated Press in Des Moines, Iowa, and Buffalo, New York.

In September of 1940, Szymczak joined the United States Navy. He graduated from signal school at the Naval Armory in Chicago and served on the ships U.S.S. Wyoming and U.S.S. Alcor. He volunteered for Army transport duty and was assigned as a signal man to the U.S.S. Dorchester. On February 3, 1943, the Dorchester sank near the coast of Greenland, and Szymczak was one of the few survivors. The ship's tragedy would later become the subject of many of Szymczak's writings.

After leaving the Navy in 1945, Szymczak again pursued a writing career. In the mid-1950s he served as county editor and photographer at the Waukesha Daily Freeman. Besides his work on the paper he wrote poetry, plays, short stories, and non-fiction. Among his published works are When Time Stood Still (1956), Classical Americana: the Early American Literary Masters (1971), Modern Americana: the Glory of American Literature (1972), The Legacy of Mikclaj Kopernik: One Man's Love Affair with the Universe (1973), The Men, the Ship: the Story America Will Never Forget and the World Will Always Remember (1976), and Contemporary Americana: Our Great American Writers (1977). Szymczak also wrote under the names Joseph Chester and Czeslaw Jozef Szymczak.