|Birth: ||Aug. 17, 1921|
|Death: ||Oct. 22, 2012|
Stephen R. Jakupcak, 91, of Streator, died Monday, Oct. 22, at St. Mary's Hospital.
Stephen Jakupcak, of Streator, who as a World War II Marine witnessed the historic U.S. flag raisings over Iwo Jima, died early Monday at age 91.
When the war started, the life-long Streator resident had a military deferment as a defense worker making truck bodies but volunteered for the draft, asking to be assigned to the Marine Corps.
In boot camp he picked up the nickname "Kelly" because his drill sergeant could not pronounce his name, he told The Times in a 2006 interview.
After more advanced training in Hawaii, Jakupcak was put aboard a troop ship for an unknown destination. Once en route, a clay model of an island was produced.
"They said 'This is Iwo Jima. This is where we're going.' "
At first, Jakupcak and his comrades were told taking the island would be a three- to four-day operation to vanquish 13,000 to 14,000 enemy troops. As it turned out, it took 36 days to engage and kill all but 1,000 of the 22,000 Japanese troops entrenched on the island — and nearly 7,000 Marines died in the process.
For two days there was little sign of the enemy, said Jakupcak.
"They waited until we got more men on the island, and then they turned the old machine guns on you — a lot of guys got killed right there on the beach," he said. "On the island you never met up with a Jap. It was all underground and pill boxes."
On one patrol an officer near Jakupcak was shot, and a bullet went through the canteen on his hip.
On the fourth day on the island, when the battle's most famous moment took place — the raising of the American flag on the top of the island's Mount Suribachi — Jakupcak estimates he was about 200 yards away.
There actually were two flag raisings; the second was the subject of an iconic photograph.
"When the first one went up, Christ, the guys went wild, they thought the battle was going to be over. But hell, that was just the start of it."
Jakupcak spent 21 days in a foxhole before the fighting slackened — with one break after nine days to wash, rest and attend a Catholic Mass before returning.
For years, Jakupcak bottled up his experiences and would brush off requests for details of his service. Among World War II veterans, to talk about your experiences just wasn't the way, Jakupcak said.
"They were always with me. I thought about them a lot. But I never talked about them."
Then, in 2000, he went to a regimental reunion in Washington, D.C., which led to an eight-day trip to Iwo Jima with his son, Bob, the following year.
There, while flying over the island, the emotion of the visit caused him to spill out his memories.
On the trip he also met up with Fred Haynes, a retired Marine Corps major general who during the battle had been a captain in the same regiment as Jakupcak.
They shook hands, exchanged experiences and prepared to go back to the top of Mount Suribachi — but this time with a difference.
"He said 'Kelly, first time we had to fight our way up. Now,' he says, 'we're going to ride up.' "
After his discharge, Jakupcak returned to his job at Anthony Company in Streator, where he worked as a welder.
"Then he moved on to the Owens glass factory in 1950 and then started with the Santa Fe railroad in '51 or '52, and was there until he retired after 33 years," said Bob Jakupcak.
In his spare time, Jakupcak liked to garden.
"He always planted a big garden," said Bob Jakupcak.
He also worked with two brothers who were bricklayers building houses.
"They built about five homes," said Bob Jakupcak.
As a father, Jakupcak was "probably one of he best," said Bob Jakupcak. "He taught me a lot and was just an all-around super good father to me and my two sisters, a good husband and a good provider. He was always there to help anybody.
"He was a religious man; he went to church every Sunday. Citizenship was important to him. He believed in the democratic system and always voted. I think that's where I may have gotten my interest in politics," said Bob Jakupcak, who is a member of the La Salle County Board.
Bob Jakupcak said his father's health was good for his age until April, when he fell at home and broke his ankle.
After treatment he went to a nursing home for rehabilitation and other maladies developed.
Aware his end was near, his family members had the opportunity to visit him at St. Mary's Hospital, said Bob Jakupcak.
"We knew it was coming. Mom and I were there when he passed, and it was peaceful."
Obituary, Oct 24:
STREATOR — Stephen R. Jakupcak, 91, of Streator, passed away at 2:25 a.m. Monday, Oct. 22, at St. Mary's Hospital, Streator.
Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at St. Michael the Archangel Parish Church, Streator. Monsignor Philip Halfacre will officiate. Visitation will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday at Solon-Telford Funeral Home, Streator. A vigil service will be at 4:45 p.m. Burial will be in St. Mary's Cemetery, Streator.
Pallbearers will be grandchildren, Paul, Stephen and Joe Strack, Robert Jakupcak Jr., nephew, Dave Bandura, and his godson, Richard Tutoky. Third Degree members of the Msgr. George A. Dzuryo Knights of Columbus Council 790 will serve as honorary pallbearers. Full military rites will be given by members of Leslie G. Woods American Legion Post 217 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1492.
Born Aug. 17, 1921, in Streator, he was the son of Michael and Anna (Durdan) Jakupcak. He married Katherine Rizzuto on Oct. 16, 1948. She survives in Streator.
He also is survived by daughters, Debra (Paul) Strack, of Tonica, and Susan (Randy) Oltman, of Streator; a son, Robert (Linda) Jakupcak, of Streator; grandchildren, Paul, Stephen and Joe Strack and Robert Jakupcak Jr.; great-grandchildren, Adam Jakupcak and Hunter and Hannah Strack; one sister, Josephine Bandura, of Streator; and several nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by a grandson, James Oltman; brothers, Michael, Andrew, John and Adam Jakupcak; and sisters, Louise Jakupcak, Lena Jakupcak and Mary Adams.
Born and raised in Streator, he graduated from St. Stephen's Grade School.
During World War II he served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the Pacific Theater of Operations. He fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima as a member of the 28th Regiment, 5th Marine Division.
He worked for Anthony Company, Owens-Illinois Glass Company and Dependable Company. He retired from Santa Fe Railroad after 32 years where he worked as a car inspector.
He was a member of the former Immaculate Conception Church and currently belonged to St. Michael the Archangel Parish. He was a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1492 and the Msgr. George A. Dzuryo Knights of Columbus Council 790.
Saint Marys Cemetery
Created by: Ken Nagel
Record added: Oct 23, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial# 99492397
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Thank you for your service to our country. May you rest in peace.|
Added: Oct. 23, 2012