Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Phyllis Okoniewski Collection, 1941-1945

Finding aid created by
Meg Hixon, October 2012

Summary Information
Title: Phyllis Okoniewski collection
Creator: Szymczak, Phyllis Okoniewski, b. ca. 1926 and Szymczak, Richard, 1921-1999
Inclusive dates: 1941-1945
Bulk dates: 1942-1945
Extent: 0.75 linear feet
This collection is made up of letters that Phyllis Okoniewski of Buffalo, New York, wrote and received during World War II. She corresponded with servicemen in multiple branches of the United States Armed Forces during the early years of the war, and wrote over 150 letters to her future husband, Richard J. Szymczak, from September 1943-May 1945.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1999. M-4047.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.

Preferred Citation:

Phyllis Okoniewski Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The collection is arranged in the following series:

  • Series I: Correspondence
  • Series II: Writings
  • Series III: Newspaper clippings

The Correspondence series is arranged chronologically, with undated items and fragments placed at the end.


Phyllis M. Okoniewski was born ca. 1926, the daughter of Peter and Julia Okoniewski of Buffalo, New York. She had two siblings, Peter, Jr., and Virginia.

Richard J. Szymczak was born in New York in 1921, the son of Joseph and Ermina Szymczak. He had at least one sister, Irene. Szymczak served in the 95th Division (Signal Corps) during World War II. After the war, he married Phyllis Okoniewski, and they had two children, Allen and Paula. Szymczak owned two supermarkets in Buffalo, New York, until 1978, when he moved to Fairfax, Virginia, to work as a land purchasing agent. He retired and moved to Ocala, Florida, in 1986. Richard Szymczak died on December 25, 1999.

Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection is made up of approximately 200 letters that Phyllis Okoniewski of Buffalo, New York, wrote and received during World War II, 4 manuscript writings, and 6 newspaper clippings..

The Correspondence series consists of Phyllis Okoniewski's incoming and outgoing letters. From February 1941-August 1943, Okoniewski received over 40 letters from members of the United States Army, United States Army Air Forces, and United States Navy. They wrote about aspects of military life at bases such as Camp McClellan, Alabama; Camp Croft, South Carolina; Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida; Camp Pickett, Virginia; Seymour Johnson Field, North Carolina; Sampson Naval Training Station, New Jersey; Camp Gordon, Georgia; and South Kelly Field, Texas. The servicemen discussed their classes, possible assignments, daily routine, and leisure activities. Okoniewski occasionally composed drafts of letters to these soldiers, in which she discussed her life in Buffalo, New York. The bulk of the series (over 150 items) is comprised of Okoniewski's letters to her future husband, Richard Szymczak, between September 1943 and May 1945. She commented on news from home, activities with members of the Okoniewski and Szymczak families, her senior prom, and her love for Szymczak.

The Writings series (4 items) contains 2 drafts of an explicit poem about Adam and Eve, a recipe for "love cake," a parody of Longfellow's poem "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere," and a typed joke about married women.

Five of the six Newspaper clippings relate to the Buffalo Bisons hockey team during the war. One of these lists war casualties from western New York on the reverse side. The sixth clipping is an image of members of the 95th Signal Company, 3rd Division, United States Army, surrounding a cow.

Subject Terms

    • American Hockey League.
    • Buffalo Bisons (Hockey team)
    • Buffalo (N.Y.)
    • Camp Croft (Spartanburg, S.C.)
    • Camp Gordon (Dekalb County, Ga.)
    • Camp McClellan (Ala.)
    • Camp Pickett (Va.)
    • Families of military personnel--United States.
    • Kelly Field (Tex.)
    • Naval Air Station Jacksonville (Fla.)
    • Proms.
    • Sampson Naval Training Station (Sampson, N.Y.)
    • Seymour Johnson Field (Goldsboro, N.C.)
    • United States. Army Air Forces--Military life.
    • United States. Army--Military life.
    • United States. Navy--Military life.
    • World War, 1939-1945--United States.
    • World War, 1939-1945--Women--United States.
    Subjects - Visual Materials:
    • Soldiers--United States.
    • United States. Army. Division, 95th.
    • Barczykowski, Fred.
    • Gawron, John.
    • Lewanski, E. (Gene)
    • Zdrojewski, Frank.
    Genre Terms:
    • Clippings (information artifacts)
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Poems.
    • Recipes.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Correspondence [series]
    Box   1 Folders   1-19
     February 23, 1941-April 3, 1945
    Box   2 Folders   1-5
     April 10, 1945-May 7, 1945,  undated, and fragments
    Writings [series]
    Box   2 Folder   6
    Newspaper clippings [series]
    Box   2 Folder   7
     November 6, 1944-November 20, 1944, and  undated