Theodore John “Ted” Wandzilak, 89, passed away Wednesday, March 26, 2014, at Venice Regional Bayfront Health in Venice, Fla., after succumbing to the end stages of Parkinson’s disease, two months before his 90th birthday.
He was born May 15, 1924, in Brownsville, Pa., of immigrant parents from Austria, John Wandzilak and Mildred Onuschak Wandzilak.
His parents worked as coal miners in Eastern Pennsylvania, before moving to the Greenpoint area of Brooklyn, N.Y., about four years after Ted was born. As a childhood hobby, Ted built “Ham” radios from “whatever old parts he could find,” and learned the Morse code by heart. He later would use the Ham radio and Morse code to communicate with people in many countries. Ted attended Boy’s High School in Manhattan, N.Y., where he graduated with honors and was fluent in Latin.
After high school, he was drafted into the United States Army. He was initially deployed to Fort Dix, N.J., for basic training, and after a battery of tests, the Army realized his knowledge of Morse code. From Fort Dix, he was sent to Fort Riley, Kan., where in mock combat he became the head “radio man” in his division. From here, he was transferred to Jefferson Barracks, Mo. At Jefferson Barracks, he applied to join the Air Force as a pilot, but the Air Force needed a radio man in Alaska. The next thing he knew, he was transferred to the Aleutian Islands in the 11th Air Force. Before his transfer, he was sent to Fort Meade, Md., where he was taught high-speed Morse code.
Ted spent four years in the Aleutian Islands, mainly on Adak. Here, at age 19, he became a Staff Sergeant. After World War II, Ted moved back to Brooklyn, and in 1949, he and Jane Kozakiewiez were married. He joined the family business as an auto mechanic. The business moved to Lindenhurst, Long Island, N.Y. Here, Ted worked until he retired at age 65.
Ted and Jane moved to Englewood, Fla., in 1999. They enjoyed walking along Englewood Beach and collecting sea shells for over a decade. They truly loved Englewood, and never missed the cold winters of New York. Ted was a loving husband to his wife of 62 years of marriage, and was a loving father to his four children. All of his children graduated from college, thanks, in large part, to his generosity to them with what little he had.
Ted was an intelligent man, and if it were not for his childhood hobby as a Ham radio man and learning the Morse code, all of his children may never have existed. For, after being sent to the Aleutian Islands, the remainder of his boot camp fellows, according to his recollection, were sent to Europe, where the majority perished in combat at the Battle of the Bulge.
Ted is survived by his children, Theodore Mark Wandzilak of Louisville, Ky., Judy Zone of Salt Lake City, Utah, Robert Wandzilak of West Islip, N.Y., and Ellen Elliot of Montauk, N.Y.; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife, Jane, in 2012.
If anyone knew Ted, they may send a letter of condolence to Theodore Mark Wandzilak, MD, 1348 Poplar Level Road, Louisville, KY 40217.
Arrangements are by National Cremation Society of Port Charlotte, Fla.