WILKES-BARRE — Sister Miriam Stadulis said she didn't know Jim Sobieski, but she knew of him.
That's why the former director of the McGlynn Learning Center attended Wednesday's memorial service for Sobieski, who died last week. Sobieski, 61, worked in the Mature Workers Program at REACH, the now-closed drop-in center for the area's homeless, and he volunteered at the St. Vincent de Paul Kitchen.
About 150 people attended the service held at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, where Sobieski continued working in the food pantry and clothing closet.
“From what I've been told and heard here today, Jim was a very beautiful and gifted man,” Stadulis said. “He was a blessing — a gift to all of us. He gave of himself selflessly.”
Stefanie Wolownik, former REACH director, delivered the eulogy and she said it was an honor to have known Sobieski.
Noting she could “tell tales out of school now,” she said Sobieski worked his regular four-hour shift and then volunteered at the kitchen and returned to volunteer at REACH. “He did anything he could to help people,” she said. “That's the legacy of Jim. And he did it quietly, but fervently.”
Sobieski, who was homeless for a brief time himself, would arrive early at the center every day to read the newspaper's police blotter and obituaries, Wolownik said. “He wanted to see who got in trouble and who wouldn't be getting in trouble anymore,” she said.
After REACH closed, Sobieski would let homeless people in to shower or to have a cup of coffee, Wolownik said. “Service was his duty,” she said. “He knew what folks needed and he gave what was available for him to give.”
Debra Kellerman, director of the St. Stephen's food pantry and clothing closet, said Sobieski “always helped.” “Jim found a home in our hearts,” she said. “And he found a family that surrounds him now.”
The Rev. Daniel Gunn relayed a statement from Monsignor Joseph Kelly, executive director of Catholic Social Services, the agency that oversee the St. Vincent de Paul Kitchen in Wilkes-Barre. “Jimmy Sobieski will be greatly missed,” Kelly said in the statement. “He made a difference in people's lives for years. His passing has left a hole in our hearts.”
Gunn called Sobieski “a good man — a great man, who lived his faith outside of these walls.”
Sobieski died April 3 at home in Wilkes-Barre of unknown causes. His family was not able to attend the service.