Jiří Pacold, 75. May 17, 1945 - July 23, 2020. Boise, Idaho.
The early decades of Jiří Pacold’s life, as narrated by his brother Ivan in July 2020, revised by daughter Karin
Jiří Pacold was born on May 17, 1945, in a small town of Kroměříž in Czechoslovakia, now Czech Republic. His birth came just 10 days after the end of World War II in Europe. He was born there because his mother’s parents lived there, and it was relatively safe. There was fighting in that part of the country between the advancing Soviet Army and the retreating German Army. Major disruptions of normal life and shortages of basic necessities of life were the norm when he was born, and the disruptions persisted for a few years after that.
Jiří, or Jirka as he was lovingly called, was named after several relatives on his father’s side with that name. Jiří was the first child of Vladimír Pacold and Marta Miklicova. Two more boys came after him, Ivan and Vladimir. Jiří’s father Vladimír was a civil engineer and his mother Marta was a teacher. The family settled in Brno,a regional center with a population of 300,000. His dad was employed by the state government in design of construction projects. He was often working away from home for the entire week and came home for a weekend. His mom taught school part time and raised the boys mostly on her own. His mom taught school part time and raised the boys mostly on her own. The boys did their homework in the school building while waiting for their mom to finish her work. They took the streetcar home together at the end of the day. The family never owned a car.
The Czechs are known to be hard-working people. They rebuilt the country after the war ended. The situation worsened politically though after the take-over of the government by pro-Soviet individuals and groups in 1949. During Jiří’s childhood, the Cold War began and so too the loss of freedom in Eastern Europe for the next 40 years. People were not starving, but there were shortages of some foods and clothing, and there were frequent electric power outages. The students were being indoctrinated by communist ideals at school. Citizens were spying on each other to gain advantages for their families. There was no joy to be found. Jiří grew up in the middle of that. He was a good student, and he obtained an equivalent of a Bachelor degree in electrical engineering. He was then drafted into the Czechoslovak Army and served the compulsory 2 years. He was stationed in an Army unit on the Czech – German border. Their job was to listen to the communications of the units of the U.S. Army stationed on the other side of the border, separated by three rows of barbed wire fence. Jiří got to practice some English during that time.
After the discharge from the Czech Army, Jiří got a job with the state railroad construction company converting the railroad tracks to electric power. He could travel on the train network for free. This was very useful to him, because he could easily visit the family summer home in the village of Ostruzna. The house was not fancy, but it was in the mountains and a great base for hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter. It became his favorite place and the inspiration to move to the American West decades later. He pioneered the sport of freestyle skiing several decades before the rest of the world caught on to it. While speeding down the slope in Ostruzna sometime in the early 1960s, he hit an unexpected mogul, became airborne, flipped backward, and landed safely. He never tried to repeat that feat intentionally, though.
The decades of the Cold War oppression were briefly interrupted by the Prague Spring of 1968-69. The Czech border was unexpectedly open to travel to Austria. Jiří and his brother Ivan got the permit and left their home in August 1969. They applied for political refugee status at the U.S. Consulate in Vienna and were granted admission to the U.S. in November 1969. During those 4 months, Jiri worked for a Viennese contractor doing rehab of old apartment buildings.
Jiří and Ivan arrived at LaGuardia in New York City on December 4, 1969. The two of them had $200 each in their pockets. They saved the money from their jobs they had in Vienna while waiting 4 months for the admission to the U.S. They stayed in a suspect hotel in Manhattan for a few nights and did a bit of sightseeing, taking a ferry to visit the Statue of Liberty and going up to the top of the Empire State building. They knew some English but could not converse in English easily. They subsided on food from the vending machines that did not require verbal communication, just the coins.
The two brothers took a Greyhound bus from Manhattan to downtown Chicago and arrived on December 8, 1969. Their uncle Otakar, who had settled in the Chicago area decades earlier, told them to take a bus instead of a plane so that they could learn the size and geography of this country. Uncle Otakar was a decorated veteran of World War II. He served in the British Army for 5 years. He was in the African and Middle East campaigns and in the invasion of Italy. He took the two of them in to stay in his house and helped them to get established. Jiri got a job at the Reynolds Aluminum Company plant in McCook, IL, right away. He was making a good salary and bought a small 2-flat apartment building in the suburb of Riverside.
This was the Vietnam War era. Jiří registered for the draft and was called to serve in the U.S. Army soon thereafter. He served in 1971-72. His basic training was at Fort Lewis in Tacoma, Washington. He could get glimpses of the majestic Mt. Rainier in the distance. He was stationed at Fort Sill, OK, an artillery base, for the rest of his active duty. Jiří was in charge of a tool shop most of his time there. He was honorably discharged with the rank of SPC 4. He became a U.S. citizen while he was serving in the Army. This country took him in. He felt privileged to be here, and he loved it here. He was called to serve, and he did with pride. He told Margaret that if he was called to serve in Vietnam, he would have fought for his country.
Jiří returned to Illinois after his military service, and enrolled on a GI Bill at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. He studied aircraft maintenance at first and then he switched to finance. Jiří was very proud to obtain his pilot's license. He took Margaret up in a little Cessna. He was a freshman when his mother died, and it was very difficult because he could not return to the Czech Republic for her funeral. He met Margaret, his future wife, at the University. They met at a folk dancing club. They were married in town on December 27, 1975 at St. John’s. Jiří was longing for the mountains and outdoor activities he enjoyed so much in his youth. Sometime after his graduation, Jiří and Margaret loaded their possessions into a U-Haul and headed west. They settled in Boise, Idaho in September 1977.
Life out West, as narrated by daughter Karin
Jiří and Margaret had four children: Chris in 1982, David in 1983, Karin in 1985, and Mark in 1987. He made sure all of his children played and loved the game of soccer. On weekends, he would watch their games and cheer on his children from the sidelines in a poncho. He taught his children how to cross country ski and gave them their love of the mountains and snow. His ski lessons consisted of letting them loose down the mountain with no instruction. As the children grew older and began to downhill ski, Jiří kept skiing with his children on the lift access slopes of Bogus Basin on his old wood skis with no edges dancing down the icy runs in Telemark turns.
Jiří took his children every weekend somewhere outside. They camped, fished and hiked as a family in Stanley, Warm lake, and along the banks of the Boise River where they collected rocks and looked for blue herons. His fly line whipped back and forth tempting river trout to bite. Every year on Earth Day, he would take his children to the property he bought in Cascade, Idaho, and they would plant 100 trees on the steep slope. It was difficult work, but the children were “building character”. On road trips, if there was anything “cool” on the side of the road, they had to stop and pick it up. Sometimes it was a huge rock, or sometimes just a small piece of driftwood.
Jiří Worked for First Security Bank, Power Engineers out of Prague, Zeppole Bakery, and Antigo Construction. He fine tuned his rye bread baking skills while working at Zeppole. He bought his own grain mill and made his own flour from whole wheat and rye berries right on the kitchen table. The smell of fresh baked bread enveloped the family on sunday mornings like a warm blanket. Every Christmas, Margaret baked Vánočka, Czech Christmas bread. Jiří liked physical work. He liked to refinish furniture, and he could fix anything. If he didn't have a tool to fix something, he would fashion his own. He was very clever. He could problem-solve repairs because his creativity had few limitations.
Jiří was a gardener at heart. He could have been a farmer with a big plot of land, and a large garden, and he would have been content. Everything he grew was to feed his family. Being a very practical man, flowers were extraneous. Although, he did love sunflowers. He took what he grew, and he liked to can jams and tomato sauce. He also loved to cook with what he grew from the garden. Like many other aspects of his personality, he had a very broad palette. The house was always smelling of world food. Gravlaks, stinky cheese, homemade yogurt, kimchi, and of course, the tradition of homemade sauerkraut every fall. Often though, it was a simple soup.
He was also a wine and beer maker. He had his children pick the grapes from the backyard and squish them with their little feet. He and his children would pick the currants from the garden and make currant wine and jelly. Bribery was sometimes involved as the currant berry is very small. and picking them is very tedious and hot in the summer. There was also elderflower wine and dandelion wine. The beer and mead would be stored under the house in the cellar to stay cool. If it was tasting day, or if the wine or beer was done aging, he would let his children have a sip of the tart liquid.
Jiří’s was a beekeeper. There were bee boxes around the backyard, so there were always bees buzzing around, and his children would step on them. It was always exciting when the bees would come back to move in, or robber bees would initiate a coup, and the garage was swarming. One could walk right through them. He would put on his beekeeping suit, mask of netting, take out his smoker and put the bees to sleep in order to take out the honeycombs and extract the honey. He would give each of his kids a piece of fresh honeycomb to chew on.
Jiří Had a wonderful sense of humor. To wake his children up in the morning, he would blast at high volume Beethoven or Mozart on his little CD player. It didn’t take long before the children were forced to get and complain. He loved classical music and operas like Carmen and Les Miserables.
Jiří never thought that he would be a grandfather, but he became “grandpa” to Mark’s little girls, Nora and Brooke. The girls always fell asleep on his lap in his arms because there was calmness about him. He didn’t like his photo taken, but every picture of Jiří and his granddaughters shows his happy smile.
Jiří had a love of life. He was extremely thoughtful, and never said anything before thinking about it first so he would have no regrets about the things he said. He was brave and strong; he lived with ALS for 15 years. He was extremely kind, and his children will tell you he was the smartest person they’d ever met, and that they learned everything from him. Lastly, he loved cats, and once he put dirty dishes in someone’s bed because they neglected to do them the night before.
The Legend of Golem of Prague
According to Jewish legend, in the 16th century in Prague, during the reign of Rudolf II, Rabbi Judah Loew created Golem to protect the Jews who are being attacked. He was a giant made of clay from the banks of the Vltava river. The word “emet”, meaning truth, was placed on his forehead. He grew bigger and violent. A deal was made to destroy Golem. The Rabbi removed the “e” leaving only “met”, which means death. And so life was taken out of Golem. Legend has it that the Rabbi had a son who brought him back to life, and that Golem is still protecting Prague today.
Jiří shared this story with his children, and had books about Golem on the family bookshelf. He had a small figurine of Golem also on the bookshelf for as long as the family can remember. Jiří was the Pacold family Golem. He protected them when they needed him. He protected them when they didn't think they needed him. And even though the “e” has been removed from his forehead, he is still protecting them, and always will.
Rest in peace Jiří. Odpočívej v pokoji.
***Due to restrictions of COVID-19 at this time, there will be limited attendance available.
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