John E. Oleksik, 78, Beth Steel mechanic

May 06, 2006

John Edward Oleksik, a retired Bethlehem Steel mechanic who was active in the affairs of St. Casimir Roman Catholic Church and the Catholic War Veterans, died of cancer Wednesday at his Eastpoint home. He was 78.

Mr. Oleksik was born in Baltimore and raised near Patterson Park. He attended city public schools and joined the Coast Guard near the end of World War II, where he was an engine room fireman.

He drove an oil truck before going to work in 1964 at Sparrows Point, where he repaired trucks and was called "Big John" by his co-workers. He retired in 1989.

He was a member of the Steelworkers of America Local 2610.

"My dad always worked two jobs in order to care for his family. He worked the night shift at Bethlehem Steel and during the day drove a school bus for St. Casimir's and the Institute of Notre Dame. On weekends, he cleaned furnaces," said a daughter, Janet Krumm, who lives in Dover, N.H.

Mr. Oleksik was also known as always being available to help family or neighbors.

"His favorite saying was, `If you need help, dial O for Oleksik,'" his daughter said.

He ushered at his church and helped with its annual parish fair. He was a member of the old Catholic War Veterans post in O'Donnell Square.

Mr. Oleksik was an avid Colts and Orioles fan, and enjoyed dancing the polka.

"He was a friend whose loyalty was not shaped by convenience, and he was a bright spot in the day for an uncounted number of people who were lucky enough to have known him. He was a wise man whose wisdom grew out of a life of hard knocks," his daughter said.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Monday at Sacred Heart of Mary Roman Catholic Church, 6736 Youngstown Ave., Dundalk.

Also surviving are his wife of 56 years, the former Doris Piopolek; three sons, Mark Oleksik of Denver, David Oleksik of Westminster and Lon Oleksik of Eastpoint; another daughter, Karen Halpin of Virginia Beach, Va.; eight grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

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