Tuesday, August 2, 2011

In Memory of the First Jesse Piszczor (1914 - 1987)

Today marks the 97th anniversary of the first of the Piszczor's and their descendants to be named Jesse, or some variation of that name. Fact is this man, my father, did not have this name until sometime into High School. This is a mystery that appears to be lost to history.

He was born Hyacynth Jozef Piszczor on August 2nd, 1914 in Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania. He was the fourth of eight sons born to Andrew and Anna Piszczor, both of whom immigrated to America from the Austrian-Hungary held Zakopane area of the Carpathian Mountains just eight years earlier and met in Chicago shortly after. Andrew was a Coal Minor with the dream of having a farm. Somewhere around 1922 he begun to be known as Jacek and about 1930 there is the first documentation of him being known as Jesse. (I always thought Jacek was Polish for Jesse, but more on that later.)

Jesse worked the farm and in the coal mines. He was also very athletic, playing baseball and football semi-professionally while in high school. As I was told by his brothers, this was a major part of the decision that cost him a scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh in the early 1930's.

With school no longer an option and not wanting to spend his life working the mines he was the first of the brothers to find his way to Cleveland, Ohio. There he found work as a security guard with Truscon Steel and also Josephine Semik, whom he went on to marry and be with until he passed away.

This was all fine and dandy until 1942 when he received his draft notice into report to the U.S. Army. He served until 1946 as an MP and Company Quartermaster through France, Belgium, Germany, the former Czechoslovakia, the Philippines and China. He never spoke of his experiences much unless he was around other veterans. His experiences were mixed: He was awarded the Silver Star for meritorious action under fire leading a platoon and was the only person I ever heard of who earned the rank of Staff Sergent four separate times after three demotions for basically doing what he felt like, weather it was authorized or not.

Back from the war with a new family member, his daughter Carol, he worked in business such as a photographer with his brother John, as a bartender with his brother Mike, a real estate broker, general manager of various clubs and organizations, a VFW Post commander and retired from White Motor Company where he built truck engines. Then he spent time volunteering at a local food bank and just did odd jobs to stay active.

So that's what he did, but who was he? He never let the farm and rural life leave his soul. He would go back to the Uniontown area whenever he could to work the farm or just be in the hills. He always took me and left me there for many summers, so I do understand what it meant to him. He used to build gardens not only in our backyard but in the yards of some of our neighbors also! He loved and took time to be with children and hated the sight of a hungry or neglected child. We always seemed to have an old veteran who didn't have family join us at our meals every holiday. He was also one of the most tolerant, nonprejudicial and open minded person I knew of during those times of the 1960's and 70's. He was one of the few people I observed that would shake hands, talk, and have a drink with regardless of race, age, religion or where they came from. He had did have his limits on tolerance of individuals, but it was based on the individuals actions and their ability to accept responsibilities that would put you on his bad side. Be a excessively drinking draft dodger who didn't work and or pay child support that you owed, you made his sh*t list.

But that name thing; it wasn't until everyone who may have known had passed away that I was Emailed from a fellow in Poland who was named Jacek and I wrote back "We have the same name"...and he wrote back no we didn't. It seems that Jacek (Jacinto)is a version of the name Hyacinth, this makes sense since August 2nd is the feastday of St. Hyacinth. In English you would be looking at Jaci, Jack or Jake.ne thought is his nick name was Jacey and that was taken by the good people of Southwest Pennsylvania and West Virginia as "Jesse", and it stuck. But unless someone has some old story, we will never know!
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