WWII veteran a true survivor- Nephew turns birthday party into salute to veterans of two wars

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Published on June 07, 2017 with No Comments

Frank Jancarich talks to friends at his 95th birthday party June 4 at Brentwood of Hobart. Behind Jancarich is a display honoring veterans of World Wars I and II. Jancarich served with the U.S. Army during WWII.

by Steve Euvino

As 87-year-old Dorothy Dudak noted of her uncle, Frank Jancarich, at 95, “Longevity runs in the Jancarich family.”

Dudak joined with other relatives and friends to honor Uncle Frank at a birthday party June 4 at Brentwood of Hobart, an assisted living and memory care facility.

Frank Jancarich, a former Miller resident, now resides at Brentwood, as does his brother Joe, 89. Not only are they surviving seniors, but they are World War II veterans. That makes them special for several reasons.

First, they survived the war; 419,400 of their WWII buddies did not.

The display on World Wars I and II memorabilia included mementoes from the Jancarich family’s military history, including a photo of young Frank Jancarich, who served in Germany with the U.S. Army.

Second, they are among the 3.1 percent of WWII veterans still alive today. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, of the 16.1 million American military personnel who served during WWII, 620,000 were still alive as of 2016. According to figures provided by the National World War II Museum, as of 2016, 12,674 Hoosier WWII veterans were still living.

Yet, as federal projections reveal, those numbers continue to dwindle daily – 372 WWII veterans are dying each day.

Paul Jancarich, the Jancarich brothers’ nephew, wanted to do something for honor both his uncle’s birthday and all veterans. So he converted the second floor of the Brentwood facility to a combination party area and war memorial. Along with the cake and cookies were tables adorned with memorabilia from WWI and WWII.

“This is for Veterans Day and post-Memorial Day,” Paul Jancarich explained. “There were five Jancariches who were in World War II, so I decided to glue it all together. There are a lot of veterans here at Brentwood.“

Paul Jancarich, a Valparaiso resident who has cared for his uncle, thanked his late Aunt Angeline for all the mementoes.  Somehow she managed to gather everything and saved it all.

Angeline, the oldest of the 12 Jancarich children who grew up in downtown Gary, was the first to return home from the war.  She never married, but she took care of her parents and other family members. Also a former Brentwood resident in the memory care unit, she put on Memorial Day programs before her death in 2014.

“Angeline was really a special person,” Paul Jancarich said.

Of the four boys and eight girls in the Jancarich clan, here is the family’s WWII record:

• Angeline, an Army nurse, served in Germany and Belgium.

• Nicholas, a bombardier in the Army Air Corps, served in Germany.

• Violet, another Army nurse, also served in Germany and Belgium.

• Frank served in the Army in Germany.

• Joe saw Army duty in Alaska.

Upon his return home, Frank Jancarich worked in sales for Sears for 40 years. His late wife, Pauline, died in 2009. The couple had no children, but from the turnout for the birthday party, the Army veteran has a lot of relatives and friends.

“I’m so happy – this is a great celebration,” Paul Jancarich said of honoring his family. “They served their country and all came home alive.”

See those gathered for the party, Jancarich added, “It’s a pleasure to make people happy.”

Among those attending was Peter Spoentgen, Frank Jancarich’s next-door neighbor in Gary. “He was always a good guy – always happy, always laughing,” said Spoentgen, who pulled up a chair and sat beside his buddy.

Marge Hansen, a niece, said Frank Jancarich was one of her favorite uncles. “He was very joyful,” she recalled. “He loved to dance. He always had a good time, but he worked hard.”

To honor the Jancarich family’s Croatian heritage, the Triruze (“Three Roses”) tamburitzans performed ethnic and American songs. The young women opened the program patriotically with “America the Beautiful.”

Several people passing by the military display commented on the amount of material and the good condition of the pieces. These included military records and photos of family members, military correspondence, a rifle and bayonet, badges, gas mask, grenade, and miscellaneous war photos. World War I pieces included old U.S. flag and a German cannon shell.

Despite the size of the exhibit, Paul Jancarich maintained he had more to display.

“I could do two more tables,” the nephew said, “but enough is enough.”

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