A California man is seeking area residents' help to learn about his father, a Northeastern Pennsylvania native, whom he never knew.
Michael Stankevich was born in February 1945, while his father, Charles Stankevich, a graduate of Meyers High School in Wilkes-Barre, was serving in the Marine Corps. The Marine was killed on Okinawa during World War II – four months after his son was born.
The two never met.
Michael, now 67, is driven to learn about his dad. He recently placed a classified ad in The Times Leader, soliciting any recollections people might want to share about his father.
Growing up knowing your dad was killed four months after your birth has left me feeling that answers to questions that I have of him will never be shared, nor will I be able to share mine with him, Stankevich said from his home in San Jose.
It took Stankevich a long time to embark on this journey, he said. He kept his emotions buried for many years. After I had children and I developed relationships with them, he said, I would think what it would have been like to have that same thing with my father.
Emotion was audible as Stankevich's talked about his fact-finding mission. I just thought some people (in the Wyoming Valley) would have some stories, some information, about him, he said, fighting back tears.
Stankevich was never adopted by his step-father, so he kept his last name, which was different than his two brothers and sister, he said. His mother – the former Mildred Masters of Taylor – died in 2008.
Through the years his mother didn't talk much about his father, Stankevich said. His siblings don't know much about their mother's first husband either, he said.
This made it clear that something was different in our family, he said. Early years went by fine; I always thought about my dad, but mom did not talk about him – she never did. It was like he never existed.
No one in his hometown of Taylor ever said a word to him about the situation, either, he said. It was like it never happened.
His father's family lived in Wilkes-Barre, and Stankevich's visits here were infrequent, he said. He never had an opportunity to get to know his family.
Stankevich said he received survivor benefits and went to college with payments from the Veterans Administration. He left this area in 1964, ultimately ending up in San Jose.
As time passed, I became more interested in my dad and his past, he said. I have letters that he wrote us from the war zone – some I haven't read yet – and pictures and other small items. I also began to see relationships between my friends and their dads, and I felt bad I didn't have the same opportunity.
Stankevich paused and said he misses the father he never knew. I miss my dad and always will, he said. I keep his memory alive though my family and hope that someone will have some good memories to share with us all.
He has never met another war orphan – a term he said he first heard from the Veterans Administration.
I can only say that, at times, it has been hell for me – and will be until the day I pass on, he said.
Stankevich and his wife, Sandra, have three daughters and two grandchildren. In 1966 he went to work for IBM in New York, transferring to California in 1974, he said.
Time has passed and time comes around, he said. I just feel I might as well give it a try.
If you knew Charles Stankevich and want to contact his son, Michael, to share your stories:
• Call: (408) 281-2958
• E-mail: [email protected]
• Write: Mike Stankevich, 613 Colleen Dr., San Jose, CA 95123.