Being Home.

Ah, rural Indiana! Fresh air; crystal-clear, star-filled skies; people who, rather puzzlingly, think highly of me. Not even forty-eight hours home, I heard that Ray’s Super Foods “needs” for me to return. For reasons best left unpublished, I cannot return to that place, as important as it is to me (See below, natch.); however, I wish to offer reflections thereupon and, thus, reflections upon living in a real place. Call it my very brief, spur-of-the-moment (a couple of years ago) Front Porch Republic-esque thoughts on North Judson, Indiana. This was initially part of my Facebook profile when I first returned to Ray’s Super Foods, as night manager, during my hiatus from academia.

***

In 1902, Joseph Dolezal and Joseph Sindelar, two Bohemian immigrants, both members of Ss. Cyril & Methodius Roman Catholic parish in North Judson, IN, partnered to enter the general merchandise and grocery business. Naming the store after themselves, they called their business Two Joes, Inc. Eventually Mr. Dolezal bought out Mr. Sindelar’s share and became sole proprietor of the business. After his death in the 1940s, his wife Blanche assumed ownership and three of their sons took over day-to-day operations. After Blanche passed away, son Cyril became the owner of the store.

In the 1970s, a young meatcutter by the name of Ray Okeley hired on at Two Joes. He became a fixture and for thirty years his dedication to his trade forged for the store a strong base of customers who settled for nothing less than Ray’s work.

In 1992, Cyril passed away and his wife Alice became sole owner of the store; along with her son Kenny, she ran the business until 1997, when, after ninety-five years in the grocery business, the Dolezal family sold Two Joes to Raymond J. Wajda, then of Lansing, IL. He renamed the store Ray’s Super Foods, and to this day continues to run the store. He has become a very active community leader, volunteering as a Little League coach and board member and giving generously both his time and his money to various causes.

On the morning of 27 June 2006, one week to the day before his sixtieth birthday, Ray Okeley succumbed to cancer that had, unbeknownst to him, infiltrated many of his organs. He passed away in front of his house, in his wife’s arms, as he prepared to leave for work.

Joseph Dolezal, an incredibly civic-minded individual who dedicated himself not only to his business, but to his family, his church, and his community, was my great-grandfather. I am the last descendant of Joseph and Blanche Dolezal to work at 324 Lane St. Over time Ray Okeley became a good friend of mine, about as close to me as any fifty-nine-year-old coworker could ever be to a twenty-two-year-old college grad. I hope now that people understand why, even though I have a degree from the University of Notre Dame, I continue to work for $8.50/hr in a small small-town grocery store.

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One Response

  1. May 30, 2009
    Hello Nathan,
    Just read your article; it made it to my e-mail inbox because I have a Google Alert for ‘North Judson, IN’. I am working on family histories. Part of my paternal family settled in the North Judson and San Pierre areas. Your article has given me a glimpse of both the past and present of North Judson. Thank you.
    My condolences for the death of your Friend.

    I shall look into reading more of your articles in the future.
    Congratulations for your graduation from college.
    From, Mrs. Gerry Scully

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