Robert Krysztofowicz was known as “Mr. Fix-it” to his family. He loved making art, working on his motorcycles and, in a pinch, could always be relied upon to help repair a car.
Now they’re mourning his death after he was killed on Aug. 30 in a fatal waterborne crash in Madeira Beach.
"Everyone is devastated,” said his daughter, Emily Krysztofowicz, 25. “His laugh was the most contagious sound, he had a fiery passion for everything he did and was the goofiest and silliest guy ever.”
The 56-year-old grandfather leaves behind his wife of 27 years, Kathy, two daughters, a stepdaughter, two grandchildren, his mother and a sister.
Robert Krysztofowicz lived in East Aurora, N.Y., but he and his wife enjoyed traveling and frequently visited the vacation home of his childhood friend and business partner in North Redington Beach. That is what brought him to Florida last week.
He was operating a Yamaha Jet Ski and headed north in a slow-wake zone in the Intracoastal Waterway at about 4:50 p.m. on a Friday when he was struck by a 37-foot Center Console Freeman boat, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. The crash took place just north of the Tom Stuart Causeway.
The boat was being operated by Jesse Mayer, 35, the agency said. Mayer was also traveling north at a “high rate of speed,” according to the Sheriff’s Office, when his boat struck the rear of the Jet Ski and then drove over it, fatally injuring Krysztofowicz.
He was pronounced dead at Madeira Beach Marina shortly after the incident. Speed and impairment appear to have played roles in the crash, deputies said, but no other details about the crash were released. The investigation is ongoing and no arrest has been made.
“We have to wait for some tests to come back,” said Cpl. Jessica Mackesy. “When there’s a death involved, it does take a little longer than normal.”
Krysztofowicz’s family is still reeling from the sudden loss.
“He has always been our number one support system through all we did," Emily Krysztofowicz said.
Their house is filled with reminders of her dad’s creative streak. He loved working with his hands and remodeled their house in East Aurora himself, filling it with his paintings and one-of-a-kind stained glass creations. “The whole house is a piece of art,” she said.
Robert Krysztofowicz worked as an estimator, drafter and designer at Window Specialist Inc., but in recent years he cut back his hours to launch his own venture, Anything Art Co. The company specialized in custom stained glass wind chimes and stained glass restoration work, which he sold online and at craft shows around Buffalo.
“He was so proud of being able to start a business doing something he loved,” his daughter said. “It was something he would always say to my sister and me — ‘You’ll never work a day in your life if you love what you do.’”
Her father also enjoyed mechanics and owned two Harley Davidson motorcycles. Just before his death, he rebuilt a 1967 Cadillac to its former glory, his daughter said.
She wished she could go back in time and take it for a spin with him.
“Now I’ll never get that chance."
Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.