Friends, co-workers mourn death of Denver man killed in Sri Lankan bombings

DENVER -- Friends, family, and co-workers are now mourning the death of a Denver man, killed in the Easter terror attacks in Sri Lanka.

His employer—Pearson—confirming early this Monday morning that 40-year-old Dieter Kowalski was one of the Americans killed in the bombings.

FOX31 spoke with several of Kowalski’s friends in Colorado, on Sunday, over the phone—who said they weren’t ready to talk on camera.

One man described the 40-year-old as genuine and kind—and someone who put his heart into everything.

He left such an impression, that his high school tennis coach—from Wisconsin—says she still remembers what a bright teenager he was.

“To me, he’s still 17,” Sue Cornell told our sister station, WITI, in Milwaukee.

Cornell coached Kowalski at Riverside University High School, in Milwaukee.

Like many others, she learned Monday he was killed in an explosion at the Cinnamon Grand Colombo, shortly after checking in there for a work trip.

“This has a face of somebody you know. Watching stuff on TV is a little bit different when you have vivid memories of somebody,” said Cornell.

Pearson released a statement to FOX31 Monday morning—describing Dieter as "big-hearted" and full-spirited, and calling him a cheerleader for the company.

Cornell remembers him as a champion tennis player.

“It was the only time that I as a boys coach—we took the city champions,” she recalled.

She says he was also a hardworking student.

“I looked at my records. I had written a recommendation for him… 3.9, and he took six AP classes here. So he was an ‘overachiever’—a high achiever,” Cornell said, smiling.

Those are memories she’ll cling on to, as she comes to terms with these horrific attacks.

“It’s the wrong place, the wrong time—but still a sad state.”

Here is the full statement, released by Pearson’s CEO, John Fallon. It was sent out to employees Monday morning:

Dear colleagues,

I’m sorry to have to share the awful news that our colleague, Dieter Kowalski, was killed yesterday in the Easter Sunday atrocities in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Dieter had just arrived at his hotel, where many of our colleagues have stayed over the years, when he was killed in an explosion.

As a senior leader of our Operation Technical services team, Dieter was looking forward to an action-packed week, working with our local engineering teams to troubleshoot some difficult challenges that were important to our customers, and with whom Dieter regularly engaged. He was excited about the chance to meet again in person, some two and a half years after his last trip, with Sri Lankan colleagues who had become good friends. Our Sri Lankan colleagues were very much looking forward to seeing him, too.

Colleagues who knew Dieter well talk about how much fun he was to be around, how big-hearted and full-spirited he was. They tell of a man to whom we could give our ugliest and most challenging of engineering problems, knowing full well that he would jump straight in and help us figure it out. Dieter, they tell me, was never happier than cheer-leading for our customers and our company and inspiring people in the best way he knew how – by helping them to fix things and doing it with joy, happiness and grace. He was a man who took great pride in the purpose of our company – helping our students progress in their studies and their lives mattered to him.

We mourn Dieter deeply today. 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 honour Dieter by showing that love ourselves, by taking extra care of each other – at work, at home and in our communities.

We are doing all we can to support Dieter’s family, colleagues and friends. We’re also supporting our 800 colleagues in Sri Lanka, who do so much to support our company and our customers every day. We’ll share further updates with you in the days and weeks ahead.

Very best wishes,

John

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