Czech Patriot Jerry Elzner Passed Away
Jaroslav (Jerry) Louis Elzner passed away on September 12, 2009 in his 84-th year of life. He was born in Texas, but his parents came from Moravia. They immigrated to Texas in search of employment and they became farmers.
Jerry served in the US army, spent lots of time often away from his home, serving even in Europe. His last employment was with the US Post Office as mail carrier.
He was very active in his retirement. He was always interested in his heritage and tried to keep all his Czech friends in the America interested in various Czech activities. For this reason he held various offices in the American Sokol, in the Slavonic Support Organization of the state of Texas (SPJST), and in many others connected to Czechoslovakia and later to the Czech Republic. Very few people traveled so extensively to the country from which his parents came. These were actually “group trips” because each time he took several people along!
Jaroslav Skopal of the Prerov Sokol wrote: “We met with him several times in the Sokol Prerov. We visited with him, showed him our town and region, our Sokol Hall, and several times we received from him financial support from the Sokols in Corpus Christi to be used for renovation of the hall, especially after the big flood in 1997.
Jerry Elzner received many prizes from government officials both in Texas and also in the Czech Republic, e.g. the Jan Masaryk Prize Gratias Agit in 2005. Jerry was particularly proud of this award.
This prize is awarded yearly to the most important persons abroad who had in some way promoted Czech culture, history and language. One of the recipients of this award was e.g. the businessman Tomas Bata of Canada.”
My personal memories
Brother Skopal wrote briefly about Jerry’s life and work. I would like to add to this sad page in our journal my personal memories:
In my book “Howdy from Texas/Jak se mas” I devoted several pages to Jerry Elzner. He deserved it. Actually the book originated because of him! This is the story: One day, about 10 years ago I received a phone call in my office and a man’s voice said: “ Ahoj, Eva, jak se mas?
am holding in my hand your magazine. Looks good. My father was Czech. We have here in Texas many Czech clubs, you know? So when are you coming?”
And we started writing and telephoning each other. And then I actually traveled to Texas. Jerry arranged for me a wonderfully informative program. He drove me around for hundreds of miles, I met many wonderful people of Czech heritage, and he proudly showed me many Czech cultural centers. He was full of energy, good spirit and humor. I found in him a very tolerant and wonderful friend.
I saw with mine own eyes how he promoted everywhere the old country of his parents and how successful he was! Everyone in Texas knew Jerry Elzner – and Texas is a big state, right after Alaska in size. When I traveled to Texas for the second time, he prepared for me- according to my request- a completely different trip- a kind of cowboy program. (There will be more about this in the second part of my Texas book.). In short, he tried to accommodate his guests from the Czech Republic (and he did it not only for me- there were many people visiting him from other places).
My recent third trip to Texas was a bit sad. I had already been told that Jerry was ill., that he had cancer and that his doctor did not recommend surgery, only chemotherapy. Actually I went to Texas to say good bye to himhoping for a miracle.
was really somewhat concerned and afraid of meeting him. But I need not have worried. Even though he had already had several chemotherapies behind him, he welcomed me as a brave soldier- smiling and standing erect, and I spent four pleasant days in his house. But we both knew that it was not a very happy occasion. And when I was leaving my good old “buddy” and going to East Bernard to see the Polka Fest- Kolache-Klobasamy heart was heavy.
Soon there will be October – the Month of Czech Culture and Heritage in Texas. Many halls in this large state will host similar activities that I had just experienced in East Bernard- people will enjoy Czech polkas and waltzes, dance in costumes, buy and eat kolaches baked by the descendants of the Czechs who came here a hundred years ago, and all will be happy to meet old friends and celebrate fellowship. And this Month of Czech Culture again was an idea of Jerry Elzner. It was he who had contacted many regional leaders all over Texas and asked them to establish such a month in this state. And they all agreed that this was a wonderful and great idea!
I wish to thank again Jerry Elzner for making it possible for me to visit Texas, to meet so many good and interesting people and mostly- to get to know his good heart.Eva Strizovska
Translated by Marie Dolanská
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