William J. "Uncle Bill" Gelatka, 95, lifelong resident of Port Griffith passed away Friday April 17, 2020 at The Meadows Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Dallas, PA.
Born February 3, 1925, he was the son of the late John and Mary (Faltyn) Gelatka. When he turned 18, he enlisted in the Army and trained with the 10TH Mountain Division in Camp Hale, CO. and was deployed to Italy with the 10th Mountain Heavy Infantry/Anti-Tank Battalion. He earned the Infantry Combat Badge, Good Conduct, European Campaign, American Campaign, Sharpshooter Qualification in Rifle, Pistol and Carbine and the Bronze Star Medal. After WWII ended he served out his enlistment as a guard at POW camps in Nebraska. He always told stories of how the wind never stopped blowing and it was the coldest he ever was. He was honorably discharged March 1, 1946 at Fort George Meade, MD.
He grew up with Lucy Vaxmonsky, the love of his life, and they were married December 31, 1949. They moved to New York while Bill went to school under the GI Bill and Lucy worked for Western Union. They had many stories of friends unexpectedly staying over including Elsie "Wren" Karsten, an American Airlines Stewardess and Jean Talipan a Rockette. While Bill worked part time for a furrier, he even had a fur coat thrown at him by Gloria Swanson. He also had stories of tending bar in the evenings for Rudy D'Auria.
After he finished school, he was employed in the office of Friendman's Express Inc. They moved back to the Pittston area where they raised their family. Bill was a life-long member of the Port Blanchard VFW (past Post Commander) and Bill and Lucy would attend as many 10TH Mountain reunions as possible. Once he retired in 1987, Bill and Lucy would take many bus trips with their friends, Thomas and Margerie Ohl and collected refrigerator magnets of all the states they visited. They had almost a complete collection.
They had a vacation home along the Susquehanna river where they enjoyed fishing. Lucy would usually catch the biggest fish and would clean all of the catch. They really enjoyed having their four grandchildren stay for a visit. Bill took up stained glass art as a hobby and made many lamps for his children and grandchildren.
For the past three years he resided with his son William and daughter-in-law Jean in his own in-law suite until his health failed and then moved to the United Methodist Manor Home in Tunkhannock. Most recently he was cared for at The Meadows in Dallas. Our family wishes to thank all the medical professionals who cared for him. Sincere thanks to his neighbors on Ambrose Street who looked out for him, shoveled his sidewalks, and made sure his kitchen light was on in the morning.
He was preceded in death by his wife Lucy (January 6, 2012), sisters, Mary Lucas, Elizabeth D'Auria, Irene LoGuidice, brother, Eddie Gelatka and granddaughter, Jessica Rachel Gelatka.
Surviving are sons, David Gelatka and his wife Cathy (Lititz, PA), William Les Gelatka and his wife Jean (West Pittston). Grandchildren, Brooke Gelatka Magni (Frank), Mary Clare Gelatka Harris (Ted), and Jason Gelatka (Heather) and three great grandsons, Carter and Cameron Magni and Brayden William Gelatka. Brother, Frank Gelatka (New Jersey) & niece, Rita Mecadon (Pittston). He is also survived by numerous nieces and nephews.
He was a lifelong member of St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church and more recently St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church, Pittston, PA. Funeral arrangements are by Baloga Funeral Home, Port Griffith. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, a private service will be held at St John the Baptist Cemetery, Schooley Ave, Exeter. A memorial service will be held at a later date.