Sunday, May 15, 2011

Emil J. Pavlik

With his loving family by his side, Emil J. Pavlik, age 91, passed away peacefully Sunday morning May 15, 2011, at the Wheaton Franciscan-All Saints Medical Center, Emergency Room, after struggling with numerous illnesses in the last few years. He fought his way back to health each time --- he would do anything for a prime rib dinner at the Corner House! Emil was born on August 22, 1919, in Chicago, IL, the only son and the youngest child of Stefan F. Pavlik and Elizabeth “Betka” (nee: Sabol) Pavlik. He was a proud first generation son of an immigrant family from Prague, Czechoslovakia.

After leaving Chicago, the family moved to Ottawa, IL, where Emil had many happy schoolhood memories and stories of his beloved dog Dickie. They migrated to Racine in the late 1920s with his father opening a tavern, Steve's Place, at the corner of 21st and Mead Streets. It was in that neighborhood that he lost his desire to pitch for the Yankees (he once pitched a no-hitter with the Lakeside League), to pursue this love he found in music. He found he could get two cornet lessons on a horn he got from his Uncle John, in return for six of his mother's kolaches. And the teacher even threw in a spaghetti dinner. Anyone knowing Emil knew of his love for pasta, especially spaghetti with homemade Italian sausage.

He graduated from Park High School. He studied music at USAFI, the University of Hawaii, Chicago College of Music, the Midwestern Conservatory of Music, and the Metropolitan School of Music. During World War II, Emil proudly served as Corporal in the United States Army stationed in Pearl Harbor, and played in the 297th Coast Artillery Band. Throughout his life, he continued his pursuit and love for music. He learned from one teacher, who gave him lessons for free, that there was no need for payment. Just pass the knowledge along to the next person -- a philosophy he never forgot.

On September 3, 1948, he was united in marriage to Beverly Nelson, who preceded him in death on Easter Sunday 1998. To this union were born two children, Barbara and Stefan. Emil was employed by Morris Letter Service for over forty years and retired to spend more time with his ill wife. He always said he never retired, he was just “between gigs.”

An accomplished musician, Emil studied the Schillinger System of Music at several Chicago Conservatories, along with conducting. Emil’s love of music and enthusiastic talent was showcased by playing trumpet and arranging music for the 297th A.G.F. Band in the Hawaiian Islands and Tinian, Mariannas. He played with Skinnay Ennis from L.A. and Frankie Masters from Chicago and his best Army buddy was the noted tenor sax man Sam Donahue.

Emil was a fifty-plus member of the Musicians Union #42, and also the proud recipient of the 1987 Racine Musicians Association Award “Excellence in Music.” He was the arranger and a trumpet player with the Freddie Mann band, then with John Bunic Band for over thirty years, and a member of the Wes Adrian Avant Garde Group. There were countless other gigs along the way.

He served as musical director and arranger for the Racine Kilties Drum and Bugle Corps from 1949 - 1970. Under his musical direction and with his radical jazz arrangements, the Kilties garnered three VFW National Championships:  '64, ’65 and ’69. The Kilties’ reputation skyrocketed, and fans eagerly awaited what Emil had up his sleeve for the next season. He always humbly said that it was not him who led them to the championships, it was the corps themselves who marched on the field, as he only stood on the sidelines. Emil’s iconic arrangement of “Auld Lang Syne” has been nationally recognized in the drum corps community since 1960.

Emil directed J.I. Case and Western Publishing Company choruses, and various church choirs. He directed the pit band for the Kiltie Kapers, which originated in the early '50s, and directed several Miss Racine Shows. In 1970, Emil was the musical director oif the first Cardiac Capers. Many of the young performers he mentored back then are still performing locally with the Penguin Players.

On July 4, 2004, he was the first Inductee and Charter Member of the Kiltie Hall of Fame. Even a bigger honor: he was nominated by numerous colleagues and inducted into the Drum Corps International Hall of Fame in August 2009, the same month he turned 90 years old. He made the trip to Indianapolis and received this coveted award before tens of thousands of fans. He was known and loved by all who craved to get a picture taken with him or share how his style of arranging had changed their musical ways. At his induction, he gave a phenomenal "off the cuff" speech which had the crowd begging for more. Back in Racine, he celebrated his 90th birthday with over a hundred friends and fellow musicians. Mayor John Dickert was on hand to read a proclamation naming his birthday "Emil Pavlik Day in Racine."

Over the years, many people he worked with shared stories of his caring personality, his ability to reach youth that others could not, and how he never went back on his word. The same can be said of his life as a father and grandfather. He was always there, until the very end.

It is joyous to say that just one month prior to his departure from this world, he was able to attend the Penguin Players show. He was so happy to see so many of the singers and dancers that he worked with for over 60 years, and to see his grandson, Nick, in the cast carrying on the Pavlik tradition.

One of the greatest highlights in the past few years (as if there weren’t enough) was to see his beloved New Orleans Saints win the Super Bowl. That was the topping on the cake. He was never one to wear a baseball cap, but from that day forward, he could always be found with one of his Saints caps on, usually the Championship one. He had developed personal relationships with some of the players over the years, and had the pictures and autographs to prove it.

Emil was a loving and caring father, grandfather and great-grandfather who will be deeply missed by his daughter, Barbara (Mark) Riegelman, and their children, Anthony (Kelley) Cooper, and their children, Kaya and Cole Emil; Aeri (Scott) Hetland, and their children, Bailey and Peyton; Nicholas and Charlie Riegelman, all of Racine. He will also be missed by his son Stefan (Elizabeth) Pavlik, and their children, Melissa of Minneapolis, MN, and Aimee of Racine. We will never forget the hikes to Petrifying Springs, snagging golf balls in the woods, the numerous practical jokes we played on each other, or his official visits to Paul's office on Wednesday nights. We also will never forget the tremendous pride he found in all of us, and didn't mind sharing with others. He is further survived by his sister-in-law, Sharon Johnson; and a host of other relatives, and friends too numerous to name. Special friends, Ken Norman, Jr., Tom Meredith, Jr., both of Racine, and Stuart Faber of Los Angeles, also survive him.

In addition to his parents and wife, he was preceded in death by his sisters, Marge Krueger and Irene Timko; and sisters-in-law, Lorraine Hansen, and Richard Nelson.

A celebration of Emil’s life will be held Thursday, May 19, 2011, at 10 a.m. at the funeral home with Rev. Heather Bumstead and The Rev. Robert Bagley, Deacon, officiating. Interment with full military honors will follow at Graceland Cemetery. Relatives and friends may meet with the family Wednesday at the funeral home from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Thursday at the funeral home from 9:30 a.m. until time of service at 10 a.m. Emil had one wish for all when his time came: to put on a genuine smile and do a good deed for one in need, selflessly. In his memory memorials to the Health Care Network, 904 State St., Racine, WI 53404 or to the Racine Kilties, P.O. Box 085235, Racine, WI 53408 have been suggested.

The family would also like to graciously thank all of Emil's friends for their support, comfort and prayers over the last few years. You will never know how deeply it was appreciated. We would also like to thank Dr. Sarah Silver, MD, and Rachel Cortez, RN, for their kind and caring compassion shown during dad's last hours.

803 Main St., Racine (262) 634-7888

1 comment:

Lou Rugani said...

Thank you for your friendship, Emil, and for all your gifts to us.