Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Father Jack Pejza - Rest in Peace, my Friend

My longtime friend, Father John Philip Pejza, O.S.A., died last Saturday of a heart attack while debarking from the Holland America cruise ship, Oosterdam. "Father Jack" was an Augustinian Catholic priest for 48 years. His obituary is published online here.

The obituary talks about his profession and service to his church, his order and his students. It is impressive. This man taught thousands of teenagers mathematics and science with an infectious zeal and love of his subjects and his students.

I knew Father Jack mainly as a man with the same hobbies and interests that I had - science, radio and genealogy. I met him in the mid-1960s when we were members of the International Radio Club of America (IRCA). IRCA, and a similar radio club, NRC (National Radio Club) were devoted to "medium wave DXing," basically trying to hear broadcast band (AM - 540 to 1600 khz) stations on radios of all kinds. Amazingly, here in San Diego we could hear stations in Asia, the Pacific Islands, and Central and South America almost every night. The clubs had regular mailed newsletters with columns for members to submit their "catches" and to tell stories about their endeavors. Both clubs still exist today. I was the editor of the "DX Worldwide" column for IRCA for several years, and Father Jack succeeded me as editor and held the editor job for many years. The San Diego IRCA group published the IRCA "DX Monitor" for several years during the 1970s, and Father Jack was an integral part of that team. He also attended IRCA conventions in Vancouver, Sacramento, Los Angeles and several other places over the years.

Father Jack was the first person that I "confessed" to that I was about to pop "the question" to Linda on 14 February 1970. We had arranged to meet at one of my favorite watering holes, and he attended our wedding on 21 March 1970, and was asked by Linda's father if he should give me the key to Linda's chastity belt. We always laughed at that over the years.
Father Jack moved to Ojai for many years, but we always exchanged Christmas cards and occasionally got together when he was in San Diego. Linda and I attended the Mass and dinner reception that honored his 40th year of ordination. We saw him just two months ago - he came to our home for dinner and memories and stories about our DXing friends and our genealogy endeavors.

Over the past few years, Father Jack had a job being the Catholic chaplain aboard Holland America cruise ships that sail in and out of San Diego. He got a wonderful cruise and sightseeing and was able to serve his church and people on the cruise ships. He died debarking from the Oosterdam last Saturday.

Father Jack's family history and genealogy was Eastern European - Polish. He used to have a genealogy web site on GeoCities, but that has been deleted. He has an Ancestry account and a Public Member Tree, which will, hopefully, never be deleted.

Father Jack was one of those persons that you knew had a good heart, a patient manner, a wonderful sense of humor with a hearty laugh, was full of wisdom and knowledge, lived to teach, and comfortably moved between the religious world and the secular world. I am a better person for having known and communed with him.
Rest in Peace, my friend. Thank you, God, for Father Jack and his ministry.
A rosary for Father Jack will be recited at St. Patrick’s Church in San Diego (3585 30th St.) on Wednesday morning, December 16th at 10:30. Fr. Jack’s mass of resurrection will be celebrated at the same church on the same day at 11:00 in the morning. The burial will take place at Holy Cross Cemetery in San Diego following a light lunch in the parish hall after the liturgy.


Janet Hovorka said...

Dear Randy,
I'm so sorry for the loss of your friend. It sounds like he was a wonderful man. This was a beautiful tribute.

Jon Pearkins said...

Great to hear, Randy, that you kept in touch with Father Jack all these years. I lost track of 99% of my IRCA friends when I quit DX'ing (to avoid flunking out of university) at the beginning of the 1970s.

I always remembered and liked Father Jack, especially since he helped to widen the narrow view so many of us had of the clergy. But, most of all, he was just such a wonderful person.

Sad that he passed away so unexpectedly. And so young.

Jon E. Pearkins, Jr., as I was known in my IRCA days, at my father's insistence, since he was simply "Jon Pearkins" with no middle name.

Deborah Irwin said...

Randy, your wonderful memorial speaks volumes about your friend. In life we count these friendships as blessings; those people we meet along the way that prove the goodness in our world. I am so sorry for your loss and I hope that the thoughts of your good fortune to have had such a dear friend can bring to you some comfort.

Greta Koehl said...

So sorry to hear of the loss of such a wonderful friend. He sounds like he was an interesting and generous person. May he have the joy of meeting his ancestors in Heaven.

Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

I'm very sorry to hear of the loss of your friend.