Stanley A. Ciesielski, CIA officer

Stanley A. Ciesielski, a retired career Central Intelligence Agency intelligence officer who was a co-founder of the Polish Heritage Association of Maryland, died Monday of lung cancer at a niece's home in Hampstead.

He was 101.

"Stanley Ciesielski was a great friend and adviser. I knew him through our work in the Polish community," said Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a longtime friend. "He was a great patriot fighting for the freedom of Poland. He was one of the founders of the Polish Heritage Society, whose purpose was to support the Solidarity movement, particularly during those dark days of martial law," she said.

"He did everything from sending food to people in Poland to playing a significant role in keeping our Polish history and heritage alive here in America," she said. "He fought for liberty of Poland from communism — doing everything he could through his career in national security."

The son of Polish immigrants, Mr. Ciesielski was born in New Kensington, Pa., and moved with his family in the 1920s to a rowhouse on Newkirk Street in East Baltimore.

He graduated from City College in 1928 and earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy in 1934 from what is now Loyola University Maryland.

During the 1930s, he worked as a private investigator, and from 1940 to 1941 he edited a newspaper. He enlisted in the Army in 1941 and served stateside in the Counter Intelligence Corps.

Mr. Ciesielski attained the rank of major at the time of his discharge from the service in 1949, and he joined the CIA a year later.

He was a staff officer at CIA headquarters in Washington from 1950 to 1956 and was chief of special installation in Frankfurt, Germany, from 1956 to 1958.

Mr. Ciesielski returned to CIA headquarters in Washington in 1959, where he was an intelligence officer until retiring in 1972.

From 1978 to 1980, he served as a member of the State of Maryland Ethnic Heritage Committee.

Throughout his life, Mr. Ciesielski maintained an interest in his Polish heritage and Polish culture.

In 1974, Mr. Ciesielski founded and served as president of the Polish Heritage Association of Maryland and was president from 1981 to 1984 of the American Council for Polish Culture.

He was president of Maryland Action for Poland from 1982 to 1985 and was a national director of the Polish American Congress from 1984 to 1988.

During his years as president of the American Council for Polish Culture, Mr. Ciesielski counted among his numerous achievements establishing relationships with other Polish cultural organizations, including the Polish American Historical Association, Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences and the National Center for Urban Ethnic Affairs.

He also worked closely with the Polish American Congress as well as reaching out to Italian, Slovak and Ukrainian cultural organizations.

Mr. Ciesielski explained in a 1996 interview with The Baltimore Sun that the genesis for the Polish Heritage Association of Maryland came about because after retiring from the CIA, he had lots of time on his hands.

"I got some friends together and organized," he told the newspaper, and within three months, the organization was incorporated and began holding monthly meetings at the Joseph Center at Broadway and Eastern Avenue in Fells Point.

In his work with the Polish Heritage Association of Maryland, Mr. Ciesielski focused its mission on the celebration, promotion and preservation of Polish history and heritage. The group also sponsored lectures, conferences and concerts and established a fund that awards $1,000 college scholarships to students of Polish descent.

"Stan did that. He started the scholarship program," said Paul T. Plevyak, who chaired the scholarship committee and is a retired Baltimore County public school administrator. "He knew how to approach and touch people. One year, we gave out 17 $1,000 scholarships, not bad for a group that has 200 members," he said. "Whatever Stan did, he put his heart and soul into it."

When the state established the sister city program under Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Mr. Ciesielski made sure the Polish Heritage Association of Maryland joined in the effort.

"We had an association with the Polish city of Lodz," said Mr. Plevyak. Mr. Ciesielski and his organization collected antibiotics, aspirin, gauze and bandages that were shipped by freighter from Baltimore and distributed to eight hospitals in the Lodz region.

"He enjoyed putting on programs that focused on Polish history, art, music and culture in the community," Mr. Plevyak said.

Mr. Ciesielski attended meetings and remained active with the organization up until his death.

The longtime Anneslie resident enjoyed photography and travel. He was also fluent in Polish and Slovak.

He was a member of Holy Rosary Roman Catholic Church, 400 S. Chester St., where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Surviving are his wife of 56 years, the former Lucille Cox; a son, Michael Ciesielski of Baltimore; a sister, Madeline Ciesielski of Highlandtown; a niece; and two great-nephews. Two sons, Stephen Ciesielski and John Ciesielski, died in 2005 and 2009, respectively.