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Obituary for Felix 'Phil' Laskiewicz
Phil passed away at Vacaville Convalescent and Rehabilitation Center at the age of 88 after a courageous battle with pneumonia and congestive heart failure. He was a resident of Emeritus at Leisure Town (formerly Merrill Gardens) in Vacaville for the past 6 years. Born in Chicago, Illinois to Teofila Bednarowicz and Chester Laskiewicz, Phil grew up in the Chicago area and joined the Navy at age 17, completing boot camp at Great Lakes Naval Station. He was assigned to the USS Blessman as a member of the Underwater Demolition Team (UDT), the equivalent of today’s Navy SEALs, and was instrumental in the invasion of Iwo Jima during WWII. The UDT’s were responsible for mapping out the ocean floor between the ships and beaches, exploring for (and detonating) underwater explosive devices and taking samples of sand from the beaches, all part of the “amphibious technique” that was required prior to a successful beach invasion. While performing these dangerous missions, the UDT’s exposed themselves to enemy fire and many other hazards. On the evening of June 18, 1944, the Blessman was hit by a bomb from a Japanese warplane, killing 40 sailors, including 15 members of the UDT. Fire broke out immediately and the ship lost all power. Battling heavy smoke and with water pumps rendered inoperable due to the blast, the crew was reduced to using bucket brigades and helmets to keep the fire from spreading. It is said that during these critical moments Felix performed heroic deeds to aid his fallen comrades and help rescue the ship. Eventually the ship was saved, and later completely rebuilt at Mare Island in Vallejo, CA. It was at a dance in Vallejo that Felix met Wanda Henderson. She had a wonderful sense of humor and they hit it off right away. They were married in 1945 and had 2 children, Kitty Sue and David. Phil worked as a machinist at the Benicia Arsenal, then Travis AFB and finally at the Chevron refinery in Richmond. As a family they enjoyed outdoor activities, especially camping and panning for gold in the foothills. Phil and Wanda loved to have fun, whether entertaining people at their home in Vacaville or taking road trips to see their many friends, some as far away as Florida. They later moved to Yuba City, and sadly Wanda passed away in 1989. From Yuba City, Phil moved to the Veterans’ Home in Yountville and most recently, Vacaville. He made friends everywhere he went and has been remembered as always having a smile on his face and a kind word for everyone. He was a member of the Loyal Order of the Moose for over 50 years, enjoyed dancing, gambling at Boomtown, going out for breakfast- especially for omelets, and spending time with his grandkids. He leaves behind many friends, family members and veteran “brothers and sisters” who all became part of his life and will miss him dearly- especially his best friend and fellow war hero, Richard “Dick” Downer of Yountville. A military service will be held in his honor at the Sacramento Valley National Veterans Cemetery in Dixon on Monday, January 5th, 2015 at 1:30 p.m.