Catherine Myers

Age 77: Paint laboratory technician was imprisoned as a child laborer in Europe during World War II.

May 30, 2008|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,Sun Reporter

Catherine Myers, a retired paint laboratory technician whom Nazi soldiers forced to work at a labor camp during World War II, died of heart disease in her sleep Monday at Locust Lodge in Riviera Beach. The Pasadena resident was 77.

Born Katarzyna Prokopczyk, she was raised in a village about 25 miles outside Pinsk, Poland. She lived in a log cabin lighted by a kerosene lamp and heated by a wood stove.

By the time she was 8, she was learning Russian in her village school as Soviet soldiers were beginning to occupy Poland. In 1939, German forces invaded her country and occupied her village.

Gun-bearing Nazi soldiers rounded up her family from their agricultural village in 1939. She spent the rest of the war as a child laborer imprisoned at work camps.

"The Nazis were very systematic in that they gathered up the town leadership, including the priests, and shot them all," said her daughter, Janet C. Boesch of Pasadena. "My mother, her parents, grandmother, brother and sister were pulled off the farm and put in cattle cars. They made it through the war as a family unit. It was a miracle."

As a 10-year-old, Mrs. Myers was sent to factories and recalled to her daughter that she once worked at a jelly plant.

After the war, her family was stranded in Germany in a displaced persons settlement but did not want to return to Poland for fear of the Soviet domination.

"Her father said they would wind up in Siberia because he had been a free Poland partisan," her daughter said.

Mrs. Myers moved to Chicago - where a family sponsored her - and she became a typist at an insurance company that worked with immigrant families.

When she heard that families from her village were living in Baltimore's Curtis Bay in St. Anathasius Roman Catholic parish, she moved to Maryland, where she married and raised three children.

One year, in order to earn Christmas money, she took a job at the Glidden Co., now SCM Chemicals.

"She fit into the research lab well because she knew math, was good at figures and had been trained in the metric system used in science," her daughter said. "The women she worked with taught her social English."

Mrs. Myers retired as senior technician in SCM's analytical lab in 1996.

In her free time, Mrs. Myers worked in her garden and made what her daughter called "an astonishing array of crocheted blankets."

Services will be held at 1 p.m. today at the McCully-Polyniak Funeral Home, 3204 Mountain Road in Pasadena.

In addition to her daughter, survivors include a son, Anthony J. Parada of Pasadena; another daughter, Victoria C. Helmick of Baltimore; and four grandchildren. Her marriages to Joseph Parada and Kenneth Myers ended in divorce.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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