Service - United States Marine Corps, Vietnam era, Air Wing VMA 142 VMFA, USS Independence CV 62
Medals and awards - Navy Unit Citation, National Defense, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy Marine Corp Commendation Medal, Marine Expert Rifle, Marine Sharpshooter 45 Caliber Pistol
Thomas James Dobek
Duties - Responsible for all United States Marine A4C Skyhawks aboard the supercarrier the USS Independence CV 62 making sure all work was performed to Marine Corp Flight specifications and regulations. He also ensured all aircrafts were checked out for flight readiness, confirming pilot qualifications, medical status and aircraft mission status, to verify pre-flight checks were made by qualified personnel and to confirm that proper ordinance had been requested and issued to and attached properly to required aircraft, assigned pilots and mission.
UMFA Marine Fighter Attack Squadron, VMA 142 - United States Marine Corp reserve A4-C Skyhawk Squadron was attached to the super carrier USS Independence in 1968. VMA 142 officially became the very first Marine Corp reserve squadron unit that had the privilege of being the carrier. VMA had landed 20, A 4C skyhawks on the Independence and when the 21st skyhawk landed, VMA 142 officially went from being a Marine reserve air wing unit to an active status marine air unit now being assigned its home base as the USS Independence CV 62.
USS Independence CV-62 Super Carrier - This carrier was commissioned on Jan. 10, 1959. It was built in New York City. It was unique because it had five aircraft elevators giving the CAG (commander air group) the opportunity to select the proper aircraft to fit the proper mission. It was 1,069 feet long and 276 feet wide. It held 85 aircrafts capable of completing any combat mission in her TAOR (tactical area of responsibility). It was armed with 3 MK 29 sea sparrows and three 20mm Phalanx C-1W5 MK 15S. In 1967, it joined the sixth fleet then in 1970 the U.S. received word of the death of Garmal Addul Nasser, president of the Arab Republic. This event might have plunged the entire Middle East into crisis. The Independence CV-62 and her sisters the USS John F. Kennedy CV 67 and USS Saratoga CV 60 and seven other warships set sail for the Middle East and were put on standby. This force of U.S. Naval power had shown a counter balance between the Soviet Fleet that was also sent east. The other reason for deployment was to ensure safe evacuation of U.S. military and citizens from the area if needed.
Married: On July 21, 1973 Dobek married Mary (Terese) Dobek at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Dunkirk.
Children: Christopher, Elizabeth and Kathryn (Katie)
Grandchildren: Colby and Brady
Family: Sister, Audrey Bell; husband Gene; brother Joseph Dobek, wife Suzanne; brother, Patrick Dobek; wife Linda; brother, James Dobek; wife Mary
Thomas James Dobek was born May 20, 1948, at Brooks Memorial Hospital in Dunkirk. He was the son of Joseph and Martha (Chrabasz) Dobek. The family resided at 135 S. Ocelot St. in Dunkirk's first ward. Dobek's father was a baker for many years at the Kittel Bakery in Silver Creek, making this eight-mile journey five times a week. Afterward, he was fortunate to get a local job in Dunkirk landing a position in the city of Dunkirk's Public Works department.
Dobek had the good fortune, as myself, of growing up in Dunkirk's first ward. First ward traditions from the older boys passed down to the younger ones. They did traditional things like living at Wright Park Beach during the entire summer. Baseball games were played at School 7 or Pangolin Street. They swam out to the breakwall from the table rock then waded through flats.
The winter months brought ice skating back at Pangolin Street, outside basketball and unlimited snowball fights. One of the biggest advantages of that era was the number of children that all seemed to be within your age. Summers always had four or five hardball games going daily from Easter Sunday until Labor Day weekend. Playgrounds were always full with lines waiting for the playground keeper to unlock the lock and bring out the playground crafts, balls and games.
For Dobek, school - as for everyone else - was only a three block walk to St. Hyacinth's Elementary School. In the sixth grade, at this school it was expected of the boys to become altar boys and help the priest with Mass, serving funerals, weddings and other church events. Dobek wanted to be an altar boy and with many hours of studying could recite the entire Mass in Latin because of the time. Dobek, they say, could recite the Latin Mass even in his sleep without making one mistake. Upon passing his altar boy test, he was placed on a team which was put on a schedule. Family members told of a time that Dobek's father had received calls from the priest to have Dobek come to the church quickly because the other boys failed to show. Dobek always, no matter what was going on, responded to the requests. He was an outstanding altar boy, so much that many parishioners requested him by name to serve at their weddings or a family member's funeral.
After elementary school, he attended Cardinal Mindszenty High School where he loved and excelled in track. Now in his teenage years he hung out with neighborhood friends; Tom Fedyszyn, John Dengler, Joe Rutkowski, Adolph Herdizk, Bob Berek, Tom Kuzmierz, Tom and Robert Fafinski. If you were to ask if you knew where Tom Dobek could be, one answer could be the beach house. If he wasn't there you might try Pangolin Street, School 7, table rock, the breakwall of devils hole, or the cliffs. You could also find him walking the first ward street drainage tunnel that started at Wright Park and ended up in the fourth ward.
Nights could find Dobek with a flashlight in his back pocket surrounded with friends waiting for the 11 o'clock news to end and waiting to see all the living rooms lights go off. Within minutes the group would be seen running down the street after raiding the local families' gardens. Other nighttime mischief included sneaking into Speedy's barn and later walking down at the end of Wright Park drive waiting for couples to park, then running up to the cars and placing a potato in the exhaust pipe. Then you waited for the driver to start the car and most time hearing the loudest backfire one could make. We basically called this pastime bushwacking.
On Sundays, for $7.50 in the summer, the First Ward Falcon Club offered tickets to the Cleveland Indians games. The money would include the train ride, ticket to the game, and refreshments. Dobek had been a Cleveland fan from day one and very seldom missed a chance to see them play.
Dobek made the decision to be a U.S. Marine in the military. In 1969 he was off to Parris Island and to what became 13 weeks of hell.
After basic, he left for Camp Lejeune for ITR (infantry training regiment) where marines learned to use all weapons of choice that the marines used at the time. At Camp Lejeune it was learned that his value to the Marine Corps was in marine aviation, which meant his next station was Cherry Point in North Carolina. Later stations had Dobek at Millington, Tenn. and Key West, Fla.
At Key West, he received orders informing him he was assigned to VMA 142 VMFA. Tom Dobek's new duty station now was the super aircraft that carried the USS Independence CV 62. His new job carried unlimited responsibilities. The new assignment put him in charge of pre-flight aviation. He was assigned to a super carrier which had some perks to it. Along with the job came seeing the world. Being on the Independence brought him some cruises which included the Mediterranean, France and Italy. It also brought memories to his wife, who had the opportunity to visit him at most of his duty stations.
In 1970, Dobek's military obligations were completed. He received an honorable discharge and took him first employment with the Ford Stamping Plant where he worked from 1973 to 1976. Then in 1977 he landed a job with the U.S. Postal Service. He did this job until his retirement in 2009. In 32 years, he covered five postal routes in the city of Dunkirk. During these years of service he received the 1 Million Mile Award.
Many people considered Dobek to be the biggest Cleveland Browns fan and Cleveland Indians fan in our area.
He held Cleveland Indians season tickets some years and caught any excursion or chance to see his team play. He always took family members if the opportunity arose, ensuring the loyalty would remain to the Indians and Browns. When the season's end came, you would always see him at Hillview with his golf buddies Mike Baron and Ed Koserb. Dobek will be remembered as a man of faith who was a true friend and a mailman who went the extra yard to make sure all was well.
If I were to pick out one memory that sets Tom Dobek above the rest, it would be his love for his wife, children, and grandchildren. He spent all his time with family and always had a grandson in his arms.
Tom James Dobek was just a good man. He was always there to help, always there to give. He was never happy until he knew his family was happy. Most people knew him as the happy-go-lucky mailman who actually enjoyed doing his job. The avid golfer who always believed he could knock two strokes off his game every time he teed off on the first hole. The true, blue Cleveland Browns fan who believed that his Browns would win the Super Bowl this year, never once giving up hope until the very last second of the very last play.
On the last Fourth of July I watched the fireworks display sitting on Dobek's old Marine Corps blanket he had brought home as a souvenir from the Independence. After joking about the corps coming to get their blanket back we said that we should get together someday to talk about the experiences we had during our lives as active Marines. We lost Tom Dobek and I lost my get-together.
If you were to have Dobek as your mailman you never had to worry about your mail not properly being delivered. If you needed help with your mail, he got it for you. The same man that deviled those A 4C Skyhawks out to support the Marines on land waiting for air support. He is a hero to everyone.
This first ward boy from the early '60s was like everyone else he grew up with, except for the fact he went that extra yard. He did his job and did it well. Semper Fidelis Thomas James Dobek. That makes Tom Dobek our hero of the week. One we will always miss.