Calhoun JP remembered as public servant who always lent an ear
Judge James Dworaczyk was a man who listened carefully.
Sitting in his Seadrift office as justice of the peace, Precinct 4, he was always willing to sit down and hear what his constituents had to say about whether a citation was fair or how they could afford to pay a ticket.
Dworaczyk served as JP until his death on Sunday at age 69 after a brief battle with lung cancer.
"That's how it should work and that's how it did work with him," said Justice of the Peace James Duckett, a longtime friend. "People knew him and they knew they could talk to him."
The community of Seadrift knew Dworaczyk and trusted him enough to elect him justice of the peace from 1975 to 1982 and again in 1999. He was a fixture in the community, a man who everyone knew and trusted.
Dworaczyk grew up on a farm in Long Mott picking cotton on his father's farm. Dworaczyk's father was always community-minded, a value that was instilled in his son at an early age, daughter Courtne Thurlkill said.
He was devoted to his three children and Peggy, his wife of 44 years, but he also contributed to the community in other ways.
He was deeply involved in church, described by everyone who knew him as a man of faith.
Despite routinely working 16-hour days, his family came first, and he was never too tired on Sunday mornings to march into his children's rooms and get them up for church.
"You're blessed to be able to wake up in the morning and go to church," he would tell his children.
He also worked with the young people of Seadrift, making a point to encourage them to stay on the right path and get a good education, Thurlkill said.
Dworaczyk made his living as a hay bailer but when he was asked to run for justice of the peace office, he stepped up to serve his community.
"He was always for the low man on the totem pole," Thurlkill said. "He saw it as a chance to help people."
People knew they could come to him with their problems and that he would do his best to help.
As a longtime resident of Seadrift, Dworaczyk knew the local fishermen well and tried to help them when he could.
"All of those people, the fishermen, the shrimpers, the people who worked so hard for so little, he would try to make things easier for them, because he knew they were going through hard times," Thurlkill said.
Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 James Duckett worked with Dworaczyk for years. The two formed a tight friendship along the way, and Dworaczyk appeared in Duckett's office two or three times a week to talk about the job and to talk about life.
"He was just a good friend and a good colleague," Duckett said, remembering a soft-spoken man who could make anyone comfortable.
Dworaczyk was a private man. After being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, he didn't tell many people. His battle with cancer was brief and on his own terms, Thurlkill said. That was the way he wanted it to be, she said.
It is uncertain who will take over the office, though Duckett noted the wife of the deceased is usually asked to step in.
Calhoun County Judge Mike Pfeifer said they are not in a hurry to fill Dworaczyk's position.
"He liked his work and he always said he just tried to do the right thing. That was his motto," Pfeifer said.
The other justices of the peace will work together to cover things for the time being, Duckett said.
"To us, he won't be easy to replace," he said.