John Onufer Jr. (December 28, 1921 – April 7, 2015)

John Onufer - England August 1944

John Onufer - Italy

John Onufer

The following article appeared in the July 2, 1943 edition of The Charleroi (PA) Mail:

John Onufer, Jr., son of Mr. and Mrs. John Onufer, Sr., of Highland Avenue, North Charleroi, has been promoted from Coxswain (3rd Class Petty Officer) to Boatswain (2nd Class). The new promotion became effective in May. John is stationed in French North Africa and is getting along fine. He wishes to say “hello” to all of his friends at home and those in the service. John has been in service since August 28, 1942, and before his enlistment was employed at the Allenport mill of the Pittsburgh Steel Company.

The following information was taken from a phone conversation with John Onufer Jr. on March 9, 2012. Many thanks to John for taking the time to share memories from his service:

John called my grandfather, Ralph Williams Jr., “Williams” while in the service and referred to him as “your grandpappy” throughout our conversation. He said Ralph never got mad and took orders well (John was in charge of the LCI deck force). Ralph always took care of the locks (devices for raising and lowering boats between stretches of water of different levels on river and canal waterways). He said Ralph was “a good man.”

Joseph McGonigle was First Officer of the LCI, but was transferred after the Allied Invasion of Sicily. John knew First Officer McGonigle would eventually leave, because he was a good leader.

In Italy, the crew all wanted to go ashore with John Pelle, because he spoke Italian. He remembered that John was from New York.

Jack Schraa was in charge of the LCI’s engine room. He also remembered John Hardy and asked about John Peganoff. Earlier he identified Bradley Bigelow and Noah Foreman in some of my grandfather’s photographs.

During Operation Overlord (the Battle of Normandy), John made six trips across the channel ferrying soldiers and supplies. After the Normandy campaign, Captain Ralph W. Wright asked John to stay aboard, even though he was approved for a 30 day furlough back to the states. John declined the invitation and went home. After his furlough, John was sent to the Pacific, where he served aboard an LCS (Littoral Combat Ship), which he called “a rocket ship.” He served aboard the LCS for 8 or 9 months until the war’s end.

John’s obituary appeared in the April 10, 2015 edition of the Observer-Reporter (Washington, PA):

John Onufer Jr., 93, of North Charleroi, passed away peacefully Tuesday, April 7, 2015, in Hallsworth House, Monessen, surrounded by his loving family.

He was born December 28, 1921, in North Charleroi, a son of John and Anna Kushnick Onufer Sr.
Mr. Onufer was a member of Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, Charleroi.

Prior to his retirement in 1982, he was employed for 42 years as a gauger at Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel.

Mr. Onufer served in the U.S. Naval Amphibious Forces during World War II, making beach landings in Sicily, Salerno, Anzio and Normandy before serving in the Pacific Theater until the end of the war. He was awarded five Bronze Stars for the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign, one Bronze Star for the Asiatic Pacific Theater, World War II Victory Medal, Navy Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, Navy Occupation Service Medal and an award from the French government for the Normandy invasion. He was honorably discharged with the rank of Chief Boatswain Mate.

A veteran, Mr. Onufer was a member of Free and Accepted Masons Lodge 615, Charleroi, and Veterans of Foreign Wars. He was also a life member of Disabled American Veterans and AMVETS.

He was devoted to his family and friends and truly enjoyed holiday celebrations and spending time at the family camper during the summer months. Other favorite pastimes included hunting with his dog, Rocky, fishing and tending to his garden.

Left to cherish their many memories of him are four daughters, Sandra Timko (John) of Rostraver Township, Gloria Bizick (Rick) of Canonsburg, Karen Niro (Joe) of Rostraver Township and Bonnie Brand (Paul) of Carroll Township; former wife, Sophie Onufer; a brother, Anthony Onufer of Camp Hill; 11 grandchildren, Johnny (fiancée Jessica Yuhasz), Jordan (Becky) and Jessalyn Timko, Richard, Brendan and Briana Bizick, Joelle, Jocelyn and Jillian Niro and Sophia and Amelia Brand; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Deceased, in addition to his parents, are a sister, Catherine Hega, and three brothers, William, Michael and Nicholas.

Family and friends will be received from 6 to 8 p.m. Sunday and 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Monday in Melenyzer Funeral Homes & Cremation Services Inc., 825 Fallowfield Avenue, Charleroi, where prayers will be recited at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 14. Funeral services will follow at 10 a.m. in Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, Charleroi, with the Rev. Gregory Petersen officiating and the Rev. Samuel Smolcic concelebrating. Interment will follow in Monongahela Cemetery. A Parastas service will be held at 6 p.m. Monday in the funeral home.

USS LCI(L)-11 Crew

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