Donald A. Cyzyk, a retired Baltimore County public schools mathematics teacher and Navy veteran who was a supreme dumpster diver and liked rehabbing the “treasures” he discovered, died Sept. 19 at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center in Rossville of complications from a stroke. The Baldwin resident was 87.
Donald Arthur Cyzyk, son of Adolph Cyzyk, a Bethlehem Steel Sparrows Point steelworker, and his wife, Emma Cyzyk, a homemaker, was born at home in Dundalk.
During his teenage years, he worked as a pin boy at Pinland Bowling Lanes on Dundalk Avenue in an era when pins were mainly set by boys rather than machines.
After graduating from Dundalk High School in 1953, he worked for two years at Sparrows Point as a steelworker before enlisting in the Navy where he was trained as an electronics technician. He was stationed in Oklahoma City, Memphis, Tennessee, Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, before being discharged in 1956, when he returned to Bethlehem Steel as a machinist apprentice.
He entered what is now Towson University in 1957 and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1961.
While at Towson, he met and fell in love with a classmate, the former Janet “Kepy” Keplinger, and they married in 1961. She later taught at Chesapeake High School and Fullerton Elementary School and was also an adjunct professor at the Johns Hopkins University.
He began teaching mathematics in 1961 at the old Towsontown Junior High School and subsequently taught at Parkville Middle School and Eastern Vocational-Technical High School, from which he retired in 1990.
“I knew he had a good reputation,” said Dr. Robert Y. Dubel, who was superintendent of Baltimore County public schools for 16 years before retiring in 1992. “He was highly regarded as a math teacher.”
“He was a very strict teacher, firm but fair,” said a son, Mark Cyzyk of Towson. “He was a famously difficult grader, and if you received an A in his class, it meant you had mastered the math. I worked with one of his former students, Craig T. Turkington, who got an A and went on and became a math major, and later earned a law degree. He then worked as a tech guy in the information tech section at Towson University.”
In the early days of his teaching career, Mr. Cyzyk was a swimming instructor at Camp Louise in Highland-Cascade in Washington County. He later enjoyed spending summers gardening, boating and camping, and decades at a family beach house in Fenwick Island, Delaware.
“He liked putting on a pair of old tennis shoes, grabbing a net and go mucking about in the saltwater marshes of Delaware’s inland bays to see what he could find,” his son said.
“He looked for soft crabs and he’d pick up stuff. He just loved mucking around. He was the consummate dumpster diver and often rescued discarded but useful items that he cleaned up and donated to charity.”
During his dumpster dive quests, Mr. Cyzyk was especially on the lookout for lamps, TVs, electronic equipment, old mirrors and paintings, and a plethora of other objects that, through his handiwork, he could give a second life. Once completed, they went to charitable organizations such as Dikona in West Ocean City, and the Atlantic Community Thrift Shop in Ocean View, Delaware, among various others.
Mr. Cyzyk would then take his treasures to his garage workshop at his beach house or to the basement of his Baldwin home.
“He planned his year around bulk trash day when residents — especially residents who had sold their condos — put all this stuff which he saw as reusable out,” his son said.
At Mr. Cyzyk’s request, no services will be held.
In addition to his wife of 60 years, he is survived by another son, Paul “Skizz” Cyzyk of Hampden; a brother, Leonard Cyzyk of Valparaiso, Indiana; a sister, Dolores Miller of Dundalk; and a granddaughter.