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On August 13th, 1933, John R. Filipkowski Jr. was born to parents John Sr. and Mary in South Camden, NJ. Although he came into the world during the depths of the Great Depression - and the scarcity it brought - “Sunshine,” as he was known to friends and family, grew up well and strong as the older brother to Dennis and Cynthia. John attended St. Joseph’s Catholic High School and found early employment as a manual pinsetter at a bowling alley located on Clinton Avenue in Oaklyn, Camden County. Next came a stint serving in the United States Army. John was stationed in Germany in the mid-1950s during the post-Korean War era and served as a radio operator. He and his army buddies kept in touch after their deployment, referring to themselves as the “River Rats.”
Upon returning to civilian life, John began work in the restaurant business. He toiled his way up from busboy to head waiter and eventually maitre d’, working at upscale dining establishments of the day, such as Cinelli’s, the Marlton Manor, Henry’s, and even the legendary Latin Casino. John also served a tenure as a union shop steward, lobbying successfully for better working conditions for his colleagues. It was at one of these restaurants - the San Souci - that John met a lovely young coat check girl named Mary Nasuti. The two fell in love and eventually were married in 1961.
The couple moved into the home that they had built on Kendall Blvd. in Oaklyn and raised their five sons there. That house remains in fine condition to this day due in no small measure to John’s ability to fix almost anything and everything. Servicemen were not required, as John was an amateur plumber, carpenter, electrician, mason, and general contractor. He also was a crack auto mechanic. Developing, along the way, a special affinity for classic and antique Studebakers. In 1969, John’s passion for the outdoors, which he passed on to his children, spurred him to design, build, and run a campground and recreation area called The Lake of the Four Fountains in Winslow, NJ. In 1971, John started Little Dock Street, a fresh fruit and produce business on Rt. 130 in Woodlynne. The venture would eventually become Dimar, Corp., a wholesale foods distributorship serving much of the South Jersey area. John ran the business, which also provided a career for his three eldest sons, until his retirement in 2012.
John also shared his love of sports with his sons, leading to his association with the Oaklyn Cougars youth football program. He volunteered his time and effort for ten years, acting as a coach and officer in the organization. To the delight of the legions of Cougars players, “Mr. Flip,” as everyone called him, also began authoring weekly, pun-filled recaps of the week’s games, being sure that each and every player got an opportunity to read his name in the local papers. He would be presented with a plaque honoring his prose, which reads: “The World has Shakespeare. But we, the Cougars, have John Filipkowski.” John further volunteered, with his wife Mary, at the extravagant Parish Carnivals that were held throughout the 1970s at St. Aloysius in Oaklyn. The couple employed an admirable work ethic, working tirelessly to fundraise for the parish and particularly the school, which their children attended.
Upon his retirement from Dimar Foods, John became involved with the Polish-American Citizens’ Club, finding community with other area residents of Polish descent. “Pop” also relished the opportunity to share his passions with his six grandchildren by spending time with them fishing, crabbing, and boating, as well as watching them participate in various youth sports and rooting together for Philadelphia area sports teams. John’s years spent in the restaurant business also allowed him to become an accomplished home chef. His clams casino, caesar salad with homemade dressing, and blue claw crabs sauteed with the famous “Secret Sauce” were both requested and enjoyed by his friends and family for many decades.
On October 23rd, 2023, after recently being feted at his 90th birthday party, John passed away peacefully in that same Kendall Blvd. home, comforted by his family Those who knew John will always remember him for his unassuming intellect, his penchant for a dramatic turn of phrase, his proudly-held opinions, and his dedication to doing what was right over what may have been convenient. He is survived by: his wife of 61 years, Mary; sons John (Anna), Ralph (Kelly), Jeff (Michelle), Joseph (Clare), and Matthew (Jennifer Clegg); grandchildren Andrew, Katrina, Martin, Elisabeth, Julia, and Joseph; and siblings Dennis and Cynthia.
A mass of Christian burial will be held on Saturday, October 28th, at 10 am at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church 1010 Liberty St. Camden, NJ 08104. Interment will follow at St. Joseph’s Cemetery, 240 Lower Landing Road, Blackwood, NJ 08012. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church Restoration Fund: 1010 Liberty St. Camden, NJ 08104.
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