It all began in a basement rec room. There, in his home, Yaroslaw Korsunsky started an architectural firm that ultimately designed scores of Twin Cities nursing homes, schools and community centers along with one of Minnesota's most iconic structures, the Mall of America.
Korsunsky's work spreads far beyond Minnesota. He was the mastermind behind the Saints Volodymyr and Olha Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in Chicago. He employed the stunning Byzantine Ukrainian-style architecture of the 11th to 13th centuries to build the church. With its rounded golden dome, the church, built in the early 1970s, is recognized as one of the Windy City's distinguished landmarks.
"It's a jewel," said longtime friend Luba Lewytzkyj. "It's a testament to his talent and dedication to his family, friends and his native Ukraine."
Korsunksy, whose nickname was Jerry, died of cancer and bowel obstruction Monday while at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale. He was 83.
When he arrived in Minnesota from Ukraine in 1949, Korsunsky spoke no English. He studied forestry and medicine at the University of Minnesota before he earned a degree in architecture in 1954, said his wife of more than 50 years, Irma, of Columbia Heights.
"He painted well, and found that was his cup of tea," she said.
Korsunsky worked as an architect at Ellerbe Becket before branching out and starting his own firm in the recreation room in the basement of his home in 1964. He later teamed up with classmates Ron Krank and Ron Erickson to form KKE. Under Korsunsky's leadership, the company designed the Ukrainian American Community Center and the St. Anthony Health Care Center, along with several schools and shopping centers. His firm was among those hired to help design the megamall. He was extremely proud of his work on the Pointe of Edina condos near Southdale, his wife said.
"Jerry left an indelible mark on KKE and the architectural community," said Greg Hollenkamp, KKE's current CEO. "His entrepreneurial spirit remains as a cornerstone of the company today."
Korsunsky's work extended far beyond Minnesota. After his native Ukraine gained independence, he traveled there on his own dime and designed a church in Drohobych similar to the Saints Volodymyr and Olha Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral, Lewytzkyj said.
Korsunsky was president and a longtime board member at the former St. George's Ukrainian Orthodox Church in southeast Minneapolis. He sang in the choir there for 45 years and was a 40-year member of Dnipro, a Ukrainian chorus in the Twin Cities, Irma said.
Korsunsky was known for his generosity to his church and organizations dedicated to fighting cancer, Lewytzkyj said. He was proud of his Ukrainian heritage and enjoyed music and poetry. He was an avid reader and liked fishing and boating.
In addition to his wife, Korsunsky is survived by a daughter, Oksana Panser of Mounds View; a son, Orest of Columbia Heights, and four grandchildren. Service will be at 10 a.m. today at St. Katherine Ukrainian Orthodox Church, 1600 County Rd. 96, Arden Hills. Visitation will be held 30 minutes before the service.