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Jan 17, 2011 2:43 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Bridgehampton Woman Marks 100th Birthday

Jan 17, 2011 2:43 PM

It is a party 100 years in the making—and the birthday girl is something less than excited.

“She told us a year ago that when she turns 100 years old, she was going to have a big, big party,” said Mary Petraszewski, nodding toward her older sister, Frances Kominski. “Now, we make the big, big party, and she’s less than thrilled.”

Ms. Kominski shot her sister a mischievous smirk and shrugged, her hands delicately folded on the kitchen table at her quiet home in Bridgehampton on Friday.

But in three days, on January 16, Ms. Petraszewski hopes the house will be bustling with friends of Ms. Kominski, stopping by to wish her well on her 100th birthday, and perhaps getting her into the spirit of celebrating.

“She’ll just be happy to see some people she hasn’t in a while,” Ms. Petraszewski said. “I know she will—even though she’s not admitting it now. Right? You’ll enjoy the company visiting and telling stories?”

Ms. Kominski’s brow furrowed. But then her gray eyes focused back on her sister. “My life was too long—it would take too much talking,” Ms. Kominski said.

Ms. Petraszewski laughed. “You mean you’ve lived too long to talk about it all?”

“Yeah,” Ms. Kominski said. “I was all over the world before I came here, so when I finally came, I stayed. That’s it.”

The native of Poland stepped foot on American soil 85 years ago, after spending most of her adolescent life with her mother, Stfania Grodski, and her younger sister, Sophie, in Russia following the outbreak of World War I.

“When the kids finally came to the United States in 1926, they were asking their mother, ‘Who’s that man over there waving to us?’” Ms. Petraszewski said. “And she said, ‘That’s your father.’ He’d already been here for 14 years. They didn’t know him.”

Patriarch Benjamin Grodski moved his wife and children to the Hamptons, where the rest of the Grodski clan—Henry, Virginia and Mary—was born. The family bounced from their home in Bridgehampton to Southampton after the Hurricane of 1938, and a year later Ms. Kominski and her husband, Frank, moved into their home on Sagg Road in Bridgehampton—next to the Kominski family potato farm, which was sold in 1973. Ms. Kominski still lives there today. Her husband died in 1989.

“Frances drove the trucks, the trailers, the plows, took care of the animals,” Ms. Petraszewski said. “She was a worker, and that was a side job.”

Ms. Kominski’s—and her sisters’s—true work was found in the estates of the Hamptons, where they made a living reopening and scrubbing down the shuttered summer homes before their owners returned.

“If it was a humongous house, we might be there four to six weeks,” Ms. Petraszewski said. “Every window and sill had to be washed, every floor washed and waxed. The house had to be spotless.”

The Grodski women made a name for themselves by word of mouth and retained clients for sometimes as long as four decades, Ms. Petraszewski said.

“They were like gypsies, traveling from house to house,” said Donald Grodski, Ms. Petraszewski’s nephew.

When they weren’t cleaning the estates, the women would help host lunch and dinner parties there, working as waitresses—and even chefs—for their clients.

“When you get a bunch of ladies together, we’d be teasing and laughing while we were working. It was a great time,” Ms. Petraszewski said. “We’d say, ‘What would I do if I could just sit here, look around and have somebody wait on me?’ It was fun.”

Ms. Kominski worked in the field until she was 85 years old and had to stop driving, said Ms. Petraszewski, noting that she still has old clients calling, asking for Ms. Kominski. “She was part of their families,” the 77-year-old said. “She was the grandmother type who worked for them.”

Despite Ms. Kominski’s maternal nature, she and her husband were unable to have children of their own. That’s where Mr. Grodski—as a toddler—came in.

As Mr. Grodski, now 41, tells it, he fell asleep at his aunt’s house on a snowy Christmas afternoon and just never left.

“That’s my adopted mother—not legally, but she raised me from the time I was 2,” said the Southampton resident, noting that he’s the second youngest of eight siblings. “It was a load off for my parents. We’d still go over to their house to visit. It was like an aunt-and-uncle thing, but just the other way around.”

Mr. Grodski recalled that there was never a dull moment in the Kominski household. “Oh, it was fun,” he said. “They were both non-stop.”

“She’d start instigating and raising Cain,” Ms. Petraszewski said. “And he’d give ’em hell, too.”

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Frances Kominski..... The story brings back many memories I'm sure she knew many potato farmers there in the area. All those people I knew were hard working folks. I remember being in the third grade in the Bridgehampton School during the 1938 hurricane. So HAPPY BIRTHDAY to You Frances. From a Raynor on Mitchell Lane.
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on Jan 11, 11 3:34 PM
Happy Birthday Mrs. Kominski.God bless you ,Sto Lot!!!
By bayview (160), Southampton on Jan 28, 11 2:44 PM