1930 Walter 2014

Walter Sojka

June 28, 1930 — August 17, 2014

Walter L. Sojka, a U.S. Army Master Sergeant and veteran of the Korean War, was called home to God on August 17, 2014 at the age of 84.
He was the beloved son of the late Peter J. and the late Elizabeth J. (Wrzesinski) Sojka; loving brother of the late Peter J. Jr. (late Lottie) Sojka and the late S.M. Ancilla, CSFN; proud uncle of Adrienne Jaworski (Jack Graham), Susan (Jesus) Villa; great-uncle of Todd (Nichole) Accardi, Adrienne Accardi (Corey Purcell), Lisa (Vince) Jesaitis and Jeff (Kelly) Jaworski, Reid Jesaitis, Alex Accardi and Nathaniel Accardi; many cousins and a friend to all.
In 1954, at the age of 23, he opened the Walter L. Sojka Funeral Home and lived above it for over 60 years. Neighborhood residents and businesses dubbed him 'the Mayor of Chicago Avenue". His professional leadership, civic and religious involvement were the cornerstones of his life.
He was the founder of the Polish Museum of America Summer Ball, the Friends of Nazareth of Des Plaines and the Friends of Sister Ancilla for the Phillapian Mission.
Walter was an officer and/or member of numerous organizations including: National and Illinois Funeral Directors Associations, the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America, the Polish Museum of America, the Polish Veterans of America Post #72, Bishop Murphy's Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the Catholic League, St. Vincent DePaul, the Chicago Junior Chamber of Commerce, the Chicago InterCollegiate Council, the Northwest Community Organization, where he established the first senior citizen club in the community in 1962 at Pulaski Park, and many more.
He was the lay Chairman & Greeter for Pope John Paul II's first visit to Chicago in 1979. His leadership at St. Boniface and Holy Innocents Parishes will always be remembered.
"Even though he was sick, he was so vibrant. We figured he would live forever," said Edwin H. Cruz, the associate director of the Walter L. Sojka Funeral Home at 1427 W. Chicago Avenue in West Town.
Cruz, 52, has worked for Sojka for 37 years and called the devout Catholic and bachelor "family."
The son of tavern owners, Sojka was born June 28, 1930, and grew up at 727 N. Noble St. "He wasn't sure what he wanted to do and decided to go into the funeral business because it was something different. He wanted to provide personal service," Cruz said.
Sojka lived in a second-floor apartment above the funeral home, where he enjoyed cooking and entertaining, which were his passions, Cruz said.
"He had a number of girlfriends over the years, but I am guessing his involvement in the neighborhood and church kept him so busy that it was never in the cards for him to marry," Cruz said.
And when he wasn't being a homebody, Sojka enjoyed sitting in front of his business around 4:30 p.m. daily, where he enjoyed people-watching and saying hello to passers-by, while accompanied by his Chihuahua, Chico.”
"We are across the street from a bar, and he would say, 'Look at all these young people,' and say it is fantastic. He was 100 percent for gentrification," Cruz said.
Though he has no surviving immediate family outside of two nieces from a deceased brother (Sojka's late sister was a nun), Sojka served as a grandfather to the Cruz family's three children, Cruz said.
Cruz lives in a third-floor apartment above the funeral home with his wife, Elsa, and their youngest son. "We would eat with him, one family under one roof. He would just come upstairs. We ate together almost every day," Cruz said.
Cruz, who is the funeral home's only employee and was willed the business by Sojka, plans to continue operating the home under Sojka's name.
Upon hearing the news of Sojka's passing, Deborah Heglin Kozak, a local resident, said, "So sorry to hear of his passing. Such a nice man. He was my family's undertaker for over 40 years. He will truly be missed.”
Mass of Christian Burial was at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, August 22, 2014, at Holy Innocents Parish, 743 North Armour Avenue in Chicago, with Fr. Richard Milek as celebrant. Visitation was from noon to 9 p.m. on Thursday, August 21, 2014, at the Walter L. Sojka Funeral Home, 1427 West Chicago Avenue in Chicago and on Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at Holy Innocents Parish. Interment was at Maryhill Catholic Cemetery in Niles, with Military Honors by the U.S. Army. Following interment, a luncheon was held at The Chateau Ritz in Niles.
Memorial contributions may be made to Nazarethville, 300 North River Road, Des Plaines, Illinois 60016.


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