John Andrew Kovalik, longtime resident of Buffalo, passed away due to congestive heart failure on Wednesday night, Jan. 23, at the Mountain View Living Center of the Sheridan VAMC. A private graveside service and interment at Willow Grove Cemetery will be held at a later date when family members are able to travel.
John was born Jan. 27, 1923, in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, to Gustav and Margaret Kovalik. He grew up and received his early education in Cliffside Park and Guttenburg, New Jersey. His family moved to Dumont, New Jersey, where he attended Dumont High School until January of his senior year when he enlisted in the military.
He began military training in a tank battalion unit and later Patton’s 3rd Army, 65th Infantry Division (The Battle Axe), which marched 850 miles from Le Havre, France, to the Enns River, Austria. The 65th Infantry engaged in battles in France, Germany and Austria. The division has been honored by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and U.S. Army’s Center of Military History, recognizing them as liberating the Flossenburg concentration camps. John is the recipient of the Victory Medal; American Theater Ribbon; European-African-Middle Eastern Ribbon; Bronze Star Medal First Oak Leaf Cluster; Rhineland Campaign; Combat Infantryman Badge; and Expert Infantryman Badge. He went on both combat and reconnaissance patrols being within enemy small-arms range most of the time and served as rifleman and machine gunner. John was a true representative of the Greatest Generation.
John married Dorothy Hall, widow of his deceased elder brother, in 1948, living first in Reading, Pennsylvania. He claims it was love at first sight. They moved back to Dumont, New Jersey, where they raised their family and lived until the early 1970s. He designed and built their Dumont home and others in Northeast New Jersey and Connecticut. He continued work in construction until retirement and was a longtime member of the New Jersey Carpenters Union.
He had a lifelong love of the outdoors beginning in his youth hunting with “Uncle Paul” in New Jersey, and as a boy, trapped to pay for his hunting ammunition. He expanded to fishing, rabbit, groundhog and deer hunting in upstate New York, where he traveled nearly every weekend. This led John and Dorothy, then empty nesters, to leave suburban living to partial and later full retirement in a less congested setting and the smaller town of Buffalo, where he could enjoy hunting and fishing in the Bighorn Mountains, at Lake DeSmet and his beloved property on Clear Creek.
As a patriot and proud member of the 65th Infantry Division Association, John attended their annual reunions since 1994, missing only two. He and Dorothy traveled throughout the country to the reunions in their Winnebago motor home when she was able. During their travels, they stopped to visit friends and family along the way. They took the Winnebago on several trips to Alaska and British Columbia, where John enjoyed his passion for fly fishing. He was a participant in one of the early Wyoming Honor Flights to Washington, D.C., and visited the then new WWll Memorial.
He had a lifelong love of reading, which focused on American history, hunting, fishing and humor. He particularly enjoyed stories of the common man. He enjoyed collecting and working on his guns, sharpening his knives, making turkey calls, woodworking, sitting in the sun at his Clear Creek house and debating politics and current events. He had a love of learning in general. He took great pride and felt a commitment to display the American flag he loved.
Those who knew John will always remember his sense of humor. He had many life stories which surprised us, such as knowing James “Cinderella Man” Braddock, who visited his elementary school during the Depression bringing students presents and offering them free boxing lessons after school. He recounted his visit to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest with his Army division. He shared an abundance of jokes yet never forgot a punch line. Many friends recall how he kept them awake into the wee morning hours with jokes and stories. New Jersey neighbors used to say, “You should be on Johnny Carson!” He enjoyed pranks, being silly and living in general.
John was preceded in death by his wife, Dorothy; parents, Margaret and Gustav Kovalik; and brothers, Gustav and Thomas Kovalik. He is survived by children, Gustav Kovalik of Caledonia, New York, and daughter, Carolyn (John) Foss of Esko, Minnesota.
The family requests memorials honoring John be given to the St. Francis Shelter in Buffalo, celebrating both John and his family’s love of animals, which included a pet crow and porcupine, horses, a few cats and many dogs that were house pets as well as his special beagles for rabbit hunting. The family wishes to thank the Buffalo Senior Center, Johnson County Home Health, Father Pete, both Sheridan VAMC’s Home Health Department and Mountain View Living staffs that lovingly provided care for him.