The classmate I never knew

Bob Hollack was the classmate I didn’t know. At least, I didn’t remember him. After all, there were almost 400 in my graduating class from St. Edward High School in 1956. He died in February and the death notice said he was 75 years old, three years older than me. Maybe there was an error. Maybe he was in one of the earlier classes. Maybe I knew him, maybe I didn’t. There was no mention of services.

This past Sunday I learned his story. I met his widow and their three daughters and I learned that he lived only seven streets away from me when we were growing up. He went to Sts. Cyril and Methodius grade school, where all the Slovaks in eastern Lakewood went to school. I went to St. Clement’s, where the Irish and everybody else went. The parishes adjoined each other in Lakewood.

He was in fact my classmate. He was three years older because he came here from Slovakia as a displaced 11-year-old in 1947 under the auspices of the Red Cross, traveling alone and speaking no English. His mother was already here. She had been here for years. They were finally reunited.  She married Robert Hollack and young Bob finally had a family.

Anyway, Bob learned English. He learned the metal plating trade and eventually owned his own metal plating company. He did his time in the army like most of us. He got married. He raised three daughters. He raced cars as a hobby but gave it up when the baby seat would not fit in the back seat of his race car. He went to Catholic Mass every single morning until his health went bad. He did metal restoration for many Catholic churches, all pro bono, and was active in all the church organizations, especially the Slovak ones. The guy actually was rather saintly, which explains why maybe I didn’t know him.

All of this unfolded at his memorial Mass this past Sunday at St. Colman’s Church on W. 65th in Cleveland. It turned out that Bob’s wish was to hold his funeral Mass on May 15, the anniversary of the date that he came to America. His widow, Patricia, sent an e-mail to Jay Ansberry in the St. Ed alumni office and he e-mailed the Class of ’56 last week. Some reservists in uniform presented a flag to the widow after Mass on the church steps and a bugler played taps.

Here was a heck of a guy. I regret not knowing him in high school. Being three years older, he could have bought our beer.

That’s all for now. Stay in touch.

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