Home > family, history, humor, misc > A Proud Polack Passes Away.

A Proud Polack Passes Away.

Monday night my uncle Roy (he married Dad’s sister Mary Ann) passed away from a massive stroke.  I haven’t posted anything about him until now because I’ve spent the last week trying to come up with some kind of summery of his life.  Do I take the outdoors angle where he loved to fish and hunt?  His seemingly endless tall-tales that he loved to tell?  The grocery store that he and Mary Ann, used to own about eight miles from Mom and Dad’s?  That he put new meaning behind the the phrase “proud Polack?”  Or do I start with his growing up near Mom?  After attending his wake Thursday night, I’ve decided to go with a short blurb of each of those because he was all those things and more.  Since I like to be difficult, I’m going to start at the end with the wake since that’s the beginning of my making sense of Uncle Roy’s life.

Roy Jurek, 1931-2012

Like I said earlier, I went to the wake on Thursday night.  The wake was held in Pierz and our current job is in Eagan, with a quick stop at our apartment for a 5 second shower and a change of clothes (which strangely enough was on the way).  For those not familiar with the layout of Minnesota, the trip from Eagan to Pierz goes roughly “Poland, Czechoslovakia, Holland, Venezuela, Africa, Beirut, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and then Switzerland…” (thank you Eddie Izzard).  Which translates into about 2.5 hours with no traffic.  So I was figuring on taking off from work at 3 to be up there around 6-ish.  But, there was rush-hour and construction going on and really no way around either of them.  So that meant my 2.5 hour journey turned into almost 4 hours worth of travel.  Really it was the construction that got me.  It took literally an hour to go less than 2 miles to get through the construction zone.  Why am I telling you about my woes?  I just wanted to illustrate what I went through just to say one last farewell to my uncle.  On the way I did make a very quick stop to see Grandma Bert (I was practically driving by her place, also, it was in order not to get yelled at).  I did managed to get up to Pierz for about 45 minutes of the wake.  The first person that I ran into was Roy and Mary Ann’s youngest, Dan.  We chatted for a bit and then I sought out Mary Ann.  She was doing very well, all things considered.  Tired, but doing well.  After that I made the rounds with my relation and caught up on life and shared Roy stories.  The real lynch pin for putting things into perspective was reading through the eulogy printed with funeral information.  Here are a few of the excerpts that I found very appropriate and a bit amusing:

“Roy was the second son of a second generation Polish immigrants and farmers . . . with his 10 brothers and sisters, he learned early the values of hard work, integrity, family, church and one-liners.”

“In 1957, he caught an unsuspecting neighbor taking gravel from his family farm and ten months later . . . he married the gravel hunter, Mary Ann”

“Roy enjoyed catching and not releasing sunnies, napping on deer stands, and boasting (about) his self-proclaimed command of the Polish language.”

I have no idea if the stealing gravel story is true because it sounds like something that Mary Ann would do, but also something that Roy would say to pull your leg.  Along those lines, here is one of my favorite tall tales told at Czeck get-together quite a few years ago.  Roy was telling a bunch of the younger kids that when he was growing up how poor they were.  They could only afford one bullet and his dad told him to go out and get some food for supper.  Roy was walking through the woods and he happened to see three turkeys sitting on a wooden fence.  He noticed that they were all sitting with some of their toes in a crack in the top rail.  Roy being the brilliant man he was, he shot the rail and pinched their toes so they couldn’t fly away.  He just walked up and bopped them on their heads and his family ate well for a week.  This story may not be verbatim, but you get the idea of the stories that he would tell.

Tall tales aside, you could always ask Roy about his last hunting or fishing trip.  It seemed like he was always either going on one or just getting back from one.  Once again, some were more believable than others.  You could count on Roy and Gary (another uncle) sitting in a corner at every family get together BS-ing about something or another, and usually fishing was involved at some point.  When Roy was young, he even helped out on Grandma and Grandpa’s farm when Mom’s folks would go up north for their own fishing trips.  Roy was just that kind of guy.

I don’t remember the exact year, but when I was pretty young, Roy and Mary Ann bought a small convenience store in a town about eight miles from the farm.  It was a great place to pick up odds and ends that you forgot to get on the regular grocery trips.  Plus they rented movies and even for awhile they rented out Super Nintendo systems.  My best memories of that place was when us kids talked Mom or Dad into letting us have a dollar to buy candy.  Seriously, if you want to teach your kids about frugality and math, only let them have a dollar and two minutes in a candy store.  We could stretch that dollar so far it filled a #4 bag.  We got very good and min/maxing quality and quantity in a time crunch, i.e. Mom or Dad standing over us telling us to hurry up.

Roy loved to throw in a Polish phrase or two randomly into a conversation.  Never understood a word he said.  I have a feeling that is part of why Roy kept doing it.  It was like his own personal joke.  Keeping with his playful nature, Roy also loved to give anyone a hard time about not being Polish.  Gary (a Swede) and Roy loved to throw jabs at each other about their respective ethnicities.  When I was in high school, we had an exchange student, David, from Spain (I think), that was staying with the extended family of one of the in-laws.  That Christmas, they came to the Czeck get-together and Roy was being nice and talking to him.  Of course one part of the conversation that I over heard was Roy asking David if he was Catholic.  I don’t remember what David’s answer was, but the next thing I know was that Roy was talking about how the Pope was Polish and how Roy was Polish, so the Pope was just like Roy.  Strange, I just realized the direction of the comparison.  Egotistical, yes; funny, hell yes; and just like Roy.

So this one is for you Roy: Na zdrowie!

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