In memory: John Dackawich

John Dackawich was born in the coal mining camp of Loch Gelley, WV, on Jan. 31, 1926, to Estelle Jablonski, and Samuel Dackawich, both immigrants from Eastern Europe. He died on March 9, 2018.

John grew up in West Virginia and then Detroit, MI. He had a tumultuous childhood, living with six different families and changing schools ten times by the time he was 14. In 1942, John graduated from Belleville High School at age 16. At BHS, he did well in his studies and lettered in four varsity sports, with football as his favorite. One of his fondest memories was of scoring the winning, last minute, fourth down touchdown of 50 yards to clinch the 1941 state championship.

John joined the United States Marines at 17, and during World War II, he was assigned to the Pacific, where he served as a Platoon Sergeant. John next served with the United States Army during the Korean Conflict as an infantry Master Sergeant.

In 1950, he met and married the love of his life, Shirley Jean McVay, of Colorado Springs, and they spent the first three years of marriage living in Trieste, Italy. After the military, with Shirley’s inspiration, encouragement, and considerable assistance, John earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology with first honors at the University of Maryland, and a Ph.D. at the University of Colorado. Son, Robert, was born in Maryland in 1954, and daughter, Nancy, arrived in 1957, while John was serving a two year stint on the faculty of Colorado State University. In 1959, John responded to a call to the sociology faculty of what is now California State University, Long Beach. For the next 11 years there, he was a highly productive professor, researcher, teacher, and faculty leader. John also was well known for extensive community activities that included providing research data for the rehabilitation of much of the central area of Long Beach. In 1970, John answered another call to become department chair of the newly independent Sociology Department at California State University, Fresno. Within several years, he and his colleagues brought about an excellent undergraduate program.

John authored numerous research and theoretical papers and journal publications on such topics as community values, social stratification, the process of modernization, which was his personal favorite, race relations, aging, community needs, international housing patterns, and higher education aspirations and attainments. He also published a short basic sociology text and a novel, The Fiery Furnace Effect. He composed and published his novel in Visalia, CA, where he and Shirley retired in 1992, to be near their two grandchildren at the time, Chelsea and Neil Jehle. Shortly after their move, another grandson was born, Zackary Dackawich of Meadow Lakes, CA. John took great delight in his children and grandchildren, and they in him.

John was preceded in death by his wife of 68 years, Shirley Dackawich, and twin daughters who died at birth in Italy. John is survived by his daughter, Nancy Jehle and husband Max; son, Robert Dackawich; and the three grandchildren, Zach, Chelsea, and Neil and wife Kelli.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, March 23, at the Visalia Friends Meeting House, 17208 Ave. 296, Visalia, CA, 93292. Tributes and condolences may be made at