At the Thompson and Kuenster Funeral Home, Monday’s visitation for an Oak Lawn couple found dead in their home last week in an apparent murder-suicide was less about their violent end and more of how they lived life to the fullest.
Hundreds of mourners streamed past Kenneth Borkowski’s Harley-Davidson parked in front of the funeral home. A spray of white roses cascaded off the bike’s leather seat, tied with an orange ribbon etched with the names “Puppy” and “Mary.”
Police say Borkowski, 53, shot his wife, Mary Mauger, 47, in the neck with a shotgun before he turned the weapon on himself. Their bodies were discovered on Jan. 30 in their home on the 4900 block of South Tulley Avenue, after family members had requested a police well-being check.
Family members believe Borkowski, remembered as a loving, quick-witted, loyal friend and doting grandfather, snapped due to changes in his epilepsy medication, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Division Chief Michael Kaufmann, spokesman for the Oak Lawn Police Department, told Patch that village officers had no cause to visit the home up until the morning when their bodies were discovered last Monday.
Inside, mourners in formal suits and leather motorcycle jackets and vests, crowded into chapels A and B, vying for space with the large floral stands ringing both rooms, ending heartbreakingly at a pair of closed caskets.
On the floor, a group of young boys took turns riding a battery-powered Big Wheel, in tribute to their grandfather’s love of Harleys. Borkowski, whose biker name was “Puppy,” is credited as a co-originator of the Chicagoland Toys for Tots annual motorcycle procession.
Loaning his ride to a fellow biker, Borkowski took part in the first parade in 1978 that rode from the South Side to Glenview in the northern suburbs escorting a half-filled van of toys. Borkowski’s crowing achievement—besides his own children and grandchildren—was his participation in the annual biker ride to collect toys for needy children at Christmas.
The hundreds of snapshots on display of their gentle embraces and tender kisses beguiled the sudden storm that engulfed Ken and Mary in their home last week.
Mourners peered at poster boards, some framed, with scrapbook letters spelling out themes of “Family,” “We Love Our Daddy” and “Blessed With So Many Beautiful Days,” filled with photos of the star-crossed couple:
- Infant Mary in black and white, smiling angelically in a white-lace christening gown;
- Young Kenny and an older brother in swim trunks, hamming it up for the camera on a lazy summer afternoon making he-man poses;
- Mary growing up through the years in grammar school photos;
- Shaggy-haired, teenage Ken, Mary dressed up pretty for a wedding;
- The couple holding babies, the day’s catch of fish, with friends on long rides during their lifetime of “Travel, Adventure, Journey.”
Between their caskets, majestically displayed and surrounded by flowers and the flag of Poland, was a blown up photo of the couple in happier days looking serene and at peace.
A man in jeans, his gray hair pulled back in a ponytail falling just above the Christian bikers club emblem on the back of his leather vest, kneeled in prayer before each casket. To the left of Borkowski’s stood a large floral arrangement from members of the Chicagoland Toys for Tots, with a card that read “From the Organization You Helped Start.” A Toys for Tots throw draped the foot of Borkowski’s casket.
The atmosphere inside of homey Thompson and Kuenster was less that of a wake and more a reunion for family and friends. Ken’s older brother, Arthur “Skip” Borkowski, long recognized as a basketball legend for the Oak Lawn Spartans, accepted condolences from relatives and friends, throwing glances of support to his dead brother’s children.
Put aside were the painful questions, replaced instead by forgiveness and redemption. Set off in the corner of chapel B was a heart-shaped wreath of white carnations with a startling jagged crack of red roses, and a sister’s tribute:
“My heart is breaking at the loss of my loving, beautiful little sister and funny, loving brother-in-law. You are together now in peace. I will miss you forever.”
A funeral Mass will take place at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday (Feb. 7) at St. Gerald's Church; inurnment is at Resurrection Cemetery. Borkowski's family requests that in lieu of flowers, memorials be made to the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago.