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

Yvonne Kralovec Obituary

Yvonne Kralovec, 68, of Caspian, Michigan, died peacefully on Saturday January 31, 2009 at the Iron River Care Center in Iron River, MI. It was an end to a long battle with diabetes. She was surrounded by her loving husband and sons, who flew from around the world to be at her side.

She was born on October 16, 1940 at the Stambaugh Hospital, the daughter of Arthur Alexander Heikkila and Silvia Wirtaanen. Arthur was a first generation Finnish-American immigrant and worked in the iron mines in the local area. After the mines closed, Arthur became a private contractor and built many homes and structures in Iron County. She used to tell us stories of growing up in the small town of Caspian with her six siblings and grandmother. They did not have indoor plumbing and used to take a sauna in leiu of baths. She used to get the cow from the pasture located on the slopes of Caspian hill. She had nine brothers and sisters, three died at birth. Silvia died from diabetes at age 51. Arthur remarried after the death of his wife, and eventually passed away from spinal cancer.

Yvonne was a 1958 graduate of Stambaugh High School. She worked at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan in the medical records department for six months. She then got a job in Iron River as a receptionist for two doctors. She married Charles Kralovec on December 29, 1962 at St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church and the couple made their home at 508 Baltic Avenue in Caspian. Yvonne converted to Catholicism being raised a Finnish Lutheran. Charlie was her brother Daniel’s basketball coach at the Caspian School and that is how they met.

My parents wedding day in 1962.
My parent's wedding day in 1962.

They tried for many years to have children, as both wanted a large family. This was before fertility treatments. They adopted two sons through Catholic Social Services, receiving Bill in 1967 and Jim in 1968. In 1972 they were blessed with a pregnancy and the birth of a third son, Andy.

Yvonne loved sports! She was an avid fan of all the Michigan and Detroit sport teams. She listened or watched every Tiger baseball team for decades. She was a fine athlete, although ahead of her time as women in the 1950’s and 60’s were not encouraged to do sports. Yvonne won many bowling tournaments in the Upper Peninsula and Wisconsin. Her greatest series was 614 (224 high game) in a mixed doubles tourney in 1969. She won three honor counts (600 total pins for three games) in her career and finished with an average of 70 and a highest ever game of 238. She was an outstanding infielder in fast-pitch and slow-pitch softball. Twice her teams (Gil’s Mileage & Dina Mia Kitchens) won Upper Peninsula titles and were runners-up in the State of Michigan.

Her biggest sporting legacy however is coaching basketball. She coached girls’ basketball for 42 years. She coached at the elementary, middle school, and high school levels. She helped found the West Iron County High School girls’ basketball team in 1974. Later, her son Jim coached the girls team for years. She influenced the lives of thousands of young women through coaching. She had a gentle heart with the kids and really knew the game of basketball. Her teams regularly won tourneys and games.

She is survived by her husband Charles, three sons, William (Nadia) Kralovec of Belgrade, Serbia, James (Michelle) Kralovec of Iron Mountain, Michigan, and Andrew Kralovec of Quito, Ecuador. Also surviving are a brother Daniel Heikkila of Green Bay, Wisconsin; two sisters Ione (James) Condon of Crystal Falls, MI, and Darlene (Bernie) Williams of Oneida, Wisconsin. There are also six grandchildren, Scott Youngren, Tony, Beau, Owen, Oliver, and Ocean Kralovec and numerous nieces and nephews. She is preceded in death by brothers Carl Maki, Wallace Heikkila, and a sister, Viola Nowicki.

Grandma with Ocean - July 2008
Grandma with Ocean - July 2008

Visitation will be today from 9 – 11:00 AM at the Saint Cecilia Church in Caspian. Funeral service will be also today at 11:00 AM at the St. Cecilia Church with Rev. Daniel Moll to offer the Mass of Christian Burial. Interment will be in the Stambaugh Cemetary in Iron River.

The family is asking memorial contributions made to the American Diabetes Association. Condolences can be expressed to the family on line at the Jacobs Funeral Home web site or here on my blog.

We will miss my mother! Although she had a stubborn, feisty personaility, underneath she had a warm heart. She was a dedicated wife and mother to us. She would attend every game or activity we had and her life revolved around her children and grand children. I developed my love of sports and an active lifestyle from her as well as the value of hard work. The last few years she really suffered from the long term effects of diabetes. I am happy that she is now free of the pain and that we were all there as she passed. Thanks for everything Mom, we love you.