My uncle, George Holasek, would not consider himself amazing.  He was much too humble for that.  He would agree that he did some amazing things in his lifetime as  you will see.  This blog is a part eulogy and part tribute, because I do not want to say word for word what I said at his funeral.  As when anyone passes on, comments come that were not known at the time of his death.

One of the most important came from my cousins who visited him the day before his 90th birthday.  As they were leaving, Uncle George simply said to them, “I am the last of the Mohicans,” and everyone at the time knew what he meant.  He was the last of his nuclear family, the family you are born into.  Two parents and nine children and he was the last one.  Florence died at age 2 and is not in the picture.

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Uncle George is seated on the right next to his sister, Lillian, who passed on in 2011.  He was 3 years younger, and lived until 90.  Aunt Lil lived until 92, as I say, the oldest Holasek.  Image 13

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IMG_0705Frankly, one of the hardest things to cope with Uncle George’s passing is this fact that the Holasek Family as pictured “belongs to the ages.”

I wrote a lot about the Holasek family in my blog about my father who was the oldest.  https://copingmhl.wordpress.com/2013/06/16/william-john-holasek-1907-1976-my-daddy-a-fathers-day-tribute/

What I found to be so very interesting was Uncle George’s own words.  He was an incredible writer, and had spent his retirement writing and rewriting his memoirs on his youth, on his military service, and on his travels.  Of course, I had copies of his writings, but when I was reading again the account of his childhood, his words jumped off the page, and I told my cousin, we need to copy these quotes, and hand them out at the funeral.  His life lessons are too valuable not to pass on.

He said about his father, my grandfather:  “My father taught us to honor our parents, and to show respect to all others.  To treat others as we wished to be treated, and to have a concerned understanding of their short comings and needs.  His compassion for other was a virtue that I admired, and I proudly chose to to and follow his ways.”

I can say I was raised the same way.  When you read the above paragraph, it is like reading a working “Golden Rule.”  Bible words are empty unless they are put to action.  We were taught to practice our religion in our everyday life.  My Uncle did not go to church, but he practiced his religion every day, even in his assisted living.  They loved him there both the staff, the patients, and even some of the patient’s families.  90 years of practicing one’s faith is no little thing.

Uncle George also wrote, “We were taught and often times reminded the importance of having a good character, so we always enthusiastically practiced to achieve that goal.  Self respect of ourselves and others was utmost in our minds.”

His last quote on growing up was again on the theme of “actions speak louder than words.” Uncle George said:

“It is a misconception to believe that good health, love, personal achievement etc. are granted through prayer alone.  Hard work, a strong will, desire, determination and sacrifice will only bring about these meaningful goals.”

Uncle George had to work at a very young age as did the rest of the family helping with the store.  However, he also delivered papers, and gave his money back to the family.  When he was 89, he told me this story I had never heard before.   Since his money went back to the family, he didn’t have any, and he found a used bike for sale for  $1.50 in 1931 or so.  He begged his father for the bike, but the answer was “No.”  He told me as he was relating the story, he was really angry.  But such was life in the large Holasek family.  Uncle George and my dad had to sleep in the part of the house over the garage.  When they woke up, the floor had ice on it in Cleveland winters.

There were also fun times to be had that didn’t cost a cent.  Here is Uncle George and his younger brother Ed on a sled in front of the family store.George & Ed sleigh

He also told me many times that after his father’s death when he was around 15, my father stepped in as his father figure and “kept me on the straight and narrow.”  He would often say “I don’t know what would have happened to me if it weren’t for your dad.”

When World War Two began, my eldest uncle was drafted into the army as was his younger brother Fred.  Uncle George at 17 went to join the Marines, but they wouldn’t take him for some physical reason like his eyesight, so he joined the navy instead.  It was the Marine’s loss and the Navy’s gain.  He and all my uncles lived up to the term “The Greatest Generation.”  He was proud of going to diesel school at the University of Illinois, and then on to Rhode Island as a Third Class Petty Officer to learn PT boats.

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Uncle George spent all of his time after training on a PT Boat.  In his own words,“P.T. Boats were speedy, maneuverable and expendable, therefore their credibility was unmatched.”

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It was considered hazardous duty because they were and made of just  plywood mahogany hulls, 3/4 inch thick, they carried two depth charges,  4 torpedoes, three Packard engines,  and 3000 gallons of one hundred octane diesel fuel. They burned 185 gallons per hour, and he was one of the 4 engine machinists that rotated their time of duty.  I talked to his two surviving crewmates, who have been in his friend for over 70 years.  Uncle George wrote in his memoir Navy Days, that “there was no dress code, no saluting, no inspections, the food was terrible, water was scarce, and they would beg for food from larger ships.”  One of his friends was the cook, and the other the radio man.  Everyone had their own battle station, and Uncle George’s battle station was one of the big guns on the side.  Uncle George said they passed the time by singing songs, telling jokes, talking about loved ones at home (And yes he did get a Dear George letter), and he mentioned Tokyo Rose.  He said that “they related to her by laughing at her, using profanity, and that she instilled a greater desire to fight.”

My uncle almost died on that PT boat tending the engines.  He told me the fuel lines had leaks and if one ignited there was a big POOF.  He started screaming to open the door and let him out.  He was smoking and all the hair was burned off his body.

There was something I forgot to mention at the eulogy.  My uncle was the only Holasek to have curly tight hair.  So on the ship, the only way the Black crew in the dark could identify their friends was touching the heads, but Uncle George always fooled them with his hair.

The Plain Dealer the Cleveland Newspaper, came through when I called them to write a story about his travels.  Instead they interviewed him about the PT boat experience.  We can forever hear our uncle’s voice.

http://blog.cleveland.com/metro/2009/01/george_holasek_85_recalls_time.html

Here is a link to his specific PT Boat.  It was nicknamed “Who Me?”http://www.pacificwrecks.com/ships/ptboat/PT-167.html

40 years ago, my Uncle George built his own replica to scale out of balsa wood.  He built a case, and a removal top so you could look inside the boat.

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The last public showing of his PT Boat for our family and friends was at the funeral home.  Carol and I promised Uncle George we would find this ship a home in some museum.

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In his retirement when he still had his mobility, he would go to Falls River Massachusetts and work on the ships  that needed upkeep.  He remembers one Fourth of July, sitting on the deck of an aircraft carrier after working all day and  watching the fireworks.  He was a lifetime member of The PT Boaters, and went to many conventions.  His time in the Navy, although short, was a life altering experience for him.

Uncle George was very proud of being a member of the Veteran of Foreign Wars post 2079 for 70 years.

When he returned from the war, he worked on the family farm and at the arsenal at Ravenna before finding his life’s work as an operating engineer and was life member of local 18, Union.  They built and resurfaced roads in Ohio and even into Pennsylvania.  Whenever you are the Ohio or Pennsylvania Turnpike, think of my uncle.  He operated the biggest of the big heavy equipment.  One of his fellow workers came to his funeral and told the family how much Uncle George was admired by his coworkers which of course was no surprise.

This road work  job was seasonal.  Someone who worked like this needed to budget their money, because they did not work in the winter months.

Uncle George did just that and every year he went to Florida for three months, and admitted to me when he was around 85 that he always had a girlfriend down there.  He never married, but women always were attracted to him.  Carol and I had the privilege of meeting one of his friends that grew up across the street from him on Nursery Ave.  Even the woman who wrote the Dear George letter and her sister were life long friends of my uncle.  He had girlfriends his entire life, but just never made that leap of faith into marriage.

He never had children of his own, but that didn’t stop my Uncle from loving all his nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews  like we were his children.  I had the privilege of growing up in the house with him from age one to almost 9.

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And then there was this one:  uncle george and me2-1

And soon Carol entered the pictures:Image

I found this picture at Carol’s house and I love it so much:

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All through those 8 years I lived there, Uncle George was a constant in that house.  He lived there 4617 Archmere  Ave. for 60 years.  Another funny thing I asked him at 80 was “Where did you sleep Uncle George? There weren’t enough beds for everyone, and I didn’t remember him sharing one with my dad.  I thought he slept in the sunroom.  He couldn’t remember which I thought was funny.  Uncle George,  of course,  was the last sibling that lived in that house after Uncle Joe died in late 2000DSC_0890

Many early lessons were learned in that house, but Uncle George taught me a big one.  The kids in the neighborhood went out at daybreak in the summer, came in to eat lunch, and went out til dinner.  No one had to worry about us.  One summer we decided to put on a play and charge admission.  Of course, the neighborhood children wanted The Holaseks to attend since 7 adults lived there.  We pulled in a lot of money at 10 cents admission for the times.  Uncle George came home late as usual from his road work, and missed the play but gave me 50 cents.  Wow!  Now I was rich!  Later that night he saw me counting my money and asked, “Did you share your 50 cents with the rest of the kids?”  Head bowed, sheepish voice, I said, “No Uncle George.”  ” Go out there immediately and give each child their fair share, and don’t do it again.”   “Yes Uncle George, I said.”  Big lesson learned.

There was so much joy in the house.  Friday night pinochle games, Sunday picnics at the ledges, and lots of love for all of us.  When Fred and Don’s father, Fred died so young, Aunt Evelyn brought the boys over often to know their uncles, which was the closest they would get to knowing what their father was like.

Birthdays and Sunday dinners were always in the dining room with the fine china.   I have that china now, and it will be passed onto Holly.

Daddy's story part 2-2

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A big part of Uncle George’s life was the time he spent traveling.  He wrote in his journal:

“I always had a desire to travel and visit with people and the exotic countries of the world.  For years, I was what could be called an armchair adventurer.   Reading interesting accounts of other adventurers inspired me to want to do the same.”

Uncle George eventually saw all 50 states in the union, no easy task.  But he was ready for more.  He wanted to see the world.  He and Uncle Joe went to Hawaii, and there he announced he would not be going home with Uncle Joe.  He told the family he was going on a trip around the world and he did.  He went at age 48, 20,000 miles and hitchhiked 10,000 of them.

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“I was convinced that the most prudent way to learn more about a country and its people was to live among them. Purchasing a back pack, sleeping bags and all other essentials, I was soon on my way heading westward.”

Uncle George spent the longest time in Australia.  He fell in love with the country and its people, and took a job for several months, teaching them how to use the big equipment. IMG_0488

“It was most rewarding to seek out the many outstanding fine museums and other points of interest, but most of all it was living and traveling with the kind and humble people en route. I will forever be grateful to those people and the Youth Hostel Association that contributed so much to this great experience.”

In his video, Carol and I added a lot of his travel pictures.  I wish I had picked the music The Happy Wanderer.  I just didn’t think of it in time.  It suited him so.  http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=kIslA_ZCcxU&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DkIslA_ZCcxU

He woke up one morning having slept next to a bed of crocodiles,  met aborigines, Sherpas, and was always interested in his traveling companion’s stories.   **  Actually, my Uncle George did something very few people ever did.  And if they did do it, they can never do it again.  He hitchhiked through Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan without incident.  This was a  truly amazing task.

As I said in his eulogy, my uncle was like a mini ambassador, much like Johnny Appleseed, spreading the seeds of kindness and love all over the world.  America needs 10,000 Uncle George’s and the world would be a better place.  I know the people he met viewed America differently after he talked with them.

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Uncle George made a second trip to Australia, because he loved it so.  He again hitchhiked and worked, and this time was accidentally picked up by drug dealers.  Much to my uncle’s personality, even after he accidentally saw the whole operation, instead of killing him, they just took him to his next destination.  My Uncle George made friends no matter what the circumstance.  He was an amazing human being.

To be continued:  Time with family, and our last memories.

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