With his usual class and goodness, my father had a “royal exit” for his death last Thursday. He died of a heart attack while serving on the altar at St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church in our home village of Caspian, Michigan. Father Gregory Veneklase, the parish priest called it a royal exit because of the circumstances of my father’s death. The morning of February 9th, my Dad, who volunteered at the church countless hours as a lecturer, catechism teacher, etc. helped at a funeral earlier in the morning. He then left church and delivered groceries to an invalid elderly person in our community and then came back to help at a second funeral. He was seated on the altar during the service. A member of the deceased’s family gave the first reading and as she returned to her seat, my Dad gave her a thumbs up, a smile, and a “good job” with his usual positive and support attitude towards others. Shortly thereafter, he passed out in his seat and died of a heart attack. There was a nurse and doctor in church who tried to revive him, but by the time he made it to the North Star Hospital in Iron River, he was gone. He went peacefully and as he would have wanted, on the altar of the church where he had spent so much of his life.
Charlie was born on September 6, 1932 in Menominee, Michigan to Charles James Kralovec, Sr. and Marie Anne Bernardy. He grew up in Menominee as “Jim” because of sharing the same name as his father. He loved fishing and sports, and was very much affected by the end of the Great Depression and World War II. He graduated in 1950 from Marinette Our Lady of Lourdes High School in nearby Marinette, Wisconsin. He was captain of the basketball team, quarterback of the football team, and class president. He was the catcher on the 1950 Menominee American Legion Baseball Team which won the Upper Peninsula of Michigan Championship and played in Tiger Stadium in Detroit in the State Championships. He went on to graduate from St. Norbert’s College in 1954 with a B.S. degree in Biology.
After graduation, he served his country as a medical aide in the US Army’s occupation of Germany from 1954-1956. At his funeral, he was given a 21-gun salute and military honors by the two Veteran of Foreign Wars Posts in Iron River.
Upon his honorable discharge from the United States Army, he enrolled in Northern Michigan University (Marquette, Michigan) and earned his teaching certification. Later he went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Education from NMU in education. Mr. “K” worked at the Stambaugh Public Township School District, later to be named West Iron County Public Schools for 39 years, retiring in 1993. He touched the lives of thousands of young people and his students remember him admiringly for his gentle demeanor and engaging classroom stories. During his time in the district, he was a director of the Head Start program, special education teacher, elementary classroom teacher, Junior High Basketball Coach, Teacher of the Year in 1985, and the last Principal of the Caspian School, which closed in 1971.
Charlie married the former Yvonne Heikkila on December 29, 1962 at St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church, Caspian, and the couple made their home at 508 Baltic Avenue in Caspian. The couple celebrated their 46th wedding anniversary in 2008. Yvonne preceded him in death on January 31, 2009.
Charlie was loved by all and his selfless dedication to others will be greatly missed by the community. He helped many elderly people in the area during his later years. He was also dedicated to youth sports at West Iron County Public Schools. He was the camera man, and public address announcer for the sports teams since 1965. I had the honor this past Monday night to announce the starting lineups in his place for the Wykon girls’ high school basketball game against Hancock. They left an empty chair at the game with his picture and rose on it. I even gave his trademark, “soph-a-more” tagline when announcing the final starter for the Wykons. I would like to give a huge thank you to Athletic Director Mike Berutti and everyone at WIC who organized that special night! I even used a blank line up card that he always completed in preparation for games. At the game and the next day at the funeral home and church, my family received hundreds of warm condolences from our friends and family in the community. Former St. Cecilia pastor, Father James Bracket once called my dad an “earthly saint” and the outpouring of thanks and fond memories of people’s relationship with my father is a testament to that. I would also like to mention his special friends from the school, especially his teaching buddies and their times together at Mac’s Camp. He had a wonderful, full life, with much laughter and love!
He was also preceded in death by his sister Joan Rudd.
Charlie is survived by three sons, William (Nadia) Kralovec of Belgrade, Serbia, James Kralovec (Michelle) of Iron Mountain, Michigan, Andrew Kralovec (Chantalle) of Quito, Ecuador; sister Loretta (Fred) Schaucht of Marinette, Wisconsin; six grandchildren, Scott Youngren, Tony, Beau, Owen, Oliver, and Ocean Kralovec; and numerous neices and nephews.
Memorials can be made to the Yvonne & Charlie Kralovec Memorial Scholarship Fund, 303 4th Avenue, Iron River, MI 49935. The scholarship is awarded annually to female athletes from West Iron County High School for furthering their education. We will have a burial service this summer at the Stambaugh Cementery where he will be buried next to my mother.
Rest in Peace Dad, we will miss you!