Alexander Zawaski of Goshen, N.Y., dies

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Alex Zawaski believed it is a wonderful world, and he made it even more so just by being in it.

Orange County lost a beloved native son on Tuesday, April 30, when aviator Alex Zawaski’s spirit left his body and soared into the skies he was always so eager to explore.

Born in 1941 to Olga and Alexander Zawaski Sr., Alex was only five years old when his Uncle John, a flight instructor during World War II, landed his airplane on Alex’s grandfather’s farm in New Hampton, planting a seed in Alex’s imagination that would grow into a lifelong passion for flying.

Alex grew up on his family’s produce farm alongside his brother, Harry (now deceased), and his sister, Patricia. When friend and classmate Tom Lorgan married Tricia, he became the “third Zawaski brother.”

Alex excelled at sports in school — baseball, basketball, and especially football—he was captain of the team. In 1959, he was voted homecoming king at Goshen High School.

After playing football for a year at Northwestern University, Alex enlisted in the Army and was stationed primarily in Fort Lewis in Washington State. After his service, he returned to the region and completed college at Alfred University. He and his brother joined the trucking company that their parents had founded after they retired from farming — acquiring contract U.S. Postal Service routes across New York State. When getting to remote regions to repair truck engines or deliver paychecks presented a challenge, Alex followed his dream of becoming a pilot and learned to fly.

Alex bought his first airplane, a Comanche 180, in 1968, shortly after completing requirements for his private pilot rating. In 1972, he purchased another Comanche — a 260B, which he lovingly maintained and referred to as his “magic carpet” and flew for some 46 years. The plane took him to Alaska in 1977 and across the Atlantic in 1982. In 1991, Alex and his partner and co-pilot Roberta Alexander (now deceased) flew around the world in 82 days. Dubbed “Modern Day Magellans” by the Times Herald Record, Alex and Roberta were celebrated as Earth-Rounders — the 53 pilots to complete the voyage in a single-engine plane.

Alex leaves behind his wife of 14 years, Gloria Smith Zawaski, who is also a pilot. In addition to an untold number of “lobster runs” to Bar Harbor, Maine, the couple logged countless flight hours in the two planes that he had refurbished and dubbed their “Twin Comanches.” They flew all over the U.S. as well as the Caribbean, Canada, and the Arctic Circle; they even joined the ranks of the small handful of pilots to fly to Siberia. Alex was a consummate pilot who brilliantly negotiated challenging aviation situations.

Al also leaves behind his sister, Patricia, and her husband, Tom Lorgan, and their sons, Jason and Justin, along with Justin’s wife, Nicole, and their children, Sam and Jemma; his nieces, Christine Britt and Stephanie Day, as well as her husband, Gary, and their children, Nina, Cody and Alex; his aunt, Helen Pasuk (Uncle John’s wife) his stepdaughter, Laura Porretta, and her husband, Antonio, and their children Cristiano, Victoria and Matteo; and stepsons Dirk Smith and Conroy Bowman.

Alex loved his country, his hometown, his family, his friends, the folks at Pine Island Turf (whose sod he hauled for years), the doctors and nurses who kept him alive against all odds, his Mack truck, his Comanche airplanes, and the pilots at Orange County and Randall’s Airport. He introduced countless people to flying and volunteered his services for medical and emergency missions. He shared myriad adventures here at home and around the world. In flight and in life, he navigated by following his heart.

A visitation will be held Wednesday, May 8, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the T.S. Purta Funeral Home, 690 County Route 1, Pine Island, with a service at 7:30 p.m.. On Sunday, May 26, at noon, a celebration of his life for friends, family and the aviation community will be held at Nu Cavu Restaurant on the Ulster/Kingston Kobelt Airport 857 Plains Road in Wallkill, N.Y. (Please RSVP to 845-355-4767.)

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Rhinebeck Aerodrome Museum C/O Youth Program/Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome/PO Box 229, Rhinebeck, NY 12572.

Editor's note: Please see story about Alex Zawaski, "World-circling pilot commended for 50 years of safety," at

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