Eulogy of Teodor Jaremus
We are gathered here today to lay to rest, Teodor Jaremus, a man whose life should be remembered for itís toughness, for his adaptability and frugality, for his love of life and love of his family and friends, and his concern for those less fortunate than him.
Let me tell you a little bit about Ted, the boy.
Teodor Jaremus was born February 5th, 1923, the second child of Polish migrant farm laborers. He was born in Gryfice, Germany, where his father was picking potatoes. A few years later, the family moved back to Poland and settled down in the new port city of Gdynia. The family had a tough life. In the early years, his parents had a boarding house on the harbor. But when the city decided to expand the harbor, they condemned the homes in the area for business expansion giving the Jaremusí an empty suburban lot in exchange. His father was a political labor activist and a drinker, whose tough style and altercations got him thrown into prison. When Tedís father came home from working on a ship, somehow he had little to show for it. As a child, it was rare to have meat on the table, and a pair of holey shoes had to last for years. Tedís parents took the kids into the woods where they would gather mushrooms to supplement their meals.
In September 1939 when WWII broke out, Ted was 15-1/2 years old. As the Germans took control of Poland, many Poles were recruited as ďVolk-deutschĒ, non-German conscripts that were offered an easier way their families. Ted was one of only a few Poles from the area that refused to fight for the Germans. He was publicly beaten up by the Germans to humiliate him for his defiance. Most of the Polish Volk-deutsch were sent to the Russian front lines where they were the first to die. At this young age, Ted was shipped off as a slave laborer, while his mother and sister were put into a concentration camp. They lived to see another day.
Let me tell you about Ted, the young man.
While working in the coal mines in Verdun, France, he came up to the surface for a break and pulled a bit of straw from the hut at the entrance to the mine, to chew on. The German guard, thinking he was trying to shake the hut and signal the overhead US bombers Ė drew his gun on Ted and prepared to shoot him. He pleaded in French as best he could that he didnít know about the bombers, which he hadnít. Somehow he went on to see another day.
Later that year, there was a partial mine collapse and timbers fell on him breaking his collarbone and leg. Somehow he survived another day.
Ted had a talent for language. In the prison camp, he managed to pick up enough German and French to become the language translator for the Germans to their Polish and French laborers. While in the labor camp, one of his friends was being beaten by a German officer. Ted suggested to the officer that he ďpick on someone his own sizeĒ. While Ted wasnít exactly his size, he was a tough young man. He beat up the officer so bad, he knocked one eye out. Ted was put into solitary confinement for 30 days with only bread and water, from which he almost died. But somehow he survived another day.
When the American army came through Verdun in 1944 he joined up and served as a munitions laborer and as a cook. He gained a great appreciation for the American soldiers who seemed to possess an openness and strength of character that he hadnít experienced. He took pride in cooking a good meal for the Americanís. The camp commander publicly singled him out for his cooking efforts. This was the beginning of his cooking career.
After the war he went back home to Gdynia, Poland, where he obtained training in the culinary arts. He became a cook, working on a ship from that seaport. In 1948 he took advantage of shore leave in Galveston, Texas and ďjumped shipĒ making his way up to Coloma, Michigan, and eventually down to Chicago, Illinois, where he met George Gidzinski who introduced him to one of his daughters, my mother, Eugenia. He was an illegal immigrant.
Let me tell you about Ted, the father and provider.
While Ted was a proud Pole, a member of St. Cyril & Methodious and later this church, and a member of the PNA and the Polish Political League, he was also adaptable and a survivor. He plied not only his culinary skills, but also his hard earned language skills into becoming the head chef of several German restaurants; the Wishing Well, the Golden Ox, and the Red Star Inn. Why did he do it? Because at that time in Chicago, there few Polish restaurants. So he took his skills, saw the reality of the marketplace and used them for what they were worth for the benefit of his family. And he gave a lot in return. He usually working 6 and sometimes 7 days a week. But he never complained.
At Dohlís Morton House he carried the title ďexecutive chefĒ but he was never an executive. He worked on his feet all day long. If he wasnít working behind the broiler, he would function as butcher to save money for the restaurant. And he loved his work and he loved making good food. Ben and I know, because we worked there. In 1985 when the Chicago Bears won the super bowl, and we were talking about the game and Mike Ditka, Iíll never forget dad saying ďIíd sure like to feed that guyĒ. He took great pleasure in providing sustenance.
He also had a love of nature. He loved to go walking in the woods picking mushrooms at Johnnyís house or at the Miami woods near home. He did this because as a child, his parents sent him to secret places in the woods to pick mushrooms so that they would have food to eat. His life was about frugality and lack of waste. When we were growing up, eating the food on our plate was a rule. It was a sin not to clean your plate. You needed to eat it all, because you never know when the enemy might be at the gate.
As kids growing up in a suburban environment we found it hard to relate to his strange stories from a different world. But in í62 when we came awfully close to having a nuclear confrontation with the Russians over missiles in Cuba, and we were being shown in school how to hide under our desks in case of nuclear attack and there were family conversations about building a fall out shelter, these stories of survival and toughness all of a sudden didnít seem quite so crazy.
Ted had a big heart. From the 50ís through at least the 70ís while we didnít have much, he and mom would send care packages back to Tedís mother and sister in communist Poland. He opened his home to many a young Polish man trying to get his start in the world. Mike Plewa was a good example. When Ted and I were in Poland in 1991, we met Mikeís father who asked if there was any way his son could come to America. Mike came and stayed with Ted off and on for 5 years. Mike was a massage therapist, and dad was glad to trade a daily massage for room and board. Mike is now a doctor of Therapy at a University in Poland, living a successful life. He is a life long friend of Tedís and mine. Tedís generosity hasnít been forgotten.
As my sister said the other day, Ted had a hard time with our Throw Away Society. It was hard coming from a family where they barely had clothes to wear seeing people throw out so much. As we all know, he collected a lot of stuff from the curbside. He used some of it, sold some of it, but mostly just gave it away to whoever could use it. It was a sin to throw things away and not use it.
Finally, Ted was a family man. When we were living back on Kildare, I remember many times driving to The Edgewater Beach Hotel with dad to pick up grandpa, who didnít drive. He worked hard to give his wife Genia a wonderful home in Morton Grove. This wasnít something he wanted. He wanted an apartment building, a family house back in the city. But he bowed to momís wishes.
I remember how dad would put grandpa to work Dohlís Morton House. Grandpa was in his 70ís. Was he taking advantage of grandpa? It sure seemed so, until I talked with Grandpa. Grandpa appreciated the occasional work and liked to help out. And when Grandpa came to live with mom and dad for the last 3 years of his life, it wasnít easy. Dad and mom were running their own business, working 12-hour days, but taking care of grandpa was also a requirement. His actions spoke louder than words.
When mom died from that terrible Scleroderma disease, dad did everything he could to keep mom at home. When it came time to put mom in hospital, he practically lived at the hospital to be by her side. Watching mom suffer like that was probably the hardest thing my dad experienced. But it was his way to do whatever he could.
For his children, we have many wonderful memories of our childhood. Ted encouraged us to succeed and did his best to provide a basis for us to do so. When we got older, he was always there to provide a meal, a bed, some advice and a helping hand, but mostly a lot of food and a lot of advice. As we grew up, got married and experienced our American success, somehow he saw that he couldnít help us. We didnít need the things he found on the curbside, although his food was always a treat.
Despite Tedís quirky ways, all of his kids have successful marriages with families, nice homes and good jobs. Not something that happens very often in todayís society. Iíd like to think that some of the lessons that Ted taught us made a difference in our lives. So let us remember Ted for his courage to live, for his strength and perseverance in the face of hardship, and for his love for his family and care those less fortunate than him, a life that Jesus Christ would, I think, be proud of.
By his son, Rolfe Jaremus
Written December 24, 2005
During Thanksgiving of 1990, 8 months after my mother passed away, my father Ted (his real name was Teodor) asked me if I would write a Christmas letter to his old friend Bob Gavet. My mother Eugenia, who was born in America and had a native grasp of English, had been writing a yearly letter to Bob on behalf of my father, whose writing skills were rather challenged. At that time, I had heard a little bit about Bob Gavet and dadís wartime experience. I had occasionally read Bob Gavetís holiday letter to Ted which dad often put on the coffee table in the Morton Grove living room, but I really didnít know very much. So before agreeing to do anything I asked my dad for more information.
I knew that Ted had been a slave or forced laborer working for the Nazi war machine. As a teenager, I had heard bits and pieces of his story but I never understood how it fit together; where he went and when things occurred, or very much about the Gavets. Then sometime around 1986 I interviewed my dad to nail down his wartime experiences. So hereís a little about that Ted Jaremus - 1947 time as it relates to his Guernsey experiences.
When the Naziís invaded Poland in September of 1939, Ted was a 16 year old boy. His mother tried to shelter him from service but the Naziís eventually processed all able bodied men and though they tried to escape, Ted was eventually "enlisted". Because he was born in Grifice, Germany while his parents were working as migrant laborers, and since he grew up in the new Polish port city of Gdynia he and other Poles from his hometown were offered an opportunity to fight for the Nazis as "Volk-deutch". Out of a group of 300 Poles, he and 6 of his friends refused to join. Although Ted was beaten and humiliated at the recruitment event, these refuseniks were the lucky ones. They were sent off to work as slave laborers for the German war machine. Those Poles that agreed to fight for the Germans were sent to the German-Russian front line and were never seen again.
Tedís first assignment was working as a laborer on a nearby Prussian farm. There he developed a reputation for being a hard worker. Sometime around 1942 he was send by train through Germany to occupied France and then shipped over to Guernsey, one of the English Channel Islands off the coast of France. The British had evacuated the island as they had decided early in the war not to defend the islands. Most of the citizens were relocated to northern English towns, however a number of Guernsians, refused to leave.
After the Naziís took over the Island, they decided to build sea side concrete bunkers and an extensive series of underground tunnels. They built these as underground supply depots and fortifications for what they erroneously believed was a coming British invasion. Ted was one of many Polish slave laborers and other skilled Axis craftsmen from the continent that worked on this project. For the skilled Axis workers, this was a job assignment and they were paid and treated like employees. For the slave laborers, the reality was quite different. As my father explained, the conditions were very harsh for the Poles (and other nationalities) and the work was very hard. The granite rock that they were mining into was very hard. Some days they only made a few inches of tunneling progress. Later the Germans shipped over some diamond tipped grinding machines that allowed them to make much better progress. The Poles, like Ted, were largely there to remove the stone debris and do the back breaking manual labor work in the tunnels. The conditions were harsh for the laborers. The food was basic and of poor nutrition. Ted said he was constantly hungry. Many Poles died during the work efforts.
While going to work from the barracks, Ted walked along the back side of a local farm where Ted slowly befriended a local farm boy Bob Gavet. Ted didnít know English and Bob didnít know Polish but somehow they managed to communicate. Bobís mother took a liking to Ted as he was a slight, young, polite man. She gave him some milk or food if they had some to spare. Ted explained that his motivation was to get a fallen apple from their apple tree, a piece of bread, or something else to eat as the rations for the laborers was very meager. Bob and Bobís mother stuck their necks out for him and helped him survive those difficult days.
So back to Thanksgiving, 1990. With little knowledge about the writing arrangements and a little knowledge about the Guernsey/Gavet story, I said, "what do you want me to write?". I was thinking maybe dad would dictate the contents of a letter and I would write for him. That wasnít to be the case. Rather, my dad said, "tell Bob whatís going on with us". He gave me a letter that he had gotten from Bob. We talked a bit about it, but I made no commitment. I was busy with work as I had recently started a new job, so the letter writing effort languished for a while. When we got together for Christmas later that year, dad asked again if I would write. So after giving it a bit of thought, and asking him what he wanted me to say, I wrote the first letter. I wrote it in Tedís voice so to say, explaining what happened to his wife and other things that had happened during the year. The extended Jaremus family at the time all had young children, so there was a lot of family stuff to write about. That was the beginning of my correspondence with Bob.
The following year dad got another letter from Bob. He had read it and he gave it to me, and once again asked me to write to Bob for him. I once again asked him what he wanted to say. He gave me a few thoughts and his encouragement : "Just tell him whatís going on with the family". So I was getting the idea about how this was going to work. I went ahead and wrote another letter. As time went on, I took ownership of the writing duty. I was beginning to find it interesting to correspond with Bob. He was a good, gracious person that wrote in the British vernacular. He talked about the old family farm, his brother who was still lived on the farm. Bob was retired by then. He talked about his wife Marjorie, their grown children and grandchildren.
As I came to understand, life on Guernsey after the war had changed quite a bit. For a few decades after the war, Guernsey was still an agrarian island. Most of the people were subsistence farmers, living quiet unassuming lives away from the hustle and bustle of the British cities. During the 70ís and 80ís, Guernsey became a hot house island growing tomatoes, lettuce, peppers and other warm weather vegetables and flowers that didnít grow so well in England proper. While working for a local garage, Bob invested and had built several hot houses and grew tomatoes and flowers for export. But as time went on, European trade and transportation methods improved, and when the oil embargo of 1974 hit with the soaring oil prices, transportation costs increased dramatically. These kinds of vegetables could be grown more easily in Holland or Italy and Spain and transported by ship to England less expensively than from Guernsey where the cool oceanic climate required greenhouse growing.
Then sometime in the 70ís or 80ís, the Channel Islands, while part of the United Kingdom, but having independence from Britain Ė became an off-shore banking destination. British people could park some of their money in Guernsey or Jersey (a sister island) banks and not have to pay the high taxes that were being charged in mainland England. As a result, a large number of banks and financial institutions set up shop on the island. Guernsey and Jersey became off shore financial centers. One of Bob and Marjorieís daughters worked at one of these banks. But the key thing was that the island economy changed from being a self- sustaining largely agricultural quiet outpost known for itís Jersey cows, their cheese and butter to becoming a tony financial haven. With the coming of more banks and wealthy bankers, a new marina was built in the 80ís. Local hotels were refurbished and built. The picturesque fishing town of St. Peters Port became a desirable tourist destination.
Bob and Marjorie Gavet on vacation in Austria, 1991
By the time I took up the writing duties, Bob and Ted were both retired. Bobís brother was still working or more likely piddling about at the old farmsteadÖ.
In December of 2005 my dad died. And with his passing, being the family "historian" I "received" a lot of the old family documents. In these documents I found a letter that my mother had written in 1958. Mom and dad had been married for 8 years with 3 children and Ted was thinking about how grateful he was for the help the Gavetís gave him. Ted wanted to reach out and thank Bob Gavet and his mother, but there was one little problem. He didnít remember Bobís name. So he had my mother write a letter (see below) to the powers- that-be on Guernsey. A letter was published in the local St. Peterís Port newspaper with the title "Pole Thanks Farmer For Occupation Help". Bob read the article and wrote back to see if it was his friend Ted, and that began their long distance correspondence.
After my fatherís passing in 2005, I continued to write to Bob. I had been doing it for 15 years, and I enjoyed hearing about Bob, his wife Marjorie and their childrenís families and such. My letters were always typed up on a computer, while Bobís letters were always hand written. Then in September of 2008 Bob passed away. His wife Marjorie wrote to let me know. I wrote her back and we continued the correspondence.
In 2013, to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary, Shanda and I went to France, but we also went to Guernsey. After all of these years, I wanted to at least meet Marjorie before she passed away. From Paris, we went up to the port city of St. Malo, France and from there we took a ferry over to St. Peterís Port where we stayed for several days. We had a reunion of sorts with the family over lunch at Marjorieís house which they named Ivanhoe. Marjorie and her son Alan took us on a tour of the island showing us where the old family farm was, where the old barracks were that dad stayed in, and the St. Saviourís Tunnel that Ted labored in. It was called the St. Saviours Tunnel because it was built about a 100 feet underneath the St. Saviours Church. The St. Saviourís Tunnel was closed and blocked off so that no one could enter due to falling mine debris and the fear of collapse. We did take a tour of a nearby tunnel that was now a museum Ė run by, of all things, a Gavet family relative.
In Marjorieís 2019 Christmas letter, she said she was finally cleaning out Bobís bureau and found the newspaper article, Bobís draft letter to Ted back in 1958 along with a slip of paper from the early 40ís on which Ted had written his home address and gave it to Bobís mother (below) before he left Guernsey. I recognized my dadís hand writing. It shows Tedís home address which, at that time during the war, was a part of Germany - Gottarhafen ĖWittami, WestPr(ussia) being the Germanized names for Wittami, Gdynia, Poland. So it brought a tear to my eyes to see those old documents that my dad and Bob wrote to each other so many years before. These documents in turn spurred me to get the old Ted and Eugenia document bins from storage and go through them. I have found a treasure trove of letters from relatives and friends primarily from Poland but also many of the letters from Bob Gavet, several of which are attached. Itís a great story of friendship, and one that I am glad to be connected to.
On the following pages are some pictures and letters that I have.
These are a couple of wartime pictures of Ted during or shortly after the war. After being freed by American forces he worked for a time at an army depot somewhere near Verdun, France and was also a driver for an American officer. He worked for the American Army for about a year, after which he went back to Gdynia, Poland.
On following page are the documents that Marjorie Gavet sent to me in January of 2020. The first page are photos of Letter that was published in a newspaper in St Peterís Port in1958 which was a result of a letter that Eugenia Jaremus wrote for Ted to try to reach the Gavets. Also on that page is the draft of Bob Gavetís letter to Ted in response to the ad. The third is a shred of paper that Ted wrote his Polish home address on in approx. 1943 when he was leaving Guernsey. It is interesting because it references a German address. The reason for this was that the Germans had occupied Poland for several years and there was no realization at that time that things would change.
Pages 7 Ė 9 is a May, 1985 letter that Bob wrote to Ted. It was in response to the 40th anniversary of the liberation of Guernsey. Bob was thinking of Ted and reminiscing about some of their experiences during the occupation.
On the following pages is a testimonial about Ted Jaremusí time working as a slave laborer during the occupation of Guernsey. This was written by Bob Gavet in January of 2000 at my request. Ben, Julie and Rolfe were trying to gather evidence and documentation of Tedís wartime experience with the hope that he might get compensation from the German government for his laboring and suffering during the war. Many Jews were given hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation for their suffering and losses that they endured. From our vantage point, Ted has suffered as much as many Jew except those that were in concentration camps. Tedís mother and sister were in the Regenbruck Concentration Camp. The German reparations office determined that Ted had been "paid" while working as a slave laborer so he was not due much compensation. Ted received about $2000.
The following are some pages from a book German Tunnels In Guernsey, Alderney & Sark published for Festung Guernsey by Channel Island Art & Books, Oct, 2012. These are pictures of the St. Saviourís or Sous LíEglise H12 tunnel.
This page was last updated 05/22/20