DEEDEE LAKE, Ontario - Ontario Provincial Police say groundbreaking Twin Cities grocer Jim Kowalski died after he was thrown into the propeller of a plane while on a fishing trip Thursday.
A police spokesperson confirmed for KARE 11 that the Cessna amphibious plane the 67-year-old Kowalski was traveling in had set down on Dee Dee Lake, 30 miles south of the town of Red Lake, when Kowalski climbed outside the plane as it taxied on the water around 10:30 a.m.
When the plane ran aground Kowalski was thrown off the float and into the plane's propeller. He was flown to the Red Lake airport where he died as a result of his injuries.
The news of Jim Kowalski's death hit family, friends, and customers of his nine boutique grocery stores hard. He and his wife, Mary Anne, opened the first Kowalski's Market on Grand Avenue in 1983 from what used to be an old Red Owl grocery store. In 1986, they expanded their business and opened another market in White Bear Lake.
His family placed a message to their loyal customers on the Kowalski's Facebook page. It reads:
The Kowalski family and the entire staff would like to thank everyone for their kind words and support. This means so much to the family and everyone at Kowalski's Markets. Jim will always be remembered and his legacy will live on in his stores and in our hearts.
Kowalski's Markets are known for giving back to the community donating, among other things, food to the needy.
Lynette Harris runs MOMS Food Shelf in St. Paul and says Kowalski's has always been there for people in need, no matter how big the request.
"Whatever we are in need of, they have never told me no. They have always been generous with us," said Harris. "I just love them for that because they see our need and they just do it."
Every Saturday, Harris gives food away to families and she says 80 percent of which comes from Kowalski's.
"It's just really sad that he is gone. My heart just goes out to the family," she said.
(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. )