In Memory of, and With Gratitude to, Frank and Stella Wawrynovic
by Walter F. Carter, October 2013
Frank J. Wawrynovic (1917-2005) was born in Osceola Mills, PA, one of six children of Polish immigrants. His father worked in nearby coal mines. After graduating from Osceola Mills High School in 1935, he worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps and then as a coal miner until he was drafted into the US Army in 1942. He was assigned to the 29th Division, and completed Ranger training in England and Scotland.
Sergeant Wawrynovic landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6 1944, serving as a forward scout for C Company, First Battalion, 115th Regiment. On June 17th he sustained three bullet wounds near the Normandy city of St. Lô. He was evacuated, then hospitalized for nearly two years before being discharged with a permanent disability. He was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star, as well as numerous other medals issued by the US Army and the French Government.
Frank then attended Penn State University, graduating in 1950 with a B.S. degree in Forestry and an M.S. in Wildlife Management. He married his childhood sweetheart, Stella Jedrziewski, in 1949. They had three children, all of whom died at an early age.
Stella J. Wawrynovic (1918-2013) was one of ten siblings born of Polish immigrant parents in Osceola Mills, and a close neighbor of the Wawrynovics. Her father also worked in nearby coal mines. After graduating from high school in 1936, she attended and graduated from Jefferson University School of Nursing in Philadelphia, and worked for several years as a registered nurse. During WW II, she served in the US Army Nurse Corp at Fort Meade Maryland, treating both American and German soldiers who had been wounded in Europe.
After the war Frank worked for Nittany Timberlands, Inc. of State College, PA. In 1968 he and Stella founded and then operated together Utilities Forestry Services, which cleared and maintained paths for cross-country utility lines, until their retirement in 1997. With Stella managing the home office and Frank leading the crew in the field, their business thrived, giving them the financial resources to support many causes. They funded medical research at Penn State University that might help other families avoid the fate of the illnesses that caused the death of their children. They gave charitable support to the education of their employees’ children, their town’s church, firehouse, veterans’ memorials, and cemetery. They were members of the St. Francis Catholic Church and various veterans’ organizations, and Stella was active with the Easter Seal Society.
They also gave a substantial donation to the Dr. Norval Carter Memorial Medical Scholarship at the Marshall University School of Medicine in Huntington, WV, in honor of the battalion surgeon who lost his life trying to save Frank in World War II (see “In Remembrance of Frank J. Wawrynovic” by Walter F. Carter in the “Tributes & Remembrances” section of Normandy Allies’ website).
The Wawrynovics were among the original supporters of Normandy Allies, Inc. and donated generously to it over the years. Finally, in her last will and testament, Stella stipulated that Normandy Allies be given $25,000 to be used “to fund a trip … of one student per year to visit the beaches of Normandy, France where the allied invasion of Europe took place in 1944.”
Though actively involved with many charities and causes, Frank and Stella never called attention to themselves or asked for recognition. They focused on helping others and doing what they could to provide assistance, thereby sharing their success. Frank and Stella had touched many lives. They leave behind a legacy of generosity and kindness that will continue for years to come.
(Years after trying to put the war out of his mind, Frank wrote a memoir of his military experience that appeared in the November issue of the 29th Division Association’s newsletter, The 29er, and was cited in Gerald Astor’s June 6, 1944: Voices of D-Day. Frank also wrote several poems about the war, which appear in the D-Day Poetry section of Normandy Allies’ web site.)
Read Walter Ford Carter’s eulogy for Frank J. Wawrynovic (May 26, 1917 – February 9, 2005) here.