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 Russell V. “Russ” Choka

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Russell V. “Russ” Choka

  • Birth 30 Nov 1923 Fort Wayne, Allen County, Indiana, USA
  • Death 16 Dec 2011 Fort Wayne, Allen County, Indiana, USA
  • Burial Fort Wayne, Allen County, Indiana, USA
  • Memorial ID 82085524

Coney Island fixture Choka dies
Archie Ingersoll | The Journal Gazette
Russ Choka

Russ Choka, the longtime co-owner of the Coney Island hot dog stand in downtown Fort Wayne, has died. He was 88.

His heart stopped as he was climbing stairs in his home to go to bed Friday night, his daughter, Kathy Choka, said.

"This is the way he would want to go," she said. "He didn't suffer."

Coney Island opened in 1914, and Choka's father-in-law, Vasil Eshcoff, became a co-owner in 1916. When Eshcoff's health was failing in the late 1950s, Choka stepped in.

Choka worked seven days a week up until his death, chopping at least 50 pounds of onions each day.

"And if there was a blizzard, he saw no reason the Coney Island shouldn't open up," his daughter said.

Kathy Choka, 61, plans to take over her family's stake in the business. Coney Island at 131 W. Main St. is owned, in part, by Chris Litchin.

"It's all about the continuity of the Coney Island," she said. "They'll be no disruption of the business. The product's not going to change."

Choka, the son of Macedonian immigrants, was born in Fort Wayne in 1923. He sold newspapers in downtown as a boy and later served as an Army medic in the Pacific theater of World War II. He married Helen Eshcoff in 1947.

Choka's daughter described her father as an unpretentious man with a "gruff exterior" and a "heart of gold" who looked out for less-fortunate customers.

"He used to say, ‘These are my people.' "
She said her father influenced many of his young employees who worked behind the counter at Coney Island.

"He was surrounded by young people for 50 years," she said. "In a lot of their cases, he was the only father figure they knew."

Visitation for Choka will be from 2 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Klaehn-Fahl-Melton Funeral Home, 6424 Winchester Road.

A funeral Mass is set for 10 a.m. Thursday at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 1122 S. Clinton St., with visitation one hour before the Mass.

Family Members






  • Created by: Steve
  • Added: 17 Dec 2011
  • Find A Grave Memorial 82085524
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Russell V. “Russ” Choka (30 Nov 1923–16 Dec 2011), Find A Grave Memorial no. 82085524, citing Greenlawn Memorial Park, Fort Wayne, Allen County, Indiana, USA ; Maintained by Steve (contributor 47117038) .