Dr. Thomas “Tom” L. Kowalchick, beloved husband, father, grandpa, brother, uncle, and friend died tragically on February 16, 2022, at the Berwick Hospital. He was 78.
Born May 15, 1943, in Berwick, he was the son of the late Stanley and Betty (Smith) Kowalchick.
Tom was preceded in death by his beloved and devoted wife of 53 years, Sharon K. Kowalchick.
He graduated from Berwick High School in 1961. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Pennsylvania State University. Tom was awarded a doctorate from University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine in 1969. Tom felt honored to faithfully serve the United States in two branches of the Military. First, he was a member of the U.S. Naval Reserve and he was honorably discharged as a hospital corpsman. Following his graduation from veterinary school, he served in the Army Veterinary Corps and he was stationed with his family in Ft. Lewis, Washington. After distinguished service, he was honorably discharged having attained the rank of Captain.
Tom’s compassion and commitment to his life’s work and calling as a veterinarian was inspiring and spanned over five decades. Following veterinary work in Philadelphia and Maryland, he returned to Berwick to fulfill his greatest dream of starting his own animal hospital. In 1974, he worked together with his father, brother and friends to build his hospital from the ground up. Tom and his wife launched and established his veterinary practice, North Berwick Animal Hospital. It was here throughout his noteworthy career that he exemplified his philosophy that pets are not just animals, they are true family members. He was well-known and loved for his willingness to provide care anytime and anywhere. He prioritized providing compassionate care and was honored to serve his clients and community. He was thought of by many as an advocate and true friend.
Through his practice, he also mentored and supported many young learners and aspiring veterinarians as well as many enthusiastic employees. Tom was a skilled and intuitive teacher. He was also a role-model for providing a welcoming, loving environment to help serve clients during difficult times. Fawny, Barb, Kelly, Ashleigh, Laurie and Becky were dedicated and appreciated members of his team.
Tom was a devout Episcopalian and a lifelong member of Christ Episcopal Church of Berwick. Faith was an important part of his life. He was a chalice bearer and licensed lay reader. His active church life included serving on countless committees, coordinating the Christian Education program when his children were young and teaching Sunday School for 15 years. Following Hurricane Katrina, he was a member of the Pascagoula, Mississippi Mission Team. He was a dedicated leader for more than 40 years, serving in roles such as: Vestry, Senior Warden, and Junior Warden.
Tom was an active member of the Berwick Rotary Club since 1985. He was an avid supporter of Rotary International projects. He and his wife participated in an International Rotary Conference at the United Nations and enjoyed hosting participants from England, Turkey, Argentina, India and Japan through Rotary’s Global Group Study Exchange. He enthusiastically supported a wide-range of local community projects and sponsored the rabies clinic, which earned proceeds that benefitted a youth shelter in Quito, Ecuador. His 37-year commitment to Rotary’s philanthropic and civic-focused endeavors was remarkable. He served as editor and chairman of the district conference. He was a past Rotarian president three times and was the current president-elect of Berwick Rotary and was scheduled to be appointed president at the July meeting later this year. He was looking forward to this honor. Tom held the Rotary Foundation in the highest regard and was a Paul Harris Major Donor. He proudly and whole-heartedly exemplified Rotary’s guiding principle of “service above self.”
Tom demonstrated distinguished service to youth and community through the Boy Scouts of America. Tom received Scouting’s highest award by achieving the rank of Eagle Scout in 1960. His service in Scouting included being a scoutmaster for many years. He was also an advisor to the Veterinary Medicine Explorer Post, which he organized and was a presenter for the Learning for Life Career education program. He was a member of the Order of the Arrow and was a life member of the National Eagle Scout Association. He served as District Chairman for the Iroquois District Committee for over a decade. He received the District Award of Merit in 1989. He was also recognized with the Silver Beaver Award bestowed upon only those who have given continued, unselfish, and effective service to the community.
Tom was known for his civic-mindedness and community involvement. Some of his other treasured opportunities included being a member of Knapp Lodge #462 F & AM, the Berwick Jaycees, the Berwick Cemetery Association and he was a committee member for the Berwick Area Academic Hall of Fame. He also supported the YMCA, United Way, and The Red Cross as a multi-gallon blood donor. He enjoyed the many years he was able to participate with so many other community members in Berwick’s Annual Run for the Diamonds.
Tom’s humor and wit were legendary. He was a fantastic storyteller and could regale friends and family with his comedic delivery and impeccable timing. He was always ready to share a joke, loved to entertain and was a generous host. He loved spending time at “The Cabin” on Fishing Creek, cheering on Penn State (“We Are…..!!”), and taking a break to visit and enjoy family time in Cape May, N.J.
Tom’s family loves him dearly for his kindness, generosity and compassion. We are extremely proud and grateful to have him as our father and grandfather. The legacy he leaves us is one of love, strength, and steadfastness. Our father lived an exemplary life. He is the person we aspire to be. Tom Kowalchick was a great man.
In addition to his dear wife and beloved parents, Tom was also preceded in death by his father-in-law, Carl E. Whitmire and mother-in-law, Thelma (Molyneux) Whitmire.
Tom is survived by his three children: Leigh Ann Kowalchick, of Harrison N.Y. and her boyfriend, John C. Mann, of Riverdale, N.Y.; Tracy L. Kowalchick, of Perkasie, and her boyfriend, Harry D. Yanoshak, of Hatboro; Thomas S. Kowalchick and his wife, Shayla, of Berwick; and three grandsons: Mitchell S. Kowalchick and his fiancée, Amber Coolbaugh, of Scranton; and Asher and Griffin Porphy, of Harrison, N.Y.
Tom is also survived by a brother, Stanley J. Kowalchick and his wife, Mary, of Millheim; brother-in-law, Carl E. Whitmire, Jr. and his wife, Judy, of Berwick; four nieces and a nephew: Debra (Whitmire) Yachimowski, Jayne (Whitmire) Burke, Michael Whitmire and Jennifer (Kowalchick) Claus; and his best friends Peter Marycz and his wife, Denise, of Sugarloaf.
Viewings will be held 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, February 25, at the Kelchner, McMichael & Readler Funeral Home, Inc., 119-121 E. Third St., Berwick.
At 8:15 a.m. on Saturday, February 26, preceding his funeral, there will be a moment to honor Dr. Kowalchick at North Berwick Animal Hospital. Starting Wednesday there will be a drop box in front of the animal hospital for those who want to share a picture of past or present furry friends or leave a written message to be part of a special memory board.
At 10 a.m. on Saturday, February 26, a viewing will be held at Christ Episcopal Church, 712 E. 16th Street, Berwick, followed by his funeral at 11 a.m. The Rev. Fred Stevenson will officiate. Tom’s interment will be at Pine Grove Cemetery, Walnut Street. Online messages of love and support can be left at www.kelchnerfuneralhome.com