Times West Virginian
Mike Sopak, “Uncle Mike,” 96, passed away on Jan. 16, 2014, at the West Virginia Veteran’s Nursing Facility in Clarksburg.
“Uncle Mike” was born on Sept. 24, 1917 in Sewickley Township, Westmoreland County, Pa., moving to Perryopolis, Pa., as a child, and eventually settling with his family in Rivesville.
He was the oldest of 13 children born to Susie (Sokol) and George Sopak, and the last surviving sibling. As a 16-year-old, he had to quit school and work in the Morgan Mines in Rivesville as a coal cutter. In his later teens, he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), helping clear fire trails in the western United States, sending most of his pay home to help support his family.
Mike served honorably in the U.S. Army in Europe during World War II from 1942 until 1946. He was inducted on Dec. 14, 1942, and assigned to the 42nd Infantry “Rainbow Division.” He achieved the level of Technician 4th Grade, serving as a heavy mortar crewman and combat infantryman.
In World War II, he participated in the European Theater of Operations from Dec. 8, 1944 until Feb. 7, 1946, involved in the Rhineland and Central Europe campaigns. He received the following decorations and citations: European-African-Middle Eastern Theatre Ribbon with three Bronze Service Stars, the Combat Infantry Badge, Good Conduct Medal, American Theatre Ribbon and World War II Victory Medal. He received his honorable discharge from the Army on Dec. 8, 1946, at Percy Jones General Hospital in Fort Custer, Mich.
After the war, Mike worked in the construction industry, helped out as a meat cutter in his friend George Sago’s store in Rivesville, and served as a bartender at the VFW in Fairmont. His main occupation and talent lay in the construction field, working for many years in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
As a young man, Mike enjoyed dancing, competing in many local dance contests with different partners and winning numerous awards. He was an avid fisherman and hunter throughout his life, and always enjoyed growing his own vegetables in a well-maintained garden.
He resided with a dear friend, Peggy, in Columbia, Tenn., for over 30 years, and established many relationships. In 2010, after serious health issues, he moved to New Jersey with niece Beverly, and then Pennsylvania with nieces Barbara, Linda and Beverly, eventually becoming a resident at the West Virginia Veteran’s Nursing Facility in Clarksburg.
Throughout his life, Mike always looked out for his brothers and sisters, maintained the family homestead in Rivesville, and resolutely stood strong as all of his younger siblings passed away over the years. He enjoyed many good times and plenty of blessings in his 96 years, an amazing achievement in light of his well-traveled, yet family-centered life.
Uncle Mike, a lifelong bachelor, is survived by numerous nieces and nephews across the United States, the country that he loved, traveled and proudly served in World War II. He was “lucky” to be surrounded for the past four years by so much love and compassion from the staff and residents at the West Virginia Veteran’s Nursing Facility.
The family suggests memorial contributions in memory of Uncle Mike to the West Virginia Veteran’s Nursing Facility, One Freedoms Way, Clarksburg, WV 26301.
Family and friends will have their opportunity to pay their respects today, from 1 to 9 p.m., and Saturday, from 9 to 10 a.m., at the Ford Funeral Home, DeGarmo Chapel, Second Street and Jasper Street, in Rivesville. Funeral rites will be held in the funeral home at 10 a.m. on Saturday with Father Robert Perriello as Celebrant. Interment will follow at Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Fairmont.
Online condolences may be made to www.fordfuneralhome.com.