Longtime Army veteran known as ‘everybody’s friend’
An inscription under Frank Strzalka’s high school yearbook picture reads, “A friend to everybody and everybody’s friend.”
That's how he’ll be remembered by many, family members said.
Francis “Frank” Ignatius Strzalka Jr., 86, of Stockbridge died of cancer on Tuesday, June 16, 2015, in Grand Ledge.
Born to Polish immigrants in Detroit on Feb. 9, 1929, Mr. Strzalka was the oldest son among six children. He graduated in 1945 from St. Andrew High School in Detroit and went on to serve more than two decades in the Army.
He was with friends in downtown Detroit when he met Sarah E. Walker. They’d been together ever since, marrying on Sept. 2, 1961. Son Larry was born in 1964. They settled in Riverview.
Though he spent several years as a recruiter, Mr. Strzalka served a year in Vietnam combat ending in June 1969.
The tour earned him the Combat Infantryman Badge, a source of pride, said son Larry Strzalka of Eagle.
“He had to fight for it, even though he earned it,” he said.
In 1976, after 21 years, Mr. Strzalka retired as a master sergeant. He later became a Riverview animal control officer.
“When I would drive by him and his dog-catcher truck, there’d be a dog next to him on the front seat,” Larry Strzalka said. “He didn’t want to put him in the cage in back.”
After retiring with Sarah to Stockbridge, he enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren, Cannon and Carolyn, and continued to make friends.
“He had that gruff outside,” his son said, “but he got along with everyone. There was nobody who didn’t like him.”
Other survivors include brothers Eugene Strzalka of Shelby Township and Kenneth Strzalka of Tucson, Arizona; sister Geraldine Miles of Sterling Heights; and several nieces and nephews.
A funeral Mass was celebrated Friday at Sts. Cornelius and Cyprian Catholic Church in Leslie. Interment will take place at a later date at Fort Custer National Cemetery in Augusta, Michigan. Memorial contributions may be made to the Army Emergency Relief Fund.