Celebrating John Vukelich, 2022 Elder Day Honoree

John Vukelich (Woody Fridae/Courtesy photo)

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By Wally Pearce, Winters Elder Day Council
Special to the Express

John Vukelich was born in 1930, in Mt. Olive, Ill. His grandfather came from a small town in Croatia. John’s dad was born in the United States and became a coal miner. John’s mother was Czechoslovakian. John has one brother and two sisters.

John first learned to drive when he was eight years old in his dad’s new 1938 Chevy. But when his dad wasn’t watching, John and his younger brother would drive the car around the neighborhood until they were caught. John said his dad wasn’t happy when he discovered what they had done, and he firmly impressed on John not to do that again. John’s first car was a 1937 Ford.

Growing up, John said he enjoyed Halloween and was often very devious when it came to outhouses. John attended grade school in a small Illinois town and finished high school in Chicago where he played football as a fullback and baseball as a pitcher and shortstop. He attended the University of Illinois on a full scholarship.

John entered the Marine Corps and became an infantry officer. He was sent to Korea but was then moved to Japan where he spent most of his time at the base of Mt. Fuji training troops. When John left the Marines, he went to Ohio to coach football. In 1956 he moved to North Hollywood in Southern California and later moved to Van Nuys where he and his wife lived for 30 years and coached football for nine years. John also coached the Chaminade Eagles in the 1960s.

John met his wife Rose while in college and in 1953 they married in Dayton, Ohio. John said his first big purchase was his home in Southern California. John and his wife had one child who passed away in 1994. Some of John’s proudest moments was working with his wife Rose while she was teaching.

John left coaching to enter as an employee with the California Inspection Rating Bureau inspecting workers comp issues throughout California. John later joined Continental Insurance Company as a Loss Control Engineer for four years. Later, John would work for Bendix Corporation in oil and gas exploration and in San Diego for a friend who sold luxury boats. When John came to Winters in 1986, he went to work for a landscaping firm located in Davis.

While living in Southern California John enjoyed rock and mountain climbing. John climbed Mt. Whitney four times. At 14,505 feet Mount Whitney is the tallest mountain in the continental United States and is a much sought-after hike for day hikers as well as backpackers on the Pacific Crest Trail. John said he saved the life of one person while climbing.

John’s advice to young people today is to meet more people from different points of view. He would like to be remembered as someone who never forgot where he came from, is very religious and may have had a great influence on others.

See all 14 2022 Elder Day honorees at https://tinyurl.com/8kx9fc4z.

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