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Eugene B. Strzalka rode an elevator at General Motors headquarters to a 60-year-marriage and a 35-year career at GM.

Mr. Strzalka, 85, died Wednesday, May 24, 2017, of pulmonary fibrosis in his Shelby Township home.

He was born Jan. 30, 1932, the third of six children to Polish immigrants in Detroit. After graduating from St. Andrew High School on Detroit’s west side, and at the suggestion of his mother, he took a job as an elevator operator at the automaker’s headquarters building in Detroit. It was a stint interrupted by two years of service in the U.S. Army serving in Korea.

“Gene felt he could achieve anything he put his mind to,” said Kenneth Strzalka, his younger brother, of Tucson, Arizona.

“From going to night school to get a business degree to going to night school to get a law degree and becoming an attorney, he was a model for his children.”

It was while working the elevator that he met his wife, Patricia Mae Dobos, whom he married in January 1957, while completing a degree at the University of Detroit. And through GM, he parlayed the degree into a more than 35-year-career at GM’s truck and bus unit.

Mr. Strzalka retired from GM after successfully completing his law degree at the University of Detroit in May 1983, and he finished his career as an attorney in private practice. He remained an avid fan and supporter of University of Detroit Mercy basketball.

Mr. Strzalka was a Democratic candidate for public office in Macomb County several times. Although he never achieved office, he remained active in the community through the American Polish Century Club, which he served as president from 1996-97.

“He was democratically motivated,” Kenneth Strzalka said. “Trying to help the downtrodden, to introduce business methods and ideals to influence public policy and help people in need — he wanted to serve others.”

Mr. Strzalka is survived by his wife and children, David of Marion, Ohio; John of Pinckney; Mary Machi of Sterling Heights; Joseph of Hamtramck (and stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan); and Katherine Sadowski of Lexington; as well as brother Kenneth and sister Geraldine Miles of Sterling Heights. He leaves six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Visitation is 2-8 p.m. Monday at Wasik Funeral Home-Shelby Chapel, 49150 Schoenherr Road and 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at St. Therese of Lisieux, 48115 Schoenherr Road, Shelby Township. Funeral Mass follows at 10 a.m. at the church. Interment will be at Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly.

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