Earl Joseph Hovorka was born in the small farming community of Whiting, Kansas, about 30 miles north of Topeka, Kansas, on October 6, 1900. His father, Joseph, and mother, Alice Maitlin, had seven children together. Earl was the oldest son. He had two older sisters, Martha and Laura, a little brother, Walter, who died before the age of 1, another brother, Kenneth, and two younger sisters, Winifred (Winnie) and Georgia. He lost two siblings to illness before they reached the age of 21. I know that Winnie died while in Santa Fe, New Mexico, seeking treatment for tuberculosis.
My grandpa’s father, Joseph Amanuel, was born in Bohemia in 1858 but his family soon immigrated to Iowa when he was less than three years old. He married Alice Jane Maitlen in 1896 and she died at the age of 48.
My grandfather did not have a close relationship with his dad, especially after his mother passed away, and after his father remarried a women named Luella Jenson Brown in 1922. After this second marriage, my grandpa and his living siblings continued to meet and share each other’s company over the years but not as frequently with their father. Almost all of the Hovorka clan, except Earl, moved to California during the Depression years so later this necessitated my grandparents making many memorable and well documented trips out to California to see his siblings while on vacation from his job as superintendent of a post office in North Topeka.
Earl Joseph married my grandmother, Katherine Calahan Murrison, in 1923 and they had three children. One of them was my mother, Katherine Eileen Hovorka Hauck. As superintendent of the post office, he oversaw all the workers in the postal system to which he was assigned. This included preparing their work schedules as well as hiring and training employees, and evaluating their performance. His duties also extended to customers as he had to handle customer complaints and try to find an amicable solution to these issues. Mail superintendents had to supervise the processing of pieces of mail that come in and those that leave the post office. He retired at 55 due to several heart attacks hopefully not caused by the bad raps people have about the condition of our postal system, past and present. While running a post office was his full-time job, he built a home for his family in Topeka with his construction skills, honed from living on a farm for all of his growing up years, took care of an expansive garden (once a farmer, always a farmer) with his industrious wife, Katherine, which sustained them through the Depression years, they bought real estate property when they could and enjoyed fishing and playing cards. My mother, as a young women, had an extensive postal stamp collection as you can imagine having Earl as your dad.
After the early retirement in 1955, Earl and Katherine relocated to Quinault, Washington, where they built a home near the shores of Lake Quinault surrounded by a temperate, beautiful rain forest. My grandfather continued to garden, fish and enjoy his later years. While his health was poor, he lived on to the age of 70 when he died, quite suddenly, from a massive heart attack, while visiting my family in Medicine Lodge, Kansas, on one of their frequent trips back to Kansas to visit their daughter as well as many of Katherine’s sisters and extended family living in the Topeka area. I remember that day vividly as it was the first time, at the age of 9, I had come up close and personal to death as he fell ill during the night and my parents had to call for emergency medical help. I woke up to find my grandfather dead and my mother and grandmother in the depths of grief. I went to school that day but my heart wasn’t in it. Grandpa Hovorka was buried in Topeka, Kansas, and it was my first time to attend a funeral. I liked riding in the black limousine and all the flowers (one of Katherine’s sister owned a flower shop in Topeka) but I cried too many tears at the service. When is the right age to attend these rituals? Not sure I have the answer to this question but I have to share that the memories are still vivid in my mind so many years later.
My grandfather wasn’t a big talker as his wife filled in for him in that department. He was quiet and reserved and I don’t remember one conversation with him as a small child. I remember time spent on a fishing boat with him, tinkering in the shop, or picking blackberries in the garden but he was a man of few words but a jack of all trades. He was always busy working on projects with his ever present cigarette in his mouth. He didn’t quit smoking even after suffering several hearth attacks. Interesting that the Hovorka surname actually translates in Czech to talkative (hovor). It must have have been what attracted him to his wife. As we all remember, that knew her well, how my grandmother could hold a conversation.
caption id=”attachment_1707″ align=”alignnone” width=”193″] Postmaster Earl Joseph Hovorka[/caption]