Dieter Kowalski flew from Denver to Colombo, Sri Lanka April 19. Kowalski was so exited about his trip, he shared it on Facebook.
That was his last post.
Kowalski was one of near 300 killed in terror explosions in three Catholic churches and three luxury hotels, the Shangri-La, Kingsbury, and Cinnamon Grand, frequented by tourist and business people in Sri Lanka on April 21, Easter Sunday.
A number of subsequent, albeit small but nonetheless deadly explosions occurred in a guest house and a housing complex where residents and police officers were killed.
Of the 290 who died, more than 30 were foreign visitors. Some 500 were injured in the terrorist bombings in Negombo, Batticaloa and Colombo. It’s reported that seven suicide bombers were members of National Thowheeth Jama’ath, a local militant Islamist group.
Kowalski was staying at the Cinnamon Grand in Colombo as part of his job leading technical operations’ teams for US educational publisher Pearson. He’d been there a number of times previously and posted myriad images of the country, its landmarks and himself on occasion.
He’d celebrated his 40th birthday in February.
As his family, friends and colleagues across the globe grieve, here’s what you need to know:
Kowalski, Who Often Shared His Journey’s on Facebook, Arrived in Sri Lanka in the Pre-Dawn Hours Sunday April 21. Soon, Family, Friends & Colleagues Were Begging For News
“And the fun begins. Love these work trips. 24 hours of flying. See you soon Sri Lanka!”
Kowalski had a 24 hour flight. He posted to Facebook that he arrived at “…3am Sunday April 21st!”
A few hours later, the now-devastating and painful comments on his original post began: Was he alright? Where was he?
Kowalski was a traveler.
In 2016, he traveled to Berlin to visit family. A friend wrote, “Hope you’re having a great trip! And glad you’re safe after that Christmas market attack there!”
The comment was in reference to the December 2016 terror attack where a truck was driven into a Christmas market in Berlin, leaving 12 dead and nearly 60 injured.
Shock & Now Grief Felt by Family Members, People Who Knew & Loved Kowalski & Strangers, Too, Horrified & Saddened by the Senseless Tragedy
Kowalski’s brother Derrick confirmed his death.
“It is with great sadness and deep regret that as Dieter’s brother that I confirm that Dieter was among the victim’s that passed away in Sri Lanka. As we know that Dieter saw his friends as family, we would like to share our grief over this tragic incident. More information to follow. We have all lost a brother today… RIP Dieter.”
Condolences have been pouring in and on his Facebook post about his trip, the grief is omnipresent.
Veranga Wijesinghe wrote, “No words can explain how hard it is to digest this news, we were hoping to have a wonderful time with him and this happened.. ? ? ? ?.. Will miss him badly.. May you rest in peace my dearest friend.”
Colleen Meyer-Quinn wrote, “Dieter you were a friend and amazing colleague. You were always there to lend a hand. You are loved and terribly missed. I will miss those days of cleaning your messy desk when my OCD kicked in! RIP my friend! The world gained another angel ! My prayers to your family as we grieve❤️??”
High school friend Vanessa Hoeft wrote, “My prayers to his family as an old high school friend, I will remember this homecoming forever. Happy times and laughs, Just don’t ask who won cuz i don’t remember that.”
Libby Wilson Liebig wrote, “Derrick Kowalski you don’t know me and I did not know Dieter, but read about him this morning and wanted to come here to extend my condolences and prayers to you, the rest of your family and all of his friends. I am so so sorry to hear about this…”
Kowalski Worked Leading Engineering Teams in Sri Lanka For Pearson Educational Publishing
According to his LinkedIn page, Kowalski’s job as the “senior leader of the Operation Technical Service Team for Pearson” came with a number of responsibilities, but primarily he was “liaison between three different Sri Lanka engineering teams.”
His job at Pearson was to troubleshoot and then solve problems.
“…I also work with the dedicated Sri Lanka team, where we help solve daily issues.”
“Overall, in some cases, coworkers have trust in telling me what works and what doesn’t work, and I have the unique ability to take that feedback and actually help make positive changes to the process.”
Kowalski worked with Pearson in a number of leadership roles, beginning in 2007 first as a sales admissions manager then as an engagement manager. In each role, his primary job was working successfully with colleagues to help solve problems.
“I help find better solutions and then help communicate this among all departments.”
Pearson’s CEO: ‘Let’s Remember His Love of Life & His Love of Solving People’s Problems’
Pearson Chief Executive Officer John Fallon emailed a statement to the Denver Post.
“We mourn Dieter deeply today. We pray for his family and friends. We pray for his soul, and for his family and friends. We pray, too, for our colleagues in Sri Lanka, and Denver, and Boston, and in Pearson offices around the world. We’re angry that a good man, who took simple pleasure in fixing things, has been killed, along with many others, by evil men and women who know only how to destroy.
“But in our anger and despair, we remember the words of Queen Elizabeth II in the aftermath of 9/11. Grief, she said, is the price we pay for love. Let’s remember the love that Dieter had for his family, friends and colleagues – and the love they had for him. Let’s remember his love of life and his love of solving people’s problems. In these desperately difficult days, let’s honor Dieter by showing that love ourselves, by taking extra care of each other – at work, at home and in our communities.”
Kowalski & Friends Enjoyed Playing Kickball & Volleyball in Denver. Originally From Wisconsin, Earned an BA in International Relations & an MBA. He Was Also Involved in Real Estate & Home Renovations
“Volleyball at city park now! Who’s in? Text or reply!”
In this post from July of 2018, a flashback of he and team members from a 2012, Kowalski tags a number of friends. Today, those same friends are grieving.
“Dieter Kowalski. Best.Sweeper.Ever.”
In 2001, Kowalski earned a BA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he majored in international relations and Germanic studies.
“Straight A student” Kowalski earned an MBA at Franklin Pierce College while working in real estate and at Pearson.
“Finally done with the inside of the house I have been renovating!! If you wanted to know why I have been so busy, here is what I have been doing on weekends. We did most of the work ourselves! If any renovations are needed, let me know, as we do side jobs!”