In Memory of Calvin Frank Kolar, July 24, 1924 – January 23, 2020
Calvin Frank Kolar, 95, of Carbondale, Illinois and Lake Gogebic, Michigan, passed away quietly and in comfort Thursday, January 23, 2020, in Carbondale, Illinois. He was born July 24, 1924 in Cicero, Illinois to Albert and Ella Kolar. His paternal grandparents had emigrated from Europe and settled in Cicero and his maternal grandparents had settled on a farm in central Wisconsin. Calvin, and his sister Ruth, grew up in Cicero, Illinois, what was then a western-most suburb of Chicago, and he graduated from Morton East High School in Cicero. During World War 2 he went into the Army Air Corp and was sent to pilot training school at North Caroline State University in Raleigh, North Carolina.
While growing up Calvin had a large family of grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. In his youth during the depression years he spent time in Cicero and surrounding environments and learned from his extended family of strong European roots how to forage for mushrooms in the nearby forest preserves. It was from that experience that he developed a life-long passion for hunting mushrooms wherever he lived. He also spent a great deal of time during the summers at his Aunt and Uncle’s place located on the Fox River in Fox River Grove in northern Illinois. Because the depression was such hard times for all, Calvin’s entire extended family gathered sustenance from hunting, fishing and foraging activities on the forest preserves, in nearby woods and in vacant lots in and around Cicero and on the Fox River. Calvin remarked many time in his youth that he had learned to catch wild rabbits in vacant lots and nearby forest preserves every way possible and had eaten them every way they could be cooked. It was during these years with his father, grandparents and also his aunts and uncles that he developed his life-long passion for both fishing and hunting.
The depression years were very lean years for all and left an indelible impression on Calvin. Many times he remarked how often his family went hungry and how hard it was to have any extra money and to keep homes warm in the winter and to stay healthy and to obtain medical care. Permanent jobs in the urban area he grew up in were very sparse and because of that experience he developed his extremely strong work ethic and the need to learn work and trade skills that would ensure lifelong employment that would lead to a better and more secure life for himself and his family. In reflecting on those times he referred to people who had employment as “heroes.” He also remarked many times how important relief checks from depression era social programs were to his family. His depression era experience is what laid the foundation within him to always have employment and to always work. This ethic never left him.
On May 29, 1943, Calvin was inducted into the Army Air Corp and served until honorably discharged on February 17, 1946. At his initial induction he went to pilot training school at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. As the war progressed the Air Corp decided there was less of a need for new pilots and more of a need for bomber air crews. His entire pilot training class was then shifted into bomber air crew training. Calvin was assigned to fly on a B-24 bomber and underwent training as an aerial gunner and also in navigation. During this training period Calvin was moved to many stateside training bases and finally was assigned to a crew that was sent to serve in the Eighth Air Force at an Army Air Corp base in Norwich, England. From that base he participated in bombing missions over Germany from late January, 1945 until the end of the war in May, 1945. Although Calvin entered combat toward the end of the war, Germany’s adherence to fighting to the bitter end resulted in wartime experiences for Calvin that included many instances of the horrors of war. Over the years Calvin stayed in touch with almost all of his bomber crew members and sadly, shortly after the death of his wife Ruth, he learned that he was the last surviving member of his bomber crew.
After discharge from the Army, Calvin decided to continue in the trade school profession he started in high school. He followed his father’s line of work in the printing trade and apprenticed as a line-o-type operator and eventually became a journeyman typesetter. During the post-war period and even until the late 1980’s and early 1990’s until it was replaced primarily by computer typesetting, line-o-type printing was the primary printing method. The trade served Calvin well throughout his life with continuous employment as a member of the International Typographical Union. Calvin worked out of union halls in the Chicago and Waukegan locals and worked for such newspapers as the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times. He also worked for several smaller printing companies within the Chicago and Waukegan area. Calvin was also very active in the union and on more than one occasion did spend time on picket lines. He was a strong supporter of the right for collective bargaining by workers.
Also just after World War 2, Calvin met his future wife on a Saturday night at a dance in Crystal Lake, Illinois. On October 5, 1946 he married his wife of 71 years, Ruth Helen Livzey. Together they raised a family of three children, son Clay and daughters Karen and Lynn. They all survive. In addition to his children, Calvin is survived by five grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
After marriage Calvin and Ruth settled in Wonder Lake, Illinois where they resided for much of their adult life and where they raised their three children. They left Wonder Lake after their children had left the “roost” and built a home on the family farm in nearby Hebron, Illinois. This was done so they could care for Ruth’s great aunt and allow her to live out her days at her home on the farm. Calvin loved trees and couldn’t stand to live in a barren landscape. So, when they built the home at the farm the very first thing Calvin did was to plant several hundred tree seedlings around that home site to provide wind break protection from the vast open cropland that surrounded that home. The trees grew fast in the rich fertile farmland soils of that area and to this day those trees still stand as a mature stand of mostly white pine that provides wind break protection and forest habitat for many wildlife species. Those trees stand as a testament to Calvin’s environmental awareness and forward thinking.
In the early sixties Calvin and Ruth were able to purchase some residential acreage on Lake Gogebic in Michigan’s western Upper Peninsula. They eventually were able to build a beautiful permanent home on that acreage which became their summer and fall residence during their retirement years. Ruth and Calvin have many friends in Michigan and in later years considered that home. Also, for a period of several years during their retirement they lived in Bradenton, Florida during the winter months. At that residence Calvin did a lot of fishing and crabbing and they both enjoyed the winter time weather of Florida and the activities that accompany that weather. When Calvin and Ruth decided it was time to be located closer to family, they moved from their Florida winter residence to Carbondale, Illinois where their son was located. In Carbondale Calvin and Ruth made many very close friends, were members at Epiphany Lutheran Church and Calvin was able to pursue hunting and fishing until he was unable to do those activities.
Like his father, Calvin was very handy and could build and fix most anything. Although Calvin primarily worked in the printing industry his whole working life, every once in while he got diverted into other working situations. For a period of time he worked and enjoyed immensely managing a “put and take” pheasant hunting operation in northern Illinois for three years. He also dabbled in other odd jobs throughout his life with one very interesting opportunity that fulfilled a life-long dream of owning his own business. It came about just after retirement that brought both he and Ruth tremendous opportunity and great joy when they operated a concession/boat rental/bait shop business for several years at the McHenry Dam and Moraine Hills State Parks in McHenry County, Illinois.
Calvin, along with his wife Ruth, lived rich and full lives filled with adventure, excitement and fun and also some challenges and heartbreak. He was fortunate to have good health throughout most of his adult life. He and his wife Ruth always managed to locate themselves close to bodies of water where he could fish as much as possible and also by places where he could pursue one of his other passions, hunting. Whether it was Wonder Lake, Lake Gogebic, Wisconsin’s Wolf River, the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean or any nearby lake, pond or creek, Calvin passionately enjoy fishing and catching and eating fish. Also with equal passion he pursued hunting of all sorts: duck and goose, pheasant, deer, antelope, grouse, quail, rabbit and squirrel. He loved hunting in Illinois, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and out west in Wyoming. His interest in and passion for his favorite outdoor activities stayed with him till the end.
Perhaps Calvin’s greatest legacy was devotion to his family and their welfare. He was a lover of life and of getting out and doing those things that allowed life to be lived to the fullest. During the Wonder Lake years he encouraged everyone in the family to do outdoor activities and to use the lake. Interestingly, he encouraged all his children to use the boat, to water ski and have fun on, even though having a boat for fishing was not something he wanted to lose if his family managed to abuse it. But, he crossed his fingers and let his family have at it, giving them the opportunity to be responsible and have fun and explore. His primary activities were always centered on the outdoors, and he gave his family the love for those experiences, in Illinois, in Michigan and all points out in the mountainous west.
Calvin was devoted to his entire family. His love of family was always unconditional. He will truly be missed by all members of his immediate and extended family, and certainly also by all his many friends from Illinois, Michigan, Florida and all parts of the country. His departure from this earth leaves a huge void in the lives of his family members and all who knew and loved him. His physical presence may be gone, but his example, spiritual presence, love and the memories of his interactions with people will remain forever in the hearts of his family and all who knew him. All of his time on this earth made a positive difference in the human condition. He will be missed, but his life will always be celebrated. Both he and his wife gave their families the gifts of life, love, security, family and the sense to go out into the world and embrace all the wonderfulness it has to offer. For that we are all eternally grateful. Both will, of course be missed, but they will be in all our hearts forever.
A memorial celebration service with military honors for Calvin followed by fellowship will be held at 3:00 pm on Saturday, February 22, 2020, at Epiphany Lutheran Church, 1501 West Chautauqua St., Carbondale, IL, 62901. In lieu of flowers any memorial donations can be made to Epiphany Lutheran Church. Meredith Funeral Home in Carbondale assisted the family with arrangements.