Szlendak's Story is One of Rags to Riches

By Guy Leonard, St. Mary's County Times

The late Casimir Szlendak.
The late Casimir Szlendak.

HOLLYWOOD, Md.—Casimir Szlendak, a well known real estate developer who called St. Mary’s County his home despite dividing his time as a cattle rancher out on the west coast in California, recently passed away. He was 70 years old.

Szlendak was born in Germany just months before the end of World War II to parents who met while being enslaved in Nazi work camps, said Christine Morgan, Szlendak’s sister.

Their father, Wladyslaw Szlendak, was the only one of his family to survive being imprisoned at the Auschwitz death camp, she said.

For three years after the war the Polish family lived in Germany before coming to the United States where things at the beginning were only a little better for them.

They were able to find a sponsor to allow the family to live in a dirt floor cabin in Roanoake, Va. but their father soon started looking for a better life for his wife and three children.

Being a Catholic family he got help from the Salvation Army and the Jesuits to find a place here in St. Mary’s County in Abell where his children spent their formative years.

“It was called Camp St. Florence,” Morgan said of the family’s move in 1950. “For years that’s where we lived and Cas fell in love with the property.

“That’s where he acquired his love of the county and it’s history.”

Szlendak eventually got a job working for Motorola and on a trip out to California he was persuaded to get into real estate; he started there and eventually worked his way into residential and then commercial land sales.

Though he moved out to California with his wife and even became a cattle rancher, he always maintained a home in the Myrtle Point community and even owned large swaths of land there.

He sold what is now Myrtle Point Park to the county government. In yet another deal he purchased a piece of land owned by the former St. Mary’s Academy and then sold it where it would eventually become the Leonardtown campus of the College of Southern Maryland.

Moreover he was the prime mover in building the First Colony shopping center development that transformed much of Route 235 in California.

“He should be recognized for that,” Morgan said of her brother, with whom she was very close. “He wanted to bring good things to us.”

Morgan said her brother always had a vision for his developments and how they would impact the county.

“Whenever he came back here he would see things you or I wouldn’t,” Morgan said.

Through his real estate ventures Szlendak became very wealthy and an influential player in county circles but, Morgan said, he tried to keep a low profile.

“It’s true,” Morgan said of her brother’s influence. “But he’d be embarrassed to hear someone say that.”

Though he divided his time between two homes Szlendak never lost his love for St. Mary’s County and continued to make trips here even up to the year before he died.

“He would love to just drive around the county; he would take me to places here I didn’t even know existed,” Morgan said.

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