From excelling in Spanish enough to teach teenagers to earning another college degree late in life, Kathy Niezurawski was known as a lifelong learner.
“She was just thirsting for knowledge all the time,” said Marcy Anderson, a friend for more than 50 years. “She just soaked it up.”
Miss Niezurawski, a former copy editor at The Detroit News, died Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, in Bay City after a battle with Parkinson’s disease, relatives said. She was 72.
In more than 13 years at the paper, the Michigan native honed her linguistic skills to leave a mark on the scores of articles she revised.
“Kathy was about as much a copy editor as a copy editor can get. She had grammar and style in her DNA and was a frequent resource for anyone on the desk,” said Andreas Supanich, news editor at The News. “… She didn’t take any shortcuts; even if deadline was 30 seconds away, she would take the time to do the job the right way. And in the end, the copy would be much clearer.”
Whether filling in on holidays or working late on election nights, Miss Niezurawski deftly trimmed and connected sentences, double-checked titles of sources and authored headlines for the mass of items that would reach readers online and in print.
Honors included a first-place finish in the headline writing category in the Society of Professional Journalists’ Detroit chapter annual awards ceremony.
“I remember her as the go-to person for grammar questions, like when to use lay or laid in a sentence,” said Steve Wilkinson, her longtime colleague on the copy desk.
Miss Niezurawski honed those skills working at publications including the San Diego Union-Tribune and Los Angeles Times, among others, said her cousin, Amy Glaza.
She primarily edited newspapers, which seemed a perfect fit.
“She loved the ability of a newspaper to really inform and educate the community on important issues,” Glaza said. “She really felt it was vital for our country to have an educated and well-informed community.”
Miss Niezurawski’s quest for education started as a youth in Bay City.
While attending Central High School, she joined the yearbook and school newspaper club. Though some classmates viewed the role as an easy way to avoid an English class, Miss Niezurawski relished it, said Anderson, who met her there. “She loved developing stories and coming up with good headlines. That just excited her. She truly loved it.”
After studying history and Spanish at Central Michigan University, she earned a teaching degree from Michigan State University, her family said.
Miss Niezurawski briefly taught in the Thumb region before returning to her love of journalism and taking a job in St. Louis. She later worked for newspapers in Arizona and California, relatives and friends said.
Her western stints were eventful.
“My favorite anecdote of hers was from her time there, when she crossed paths with a young Arnold Schwarzenegger at some kind of media event,” Supanich said. “It was crowded enough that they brushed against each other and that giant of a man ended up stepping on his foot. Instead of apologizing, he just looked at her and said, “Ouch!” in that Schwarzenegger accent.”
During those years, Miss Niezurawski found other pursuits, including serving as a tour guide and taking groups of students to Mexico as well as absorbing the culture in other countries, associates said.
Long active with the Sierra Club, she also loved bird-watching, hiking and camping—sometimes trekking solo, Glaza said. “She was incredibly adventurous and independent. It just astounded me. She was a real inspiration as a single woman forging her way. She just seemed to be fearless.”
Another passion was animals — donating to welfare groups or raising rescues as pets, Anderson said. “They were literally her babies.”
Miss Niezurawski eventually returned to Michigan to care for her mother, Leona, who died in 2003, said her brother, Michael.
While working at The News, she impressed others with her knowledge about far-ranging topics.
Her adoration of the Pittsburgh Steelers “was impossible to avoid,” Supanich said. “She was as well-versed in the ins and outs of football as anyone I’ve met. While the rest of us were suffering through losing Lions season after losing Lions season, Kathy could hold her head high.”
Michael Niezurawski always marveled at the seemingly endless array of facts honed from constant reading, which made his sister a formidable force in trivia games.
“She knew your answers and everyone else’s,” he said. “She was a learner.”
To further her interests, Miss Niezurawski earned a degree in library science from Wayne State University before leaving The News in 2016, her brother said.
That led to a part-time library job, where she served as a resource person, Anderson said. “She loved that. That was the teacher in her coming out.”
Besides her brother, survivors include another sibling, David Niezurawski, as well as many nieces, nephews and friends.
A memorial is planned next year.