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Businessman known for cycling, wit and community spirit

His customers may have known him best as the guy at the Long John Silver’s A & W drive-thru who would always say, “Your total is JUST…” when he would give the amount. Or diners inside the restaurant may remember how he made a rhyme when their order was ready – He’d say something like: “Number 152, this order’s for you.”

That was Al Dziewa, known for the way he loved to laugh and the laughter he brought to others.

Dziewa died Thursday of cancer. He was 49 years old.

“He had a magical personality that made the people around him smile,” said Ursula Kthiri, Executive Director of the Farmington Chamber of Commerce. “He had such rare qualities. It’s sad to think the world has to be without them.”

Dziewa, pronounced JAH-va, came to Farmington in 1993 when he bought the franchise for the local fish restaurant. It was work he loved in a community he grew to love.

“He was a strong supporter of kids soccer and baseball and always tried to give back to the community,” said Kevin Engler, a neighbor and friend. “When we opened the Roller Zone together, it was his idea to make opening night a benefit for United Way. That’s just the way he thought.”

Richard Rice first got to know Dziewa when he trained him for road cycling. Their favorite ride was 70-miles round trip to Taum Sauk Mountain and back to Farmington in the fall, when the leaves were changing.

“When he was training me, Al would take me out on rides and he’d never stop talking,” Rice recalled. “He would talk and talk about anything and after awhile, I was on oxygen overload and even though I sometimes didn’t agree with him, I couldn’t do anything but nod and keep pedaling.”

Dziewa’s oldest son Brian inherited his father’s love of cycling. In a story published last March in the Daily Journal, Brian told how his father had influenced him.

“My dad bought me my first racing bike when I was 13 and always drove me to races, but more than that, he taught me the importance of hard work and that at the end of the day, you have to be able to look yourself in the mirror,” said Brian.

Dziewa organized a bike race during Country Days for several years. He had served for years on the Chamber of Commerce Board and was a member of St. Joseph Catholic Church.

“Very few people were as positive in their outlook on life as Al was,” said Kthiri. “He was one of those people who drew you in to be part of that happiness.”

At his business, he came in daily to make the slaw. The young people he hired to work in the restaurant knew their boss would take care to work them around their schedules of extracurricular activities. Engler said he believes the secret to Dziewa’s success may have been that he was always at the restaurant – cooking the fish, greeting the customers or totaling their bills – and making sure things were done Al’s way.

Rice’s wife tells the story of how she drove a car with Minnesota license plates through the Long John’s drive-thru a few years ago. When Dziewa noticed the plates, he announced to everyone in the restaurant, “This lady drove all the way from Minnesota to eat MY fish!”

Engler last visited with his friend Sunday when together they watched the Buffalo Bills football game. Dziewa was a big fan and even shared his Valentine’s Day birthday with former quarterback Jim Kelley.

In addition to his son Brian, Dziewa leaves his wife Kathy, and children Mary, Ann and Robert. Funeral arrangements are pending at Cozean Funeral Home.

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