June 29, 1922 – April 27, 2021
John Dzierla, age 98, passed away Tuesday April 27, 2021 at Home with his immediate family.
John was born on June 29, 1922 to Frank and Antoinette (Kaczmarek) Dzierla in South Bend, Indiana. John was very proud of his Polish Heritage as his parents were Polish immigrants who came to this Country to provide a better life for themselves and their children. John was the second youngest child of eight children in the family.
John, also known as Johnny, Grandpa Johnny, Pop, Yank, Jan and/or ‘the Polish Colonel’ is most notably recognized by his ‘handle bar mustache’ and his infectious smile !
He had a certain twinkle in his eyes which put a smile on your face and made you feel comfortable right away. He was a very kind and generous man always making an impression walking into a room; if he came to visit you he would always bring along a gift of some type of food or wine.
Growing up in an Ethnic environment with the ability to speak the Polish language he helped other immigrant Polish families come to the United States by lending them money and helping them find a job and housing facilities. Some older folks still around today would say he was like a Polish Godfather to many families in need of help.
He loved fishing with his many buddies; his fishing poles and tackle boxes were ready with his ‘secret weapons’ to go at a moment’s notice. People who visited his home in the summer months can verify hearing crickets chirping in his house from his fishing bait cage. He even started his own worm colony so he had them available as well. (Mostly because worms were costing him three dollars per dozen to purchase)
He enjoyed hunting mushrooms; when the mushrooms were in season; he would pick all that he could carry out from the woods in five gallon buckets and bring them home to clean and process for his canning hobby or to give away to his many friends to eat.
He loved his gardening: in his younger days he had a huge garden and would brag about growing the hottest peppers and the most beautiful red tomatoes in the area. His gardening would lead to his other passion in life; Cooking. He loved to cook and in many respects thought he was a better cook than anyone else. In terms of his Polish cooking recipes he did learn from the best cook ever; his mother. His cooking experience and talent evolved into a business for him later in his life.
John graduated from Central High School in 1940. He worked a number of jobs up to the time he enlisted in the Army and was inducted to service on November 23, 1942. He became part of the Company C 358th Engineer General Service Regiment, he rapidly became a Sergeant, Construction Foreman, Rifle and mine clearance expert. His battle experience included participation in four of the major Military campaigns: Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland and Central Europe. He participated in the Battle of the Bulge and served under orders of General Patton. Participation included: Construction of roads, bridges, depots, camps and airports. In addition, mine clearance, demolition and explosives, water purification and laying petroleum supply lines forward of U.S. artillery positions. He survived the intensive and heavy attack by V-bombs in Antwerp Belgium and received a letter of accommodation award from the City of Antwerp for his service in the major construction and rehabilitation of the U.S. section of that port.
He received Decorations of; EAME Theater Ribbon with 4 Bronze Stars, Good Conduct Ribbon, World War II Victory Medals. He was Honorably Discharged November 25, 1945.
After the War he returned home and worked at Bendix and Studebaker. He participated in many of the activities available at the ZB Falcons club; notably the Basketball team where he resumed playing as a star player on a very competitive 37-3 team. He also enjoyed team bowling leagues and dancing to live music with the ladies.
To capitalize on his cooking talent he started a small restaurant business within the ParkWay Bowling Lanes building in Mishawaka, Indiana. Establishing himself successful in the bowling alley restaurant business he expanded and took over the ‘Par Kay Lounge’ Tavern within the same building with his close friend and Co-Owner, Bob Strantz and furthered his cooking and serving skills for 30 plus years; many customers and friends nicknamed him the ‘The Polish Colonel’.
After retirement, he and his wife Ruth enjoyed traveling various places around the world and enjoyed working together in their yard growing the most beautiful flowers and vegetables you can imagine.
He was preceded in death by his wife Ruth (Leatherock), Sibling brothers; Frank, Edwin, Daniel, Sibling sisters; Laura (Szmyd), Clara (Jarvis), Emily (Cwidak), Angeline (Michalak) and beloved Son Jan Dzierla.
He is survived by Son Joseph and his wife Lynne(Murphy) Dzierla, Two Granddaughters in South Bend, Mallory (Schoenle) and her husband Andrew, Shelby (Towner) and her husband Michael, Five Great Grandchildren, Charlie, Quinn and Tyler Schoenle, Timothy and Tucker Towner.
Two Step Sons; Forest McKown of California and Barry McKown of South Bend, Indiana.
Step daughter Cathy Jo McKown (Caruso) of Boulder City, Nevada.
Step Granddaughter Amber McKown (Finken) and her husband Chad of Chicago, Illinois.
Step Grandson Cole McKown and his wife Adina of Chicago, Illinois.
Step great Grandson Willem McKown (Cole and Adina)
In his later years he found great joy in spending time with family and his many friends bearing gifts on every occasion with the signature ‘handle bar mustache’ and smile on his face. It is truly time to Honor and Embrace the Life that John Dzierla has lived. His unique gift to befriend every person he came into contact with is indeed priceless and memories of him will remain in our hearts forever.
Visitation Services for John Dzierla will be held on Monday, May 3, 2021 from 4-8 pm at the Kaniewski Funeral Home, 3545 N. Bendix Dr., South Bend, IN. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10:00 am Tuesday, May 4, 2021 in Christ the King Church, US 933, South Bend, IN. Burial will follow in St. Joseph Cemetery.
Memorial contributions may be made to: The Center for Hospice Care, 501 Comfort Pl, Mishawaka, IN 46545 for the help and support they provided to the family during this difficult time, and/or the DAV, Disabled American Veterans administration, P.O. Box 14301 Cincinnati, Ohio, 45250-0301, as Johnny contributed 54 years of membership support to the organization for men and women who served their country. Online condolences may be left at www.kaniewski.com
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