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Taps - Farewell to Peter Radonich

by Ryan Hegg & SofS Staff - March 23, 2008

We say goodbye to our California Co-Chair and one of our oldest friends


Peter John Radonich: 1925 - 2008

On March 23, 2008 -- Easter Sunday --  Stories of Service lost one of our oldest friends, our California program Co-Chair, Peter Radonich.

Peter's Digital Story, "Ordinary Heroes", told of his experiences during the battle of Okinama, one of the most costly battles of the entire war.  But Peter also wanted us to remember that his generation not only won the war, but that they helped rebuilt the shattered nations of the world  - friend and foe alike.  Watch "Ordinary Heroes".

However, Peter's contribution to Stories of Service did not end with the telling of his story; in fact, it had only just begun.  Over the past few years, he became a tireless advocate of the program, attending every possible event, speaking to countless audiences, recruiting new veterans and even working one on one with new participants to help them tell their stories. 

His quiet, thoughtful manner and his own undeniably difficult experiences during the war gave many veterans the confidence to open up and reach into long-forgotten -- and sometimes painful -- memories one last time, so that their stories would be remembered by future generations. Read his testimonial.

We asked some of those who knew Peter best to share their thoughts and memories about our lost friend...

* * * * *

Warren Hegg, Executive Director of the Digital Clubhouse Network (Stories of Service's parent program) remembers:

"Peter was one of the greatest.   Not only because of his service in World War II where he survived the more than 80 days of the horror that was the battle for Okinawa, but for all the years he volunteered his time and talent to help other veterans produce their digital stories and always being there for Robert Corpus and his team.

"I know that you will join us in our prayers for Janet Radonich.  She and Peter were inseparable and attended every Stories of Service function together.

"We will miss Peter's warm smile and quick wit, his kindness and compassion.  He was a gentle man, a role mode, a mentor, and a loyal friend who believed deeply in Stories of Service.

"He was  a true hero."

* * * * *

Peter (far left) and Jerry (second from right) hold proclamations and recognition from the California state legislature.

Jerry Rosenthal, a fellow World War II veteran and like Peter, a longtime advocate and supporter of Stories of Service, shared these thoughts:

"I cannot believe that I will not be able to look across the Firehouse and see Janet and Peter sitting there with Peter preparing to go to the front of the room to say a few inspirational words to new story tellers and their young producers.

"I am sorry not to have been able to tell Peter how I was always in awe of him: His wonderful voice on the radio, the magic of his personality and the ability to draw people to him. His presence made this world a better place."

* * * * *

 


 

(L to R) Peter, Lavada Begley Peterson, and Robert outside at the History Park in San Jose.

But perhaps the most poignant recollection was offered by Robert Corpus, our national youth leader and one of Peter's closest friends in the program:

"Peter has gone to go see them, again… the 36 forever young men of C Company of the 184 Infantry Regiment, who were killed in action on Okinawa during World War II.

"He has gone to tell them about the last 63 years of his life; the beautiful girl he married in 1946, and the beautiful family he has raised.  He has gone to tell them about his antique car collection, the regimental army reunions, and to tell them about their memorial he visited in 2004.

"I first met Peter in 2004. I interviewed him one Saturday morning at Lou’s donut shop. He was the first war hero I ever met.

"Unfortunately, I ruined the interview by not turning on the microphone on. Fortunately, he laughed and agreed to do it again the next week.

"I had the honor of visiting his home up in the Santa Cruz Mountains, where he had lived his entire life. I was on my way to a WWII reenactment event at Camp Roberts and wanted to show him the uniform and boots I was wearing - similar to his. He gave me a can of mink oil to polish the boots.

"Peter presented the Stories of Service program everywhere with me; San Diego to Sacramento, California to Washington D.C. He was a true believer in the program and felt that every WWII veteran needed to tell his or her story before it was too late. Over the years he had recruited over 15 fellow veterans into the project.

"He and Janet had been married for nearly 60 years, and went everywhere together. Had Peter and I been teens together during the 40’s we would have fought each other over the same girl. I hope that I can be half as lucky.

"A few days before he was scheduled to have surgery, we shared a 15 minute phone conversation. I told him that I had finally gotten some patches and pins to replicate the wool uniform he wore during the war. We were going to compare jackets when he came home. I found an old 1945 Yank Magazine with featured story on Okinawa. I was going to go read it to him at the hospital as he recovered. I hung up the phone that Friday afternoon, and said to myself, I love that man. I wish I'd only told him.

"Peter wanted me to meet his friend Bob, a WWII veteran. I only live two blocks from Bob. For four months we tried to get together for Peter to introduce me, but the timing was off. Today I drove passed Bob’s house twice deciding whether to introduce myself under these circumstances. I told Bob’s wife, Rose, of the sad news and we talk for several minutes about Peter; she said he was the nicest man, picking up Bob for meetings and always calling to say hello. Today I offered to take Peter’s place in driving Bob to his appointments and calling to say hello. She held my hand and said, “I hope this is the beginning of a very long relationship.”

"Today I learned with an end comes a new beginning. In the end, Peter finally introduced me to Bob and Rose."

"And finally, Peter, tell the men of C Company I said hello and that I am going to write a screenplay about the company. "

* * * * *

Peter, you will be missed, perhaps more than you know.  In your story, "Ordinary Heroes", you tell us about how you and Janet once made a pact to live forever.  Those of us whom you left behind will help you keep that pledge, by keeping you in our hearts and memories, and by continuing the work that you so wholeheartedly embraced in your twilight years.

March 24, 2008

 


Related Testimonials

"It is remarkable to see how each generation comes away with an enriched understanding of the other"

Related Stories (Videos)

Ordinary Heroes

Peter recalls the brutality of war and honors the "ordinary heroes" he served with.



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