Joe Dolecki celebrates 100th birthday at party
Editor’s note: Gainesville-area resident Joe Dolecki will celebrate his 100th birthday from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 17, at The Center in Gainesville. Everyone is invited to the party. This story about Joe’s first 100 years is based on information provided by Yolanda Dolecki, his wife of 69 years.
Joseph Francis Dolecki was born Dec. 15, 1917, in Youngstown, Ohio, the son of Polish immigrants Tomas and Josephine Lichviarz Dolecki.
He met his wife-to-be, Yolanda Toth, in 1940 while camping at Lake Milton, Ohio, with his best friend, John Krajeski. Yolanda was a freshman in high school, and Joe was a freshman at the University of Alabama at the time.
Joe was enrolled in the Reserve Officers Training Corps at the university and accepted the military’s offer to enlist for one year as the nation entered World War II. Instead, he served four years, beginning with his first assignment at Fort Ethan Allan, Vermont, where his unit trained as ski troopers to be sent to Finland, which was occupied by Germany at the time. But instead of Finland, Joe and his fellow soldiers were deployed to the South Pacific – with all their winter gear.
At one point, Joe and his Army buddy Arnold Rutin were on patrol when the Japanese broke through the lines, forcing Joe and Arnold to flee out into the ocean – where they were rescued by a PT boat. Later they served in the tank corps and encountered heavy combat. Eventually the two men were sent back to the States to train other troops.
After the war, Joe returned to the University of Alabama, where he used the GI bill to complete a degree in business administration. One of his classmates was George Wallace, who went on to be governor of Alabama.
After graduating, Joe enrolled in George Washington University in Washington, D.C., to pursue a master’s degree in economic and foreign affairs. While standing in line to enroll, he met fellow student Orrin Long. The two men wondered where they had seen each other before. It turned out that Orrin had been the captain of the PT boat that had rescued Joe and his friend Arnold in the South Pacific. They became roommates and longtime friends.
On Dec. 29, 1948, Joe married Yolanda. A few weeks later, on a cold, blustery Jan. 20, 1949, they attended President Harry Truman’s inauguration.
After Joe finished his master’s degree, he enrolled in New York University to pursue a PhD in economics and foreign affairs. As a student, he attended the United Nations session when Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev famously banged his shoe on the desk to protest a speech that criticized the Soviet Union. His NYU dissertation was on Polish foreign policy prior to WWII. Because he was proficient in Polish, he was able to use his own translations of Polish governmental papers that had been given to the Hoover Library at Stanford University. Joe was named the outstanding PhD candidate at NYU.
After earning his PhD, his first teaching position was at Northern State College in Aberdeen, South Dakota, where he served under Dr. Warren Lovinger, who later became president of Central Missouri State College in Warrensburg. Joe taught in Oregon and Wisconsin before being recruited by Lovinger to teach economics at Central Missouri State, where he remained for 28 years.
During his tenure at Central Missouri, he taught an extension course at the Truman Library, which the former president often visited. During one of those visits, Joe chatted with Truman about his 1948 election victory over opponent Thomas Dewey.
Joe and Ozark County native Marv Looney were on the Central Missouri staff at the same time. Little did they know then that they would both someday retire in Ozark County. Don Smiley, one of Joe’s Central Missouri students, would go on to become the Theodosia Realtor who sold the Doleckis their property here. Today they share their home with Joe’s sister, Wanda Housteau.
At age 70, Joe took up oil painting using the Bob Ross method, but blindness caused by glaucoma ended that endeavor.
The Doleckis are members of the Theodosia United Methodist Church. They have two sons, John Dolecki of Seattle, Washington, and Joe Dolecki and wife Ruth of Alexander, Manitoba, Canada. They also have two granddaughters, Zoe Lamus of Seattle and Cassandra Pryzner of Brandon, Manitoba, Canada.
Saturday’s party will be hosted by their son John and granddaughter Cassandra. The Doleckis ask that no gifts be given but welcome birthday greetings, which can also be mailed to P.O. Box 157, Gainesville, MO 65655.