Sunday, June 18, 2017

The LuLac Edition #3535, June 18th, 2017

This photo was taken in 1966. My father is on the left, my grandfather John Charles is in the center and my Uncle Paul is on the right.
This photo was taken at our wedding in 1982. From left to right, Lenny, Joe and Timmy Pribula.
(Photos: LuLac archives)

It was March 5, 1975. I was in a Philosophy Class at King’s College. The only thing I was philosophizing about that day was to figure out a strategy on how to ask out the blond girl working in the King’s College Bookstore. After I left class, I went home and started to hit the books. It was after 3pm. The phone rang and it was my Uncle Paul. He worked side by side with my dad on The Lehigh Valley Railroad.
He was sobbing on the phone. Uncle Paul never sobbed, at least not around me. His nickname was “Philco”. (The legend has it that the neighbors in the Junction said of him as a young man, “The Yonki family has two radios, one they plug in and one that walks around”.) My uncle was a sunny side of the street guy. So I was stunned. He told me that my father suffered a heart attack and was rushed by a co-worker to the Wyoming Valley Hospital on Dana Street. He said things were touch and go but he was alive. He continued to cry. I’m not sure what I did after that phone call but I remember it to this day. 
Then upon reflection, usually in church, I realized that these men who were our fathers were brothers before. Now that might sound obvious and silly. (I’m sure the haters who read this site are smirking now but they do that every day.) But in my family on both sides, the bond of brothers was very strong. They just happened to be fathers of my cousins.
I never had a brother. Having won the family lottery, I have the greatest, most generous sister in the world. So I observed the exchanges I saw between brothers. But I also observed the behavior of my uncles as brothers. They are ingrained in my memory as testimonials in what it means to be a good man.
My uncle’s reaction to my father’s illness was not the first time the Yonki brothers came through in the clutch.
In 1967 my Uncle Mike had a car wreck that broke his neck. Every night, my father and my uncle changed out of their work clothes and sat with him at Pittston Hospital. These were the days when hospitals kept you for weeks not just a day or two.
1976 brought the knowledge that an Uncle I never met had passed away in Elizabeth, New Jersey. My Uncle Paul and my father brought him back in a station wagon provided by a local funeral home. Even though I never knew John Yonki, I do have a relationship with his daughter Barbara from New York City. People asked my uncle why didn’t our family let the Funeral Director handle the return of John's body? I’m paraphrasing here but I think he said something like, “He might have died there without us but his family is bringing him home one last time”.
There were 5 Yonki brothers, Joseph aka “Zeke” who died in 1952, John aka “Percy” who passed away in ’76, Stephen, my father aka “Jake”, Mike aka “Dealer” who died in 1999 and Paul, aka “Philco who died in 2004. Their nicknames were as outstanding as their personalities.
On my mother’s side, the Pribulas, there were 5 brothers and 8 sisters. My uncle John was bed ridden for as long as I can remember. A former Police Chief of Exeter and Tax Collector he had numerous walking issues. (My friends say I got the “Uncle John arthritis gene all by myself!) But his brothers as well as the nieces and the nephews made the trek up the stairs to the bedroom where he held court. He insisted my mother learn how to drive and dispatched the youngest in the family, Lenny to teach her. She learned. My uncle John died on the night John Kennedy came to this area. I remember so many people at his funeral.
My uncle Andy was the oldest in the family. I remember visiting him in Exeter and he was soft spoken and into baseball. He passed away in 1965. My memory of that is how my Uncle Tom told me in no uncertain terms what it meant to lose a brother. I was only 11 but saw both the pain and pride in his eyes.
I remember my Uncle John and Uncle Andy as brief flashes of my childhood that I cherish. The common denominator of their passing was in effect that they never really went away. That was in large part due to the other three Pribula brothers who were part of my life into adulthood. All three constantly told stories of Andy and John.
My Uncle Joe was my Godfather and loved to build houses with my building blocks with me. My Uncle Tom, a Wyoming Area School Director took me to various events with him when I was a kid. My uncle Lenny, the long time steward of the President John F. Kennedy Knights of Columbus Council, managed all the social affairs of the family. Births, showers, weddings, graduations, funerals, Uncle Lenny handled them all.
A side note here, four of the brothers, Andrew, Joe aka “Lefty”, Thomas aka “Timmy” and Leonard aka “Lenny” were all members of the Knights. After years of urging from my friend Wil Toole, I decided to join that organization as a tribute to my uncles. (I certainly didn’t join for the reduced price beer but they do serve a nice orange juice.)
From the age of 6, I saw these three Pribula Brothers in action. They’d help each other and family members without hesitation. Even though my mom got her driver’s license in 1960, we never had a car until 1969. They were always at the ready in case we needed a ride.
For the most part, with those three, you could count on them individually and collectively. All three were veterans and saw war. All three had that bond of being the last three boys in that huge family of 13. Each one of them had their own skill set they imparted on me.
Timmy died in 1990, Joe died in 2011 and Lenny died in 2013.
Now you know the story of the brothers Yonki and Pribula. I think of these guys often, but especially on Father’s Day. They were from two different families, two different towns. But they cared for each other and helped each other. By example, they showed their children as well as their brother’s children what family meant. It just wasn’t good times at Christmas and fun in the summertime. Being in a family meant commitment, concern and sacrifice.
All those brothers I mentioned were different people for sure. But I took from each one of them insights and gifts that are immeasurable.
This Father’s Day…..I remember the brothers who were also fathers. Whatever their titles, each one of them made me a better man.


At 10:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why doesn't TRump seem to care about what the Russkies did!

At 1:38 PM, Blogger Better Life Seminars said...

Excellent posting, poignant and touching.

At 7:04 PM, Anonymous Sandee said...

Oh David what a great tribute to them all you had me in tears Wish I could write like you Thanks for the memories


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