Henry Tupaj Sr passed away peacefully at his home in Bethlehem NH on February 28, 2023. Henry was born on October 27, 1948 in the village of Zalesie, Poland. In his later years, he shared many stories with his family detailing the difficulties of living under communist occupation, where shoes were a luxury only for church attendance even in winter, and where people listened to Radio Free Europe on their crystal set radios secretly under the threat of disappearance by the authorities.
While still a boy in Poland, he learned woodworking skills from his uncle Wojtek Tupaj, which would serve him for the rest of his life. When he and his family immigrated to the United States in 1963, Henry went to work in the building trades in and around Passaic, New Jersey. It was there that he met his wife Ludwika Jakowicz (Lucy), and there where they gave birth to their four children, Teresa, Henry, Danuta (Donna), and Andrew.
Seeking an even better life, Henry and Lucy left their large extended Polish family and community, embarking on a new life for themselves and their children in the North Country, first settling in Littleton in 1979. The woods of NH reminded them of the Polish countryside they had left behind. Henry built the family home, which soon hosted NJ relatives for festive visits that often included foraging the NH woods for wild mushrooms. In addition to building many luxury homes over the decades as a master carpenter working under his life-long friend Frank Dodge’s business, Henry also loved being a volunteer firefighter for Littleton for many years. He also served as an usher for many years in the Saint Rose of Lima Church of Littleton, which eventually led to his membership in the Knights of Columbus.
Henry was also an avid beekeeper, a skill that traces back through his mother Frances (deceased) to at least as far back as his grandfather in Poland, Andrzej Tupaj, who Henry was especially close with. Andrzej was known to nap under his buzzing hives because he found the area peaceful and free of distractions, a quieting calmness that passed to Henry, who worked in his hives wearing nothing but a tee shirt and with his bare hands. Henry kept hives right up until his death, giving away free jars of honey even in the month of his passing.
Henry retired in the early 2000’s, but eventually discovered his final act as a master carpenter. After a powerful religious experience in a time of personal difficulty, he dedicated himself to restoring Our Lady of the Mountains Shrine in Twin Mountain, which had fallen into a state of disrepair. He explained that when he was gone, he wanted something left behind for future generations. His efforts, perseverance through physical pains, and the eventual success in the rehabilitation of the building were noticed at the highest levels of the Catholic faith. In August of 2018, he received the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Medal from Pope Francis in honor of his dedication and service, which was presented at the Grand Opening of Our Lady of the Mountains Shrine.
After his health declined so that he could no longer serve the church in that capacity, Henry retired fully, but he maintained a close connection to his church community and also enjoyed quiet get-togethers with his immediate family, taking great pride in his children and grandchildren. He was at peace with his end coming, saying that he was ready to meet God.
He is survived by Lucy Tupaj, their four children: Teresa Tupaj Wood and her husband David, Henry Tupaj Jr and his wife Melinda, Donna Brooks and her husband Caleb, and Andrew Tupaj and his wife Paulette; his six grandchildren: Iris, Wyatt and Sage Wood; Ryan and Megan Tupaj; and Oliver Brooks; and his sister Maria Kondratowicz and his brother John Tupaj. His mother Frances Tupaj predeceased him in 2020.
A private service will be held on Saturday, March 18, 2023. A Celebration of Life will happen in the coming spring or summer, with details to follow.
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