Cover photo for Emil Ondrechen “Em”'s Obituary

Emil Ondrechen “Em”

Emil Ondrechen “Em”

Em was born in Castle Shannon, PA on March 1, 1918
Died in Boise, Idaho on March 6, 2018
He had just turned 100 years old!

SIBLINGS: Catharina, born & deceased in Europe
Steve, born & deceased in Europe
Ted, born in Galicia, came to USA before 1918, deceased
Ann, born in USA, deceased
Em, deceased
Mary Bokman (Bob), both deceased
Joe born in McKinleyville, deceased
John, living in MN

When Em was 9 years old his mother, Stephanie Wachnowska Ondrechen, died. Em’s father, Constantine Ondrechen was a blacksmith by trade who worked for Standard Mining Company, a coal mining firm. He had a variety of “friend” housekeepers come in for several months. After that the oldest sister, Ann, took over. When it became apparent that the job was too much for Ann, Em’s younger sister, Mary took over the responsibilities of cooking and cleaning for her siblings and their dad. At about the age of 7 years, Mary began preparing meals for the family and doing the laundry. When Em and his siblings picked berries from the hillside and brought them to Mary, she would bake up a pie. The kids complained that one pie was too small when cut into pieces, so Mary started making a whole pie for each of her 3 brothers. Mary took an outside job cleaning a home about 7 miles away. When Mary left her home for her job, walking all the way, the boys were on their own to scavenger food during the day, relishing Mary’s meal in the evening. Constantine considered marrying one of the friend helpers, but the kids voted it down. He never remarried. Em thinks Mary handled the household duties for several years. Then the kids were on their own.

Went to elementary school in McKinleyville, then Bethany High School in Bethany, WV
Dropped out of high school and went to work for Standard Mining Company in WV at McKinleyville at age 17.
Worked in the coal mine for 2 years
Mining coal with pick and shovel
Transported by “mantrip” 5 miles underground.
Mantrip carried between 50-75 men
Emil had to hunch over, grabbing knees, prepared for lunch with a bucket of water and a sandwich between his legs

While working at the mine, Em took a correspondence course in radio electronics—worked this project for about 8 months
When finished with radio electronics, Em’s dad encouraged him to go to work at a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp, “Camp Cranberry”. (Southern WV) Most of Em’s pay was automatically sent home to Em’s family. Em was able to keep $5 a month.
Em got promoted at CCC camp and then received $12 per month.
Being a leader, Em was able to learn to drive, and was sent him to “explosives” school,
Drove truck hauling telephone poles
Stayed at CCC camp for 2 years.
Then went home…no work so he joined the Army.
Joined the Army August 23 of 1940
US Army #15 011 834
Tank Mechanic 660
Marksman M1 Rifle Sharpshooter Carbine
Good Conduct Medal
America Defense Service Medal
European African Middle Eastern Service Medal

Discharge October 6, 1945 from Fort Lewis, WA

First he went to Fort Knox, KY for basic training
Sought out radio electronics but nothing available
Decided to pursue mechanic training in Holberg+, MD.
Then went to Fort Wayne, IN to Baer Field
Put him in charge of lubrication station.

When Em was at Baer Field, he took leave for about a week, and went home to Cleveland to visit his family. During this brief trip he met Grace Pavlik, through his sister Mary. After one date, knowing he would be stationed abroad during the war, he proposed to Grace. They were married the same day he proposed, after having known her 3 days.

On occasion, Em served as a chauffeur to a two star officer, General Strademaier. Before the first event, Em was issued a dress uniform, upgraded with one stripe so he could enter the Officer’s Club and buy a drink.

At Baer Field, Em worked on motorcycles. Indian and Harley Davidson.
After motorcycle work, the General asked him if he liked is work. Said machines were not working and unfixable. General asked him where he wanted to go. Em said, “Fort Knox” because men work on a variety of different things. The General said “ that will be no problem.”

In a few weeks Em was transferred to Fort Knox. At Fort Knox he worked on tanks and trucks. After a few months, Em was sent to New Jersey to wait for a ship to northern England. He was on the ship for 3 weeks. During the time at sea ships were targeted by German submarines. Em was given the job of manning the 20 mm mounted gun. Once, after manning the gun at night, he went to the mess hall. Cooks were cooking spam. They had a dozen ovens loaded with spam logs. Men were washing the floor with limewater as the sea rolled and the ship rocked. The oven doors flew open and the spam rolled out of the ovens right into the limewater! Without a second thought, English cooks threw the spam back into the ovens, limewater and all. The men ate it at their next meal.

When Em and the other men arrived at northern England, they went on trucks to south England, where Em lived for about 2 years. From that location, his job was to transport tanks from northern to southern England. When the tank transfer was completed, Em and thousands of other military boarded the Queen Mary and set sail for Japan.

After a couple weeks at sea, the war ended and the Queen Mary docked in New York. Everyone got on trains and headed west. Em’s train went to PA. His orders were to stay in PA until further notice. The men stayed there about 2 weeks, then continued to Pittsburg, CA. Finally, the military command discharged them, because the war was indeed over. From there Em got on another train to go home to Cleveland. On the return trip, from the window Em saw Indians fishing for salmon. A porter came through the cars asking, “Does anyone want a salmon steak for dinner?” Em said yes, and he ate a delicious dinner that night.

When Em arrived in Cleveland he went directly to Grace’s apartment. He soon got a job repairing electronic equipment including radios, record players, TVs. The job didn’t pay much. With the G.I bill, Em went back to school to study TV repair, circuit boards and radio. He received a radio-operator license from the Federal Government. Em went on to work for the Brush Company 34 years.
For several years Em and Grace tried to have a child. After at least four miscarriages,
William Thomas was born on March 3, 1947. When Bill was very young, about 3 or 4 years old, Em began teaching him the names of cars. Bill remembered what Em taught him, and amazed others with his ability to name the brand of most cars.

During Bill’s upbringing, Em worked two jobs. When Bill finished elementary school, Em and Grace decided to move from Wainfleet Ave, in Cleveland, near auto plants and the Bowl Arena. (Bowl Arena was the largest bowling arena in the world at that time.) They moved to 27674 Hollywood, Westlake, Ohio where they felt Bill would get a better education.

After completing Westlake High School, Bill attended Case Inst. of Technology for one year in 1965. (This was the first year that women were admitted.)
Next, Bill went to Kent State for a year, then moved west and finished his BS in 1970 at Utah State University. Em and Grace made yearly visits to Bill once he moved west.

Bill got married in 1972 to Jacque Workman and divorced 3 later (Bill did not want children and Jacque did.) Bill later married Shirley Ewing on February 22, 1979.

Grace didn’t feel good, but refused to go to the doctor. She had always wanted o go to Jamaica so they took two trips to Jamaica in two years. When hey returned from the second trip, she became very ill. In the hospital doctors diagnosed her with kidney failure. Em was already retired, having retired in 1982. Em took Grace to the hospital daily as doctors attempted to diagnose her ailment. When they diagnosed kidney failure, they immediately operated on her arm to prepare her for dialysis. Grace’s blood was like water. Em called Bill to come back, and Grace died within a week, on August 31, 1983
A few years after Grace’s death, Em moved to Boise, Idaho to be nearer his son Bill and daughter-in-law Shirley. He immediately starting going to the Over 40 Club dances and met Eva Louise Maywhoor. Em married Louise in October, 1986. They took cruises, traveled to Europe and Hawaii, and traveled extensively throughout the US. Louise died in 2009.

After her death Em stayed in their home, preparing his own breakfast and lunch and eating each dinner with Bill and Shirley. At 95 was strong and agile, and could walk vigorously. Em relied on Bill or Shirley and Louise’s son’s family (Mike/Pat) to drive him here and there. He was very hard of hearing and was known to walk into a fire hydrant, so we know his vision was poor, but his bones were strong.

In 2015 Em fell and broke his hip. With rehab he quickly regained much of his strength and coordination, but required a walker to stay safe. It was no longer possible for him to stay alone in his house so he moved to Regency Columbia Village Assisted Living. Shirley and/or Bill visited him most every day for 3 years and worked with the staff to see that he received the appropriate care. In June of 2017 he started using a Foley because of incontinence issues. All this time, Em exercised daily and came to dinner at our house once a week.

In February, 2018, four days before his 100 th birthday celebration, Em contracted a serious urinary tract infection which stressed his vital organs. But he began improving within a couple days and was weak but eager for rehab. The party for Em at Shirley and Bill’s home went on as planned, but without the guest of honor. His nephews, Don and Rick Bokman flew in from Cleveland for the party and visited with him in the hospital.
Em’ health declined rapidly on March 5 and he died in the early morning the next day.

Em was a gentle and kind man, and it was a joy to be in his company. Em never complained about a thing. He will be remembered as humble and caring, and very appreciative of the delicious meals his son prepared for him. Em loved good food and practically inhaled his meals, likely a sign of never getting enough to eat growing up.

Deceased: Em’s first wife Grace Pavlik, his second wife Eva Louise Maywhoor; parents, Stephanie and Constantine Ondrechen; his siblings Steve, Catharina Cymbala, 1 sibling who died very young, Ted, Ann Heatherington, Joe Ondrechen, Mary Bokman.

Living in 2018; Brother John (Betty), Em’s son Bill Ondrechen (Shirley Ewing), numerous nieces and nephews and their families.
To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Emil Ondrechen “Em”, please visit our flower store.


Visits: 0

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the
Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Service map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

Send Flowers

Send Flowers

Plant A Tree

Plant A Tree