Writing became a cathartic experience for Karen Wielinski as a means to process a devastating tragedy. Her first book, One on the Ground, told compelling story of how her world was changed forever when Continental Flight 3407 crashed into her home taking 51 souls with it.
This book, Pieces of My Puzzle, flows naturally from One on the Ground. It explores Karen's life journey through the '50s, '60s, 70s and beyond. The Wielinskis were a family of puzzlers. Her husband, Doug, was probably working on a puzzle in another room when a commercial airliner crashed into their house and exploded into flame. Doug died in that crash. Miraculousy, Karen and her youngest daughter who were home that night managed to escape.
Pieces of My Puzzle gives insight into Buffalo and Western New York history through her unique perspective. These are stories of a small child growing up on the East Side, where she was surrounded by a large extended family and a community that found its nucleus in St. Mary of Sorrows Parish.
We experience life during the '50s and '60s through the eyes of eyes a little girl and a young student. We meet teachers who impacted Karen's life, including one who instilled fear that affected her well into her twenties. Those early pieces of her puzzle included the heavy influence of religion and the bonds of family. We feel the impact of world events on her life, especially the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. We revisit a bustling neighborhood that included easy access to downtown Buffalo and the popular Broadway/Fillmore strip filled with such legendary shopping meccas as Sattler's, Kobackers, and the Broadway Market.
We meet a colorful cast of characters: a grandfather who immigrated to the United States at the age of fifteen; an artist uncle whose paintings depicted the harsh life of Native Americans and created the logo for Buffalo's iconic Iroquois brewery; and, a cousin who gave true meaning to the word "special."
The turbulent '60s brought transitions: changes to German and Polish neighborhoods, a new home farther away from downtown, and becoming a teen-ager. She attended Bishop McMahon High School, an all-girls school located in an old mansion, once part of Buffalo's Millionaire Row. She broadened her cultural horizons and planted the seeds that would nurture her long into the future. She also encountered the anxiety and excitement of boys, dances, and the Beatles.
As she reaches adulthood, Karen shares the adventures of entering the work force and, as she puts it, experiencing the "real world," after twelve years of Catholic education. She started her career in the steno pool at National Gypsum and where she eventually worked in the the credit the advertising departments. She was introduced to country music by Buffalo's legendary Ramblin' Lou Schriver when she got a part time job at WXRL. A civil service job at a local high school gave her the opportunity to explore the interesting artifacts in the school basement. Additional pieces were fitting into the frame of her life.
The five senses of touch, taste, sight, hearing and smell play an important role in developing Karen's puzzle. She blends a mix of 250 photos, a few original poems, a series of essays, and even a selection of family recipes.
Her puzzle really took shape when she met her husband, Doug, in 1977. He brought excitement, adventure and love to her life for more than thirty years, especially the gift of their four daughters. There was no hint of the tragedy that was to come.
Karen believes that these essays, photos, poems, and recipes demonstrate the way she has discovered, cultivated, lost, and rearranged her puzzle pieces throughout the years. They are held together by faith, trust, wonder, and, most of all, love. She takes comfort from her experiences, and looks forward to adding to her life puzzle.