Charles James Kralovec (1932 – 2012)

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 (DePere, Wisconsin) in 1954 with a B.S. degree in Biology.

Kralovec Family Photo – Marie, “Jim”, Loretta, Joan, Charles Sr.

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.

My Mom and Dad with Me at our home in Caspian, June 1967

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!

My dad in front of his first house in Caspian – circa mid-1960s

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!

My Dad Loved Cutting Grass

Kralovec Family History (Andrew John Kralovec – 1860 to1942)

Andrew Kralovec and Family (photo circa 1940?)

Readers of my blog are curious to the origin of my last name. The name sounds Slavic and I get a lot of guesses. One Czech reader did correctly recognize it as a Bohemian surname. This post is the story of my Great Grandfather who came to America. This summer I spent some time going through some old scrap books in our basement. The sources I used for this post were the 1942 newspaper (either Marinette, WI or Menominee, MI daily) obituary of my great grandfather and conversations with my father.

Andrew John Kralovec (the name was “Americanized” – it was originally Andreas) was born “in Bohemia” on July 17, 1860 and he came to the USA in 1888 when he was 18 years old. I can only guess why he left for America. At the time, Bohemia was a peaceful entity under the control of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and they had a relatively good level of autonomy. His decision to leave changed my destiny completely.

Andrew first came to Menominee, Michigan, but moved to Odanah, Wisconsin. He lived there for 20 years from 1900 to 1920. Andrew married fellow Bohemian immigrant, Anna Rebic, shortly upon arrival.  They were wed on February 7, 1888 in Stangleville, Wisconisn. Andrew and Anna had seven children, three girls and four boys, one being my grandfather, Charles Kralovec. The other children listed in the obituary of 1942 were as follows and a bit about what my Dad remembers about them:

1)  Anna Kralovec – She remained single her whole life and worked as a nurse in Oak Park, Illinois.

2)  Mathias Kralovec – He lived in Green Bay, Wisconsin and worked as a carpenter. He didn’t have any children. My father lived with him for two weeks every summer in Green Bay.

3)  Mary (Feich) – She lived Greenwood, a small town just south of Ishpeming in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. She didn’t have any children.

4)  Charles Kralovec – My grandfather, lived in Menominee. He attended Ripon College (Wisconsin) with his brother John for a couple of years. He left the school because of his lack of hearing. I will post on him more later.

5)  Jennie (Paitl) – She lived in Menominee and had several children.

6)  Frank Kralovec – He house painter in Ewen, Michigan. He married late in life and had no children.

7)  Colonel John Kralovec – He was physics professor at Kemper Military School, Booneville, Missouri for over 40 years. John had two boys, one named John Charles.

Andrew worked in a sawmill in Odanah. Lumber companies back then advertised in Europe for jobs. He was a skilled “sawyer” who could accurately determine how many boards could be cut from a log, thus avoiding waste. Odanah is a small town in northern Wisconsin on an Indian Reservation. My grandfather attended the St. Mary’s Indian School on the reservation. The big event of the day was the arrival of the train at the depot, everyone watched it to see if the inspectors would find any contraband whiskey, because alcohol was not allowed on the reservation. In 1900, not much of the Chippewa traditional life was left, my Dad said there were a couple of wigwams (tepees) left, and they got rid of those “smelly things.”

Andrew then returned to Menominee, Michigan in 1920, where he worked as a lumber grader for 14 years. At that time, Menominee, located at the mouth of the Menominee River, produced lots of lumber because of the great number of trees in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan being harvested and its position on Lake Michigan.

Andrew died in 1942 at the age of 82. He passed away quietly in his sleep. The newspaper reported that he suffered from heart disease for some time before his death.

Anna lived another 5 years after the death of her husband. She died of stomach cancer. My father remembers that she cooked all the time and always wore an apron. She always had a crock of sauerkraut fermenting in the kitchen, my father remembers the smell, and she cooked fresh bread everyday.

My father remembers a bit about his grandfather. He was a big guy, about 6-2, 200 pounds. Andrew loved to play pinochle with his brother and they were always cheating at cards. He did not speak English very well but he understood everything. His left arm didn’t move from when he tripped over the woodblock making kindling for the stove about 10 years before his death.

Andrew Kralovec (1860 – 1942)

I would have loved to have met him, but he died 25 years before I was born. It would have been interesting to ask him why he came to America. My father said that because of the language, he didn’t speak much to him. My grandfather spoke Czech, but not my father. He lived a good life according to my father, so I guess he didn’t regret coming over. I also wish the newspaper would have had a bit more about where in Bohemia he came from.