Norbert Peter Cudnowski, the son of two immigrants, Peter Cudnowski and Stephanie Topolska, was born on March 15, 1930 during the Great Depression. Norbert’s father, Peter Cudnowski worked at the Chicago Union Stockyards, and, with only a sixth grade education, rose to become a union steward at Swift and Company. See Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle for a glimpse of what Norbert’s father’s life was like. Norbert’s mother Stephanie, worked as a seamstress on Michigan Avenue, sewing expensive dresses for the wealthy earning 10 cents per hour for her time. Peter and Stephanie and all of Norbert’s siblings, Lilian, Loretta, Laverne, Mildred and Raymond, predeceased Norbert.
Norbert Peter Cudnowski was a man who achieved great heights from his very humble beginnings. As a child he loved nothing more than to sit at Midway airport staring at the airplanes taking off and landing and he dreamed of one day becoming an aviator. To that end, he attended Lewis College southwest of Chicago, where he studied aviation mechanics. He paid for his tuition working part time jobs and with help from his sister Lilian (Cudnowski) Nowak.
When the Korean War began, Norbert immediately volunteered for the United States Air Force and through dint hard work, determination, skill, and courage he became one of the first generation of United States Air Force Jet Fighter pilots and a member of the 339th All Weather Fighter Interceptor Squadron in Japan and Korea from 1952 to 1955. During his time in the U.S. Air Force, Norbert flew F-90, F-94B and F-89D jets.
Upon successfully serving his country, Norbert was honorably discharged and returned stateside to become a commercial airline pilot for Capital Airlines where he met and married the bright and lovely Carole Mae (Salyer) Cudnowski. Norbert and Carole had five children. Norbert is survived by his children, Dr. Debra (Dennis Leahy) Cudnowski, David (Kathy) Cudnowski, Cathleen (David) Dixon, and William (Elizabeth) Cudnowski; and grandchildren, Theodora, Curtis P., Katie, and Chris Cudnowski, Grace and Nate Dixon, and Basia Leahy. Norbert was preceded in death by his son Curtis L. Cudnowski, his beloved wife of 58 years, Carole Mae; and by his parents.
Norbert was driven to succeed, and, as quickly as allowed he leapt up the ladder to larger and larger aircraft and as a United Airlines Captain Norbert flew the DC-3, DC-4, DC-6, DC-7, Vickers Viscount, 727, 767, DC-10, and 747 from 1956 to 1990.
Norbert never stopped trying, never stopped studying, never stopped achieving and adapting and he instilled in his children not only his fierce work ethic and drive but also his firm belief in the value of education to push them all forward: Dr. Debra Grace Cudnowski, M.D., David Peter Cudnowski, J.D., LL.M, Cathy Dixon, CPA, MBA and William Edward Cudnowski, B.S, MBA and commercial flight rating. His children and grandchildren are eternally grateful for his love, guidance, support and the stellar example he set for them.
Funeral mass and burial will be held privately for Norbert's immediate family. For those who wish to join virtually may do so by joining us on Zoom for the Funeral Mass on Tues. Oct. 20 at 10 AM.
Meeting ID: 898 8959 7183
In lieu of flowers memorial donations in Norbert’s name may be made to Lewis University Aviation Program, One University Parkway, Romeoville, IL 60446, 815-836-5920, https://www.lewisu.edu/academics/aviation/index.htm
Please view Norbert's tribute video below.
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