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John Paul Smolka age 91, of Ithaca, MI, passed away Monday, September 24, 2018, at his home surrounded by his family.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at St. Cyril's Catholic Church, Bannister, MI, on Friday, September 28, 2018 at 12:00 P.M., with Rev. Fr. Bill Gruden officiating. Burial will be at Ford Cemetery, Gratiot County, MI. Visitation will be held on Thursday, September 27, 2018 from 2-8 P.M. with a Prayer Service at 7:00 P.M. at Smith Family Funeral Homes, Ithaca, MI.
John was born in Swartz Creek, MI on April 19, 1927, the son of Anton B. and Anna F. (Mikus) Smolka. At age 1, the family moved to Gratiot County. Here his father took up farming and after 1 year of high school John dropped out of school to help his father operate the family farm. He loved farming.
In 1950, John started his automotive career with GMC Olds Division in Lansing, MI. In July 1952, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and went through basic training at Ft. Riley, KS. John was then deployed with the 45th Infantry Division to Korean front lines where he continued to use his automotive skills in the Motor Pool and earned the rank of Sgt. First Class. Upon returning from the Army in April 1954, John went back to work at Olds in Lansing where he retired in 1989.
On October 24, 1959, John married Joan Marie McClintic at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Ryan, MI. Their 58 years of marriage was blessed by the birth of 5 children: John J., Theresa, Thomas, Gerald, and Mary.
John was very active during his lifetime playing and promoting his Slovak heritage and polka music. He learned to play the accordion at a very young age. John played drums for many different polka bands. He started his own group, "Czechoslovak Music Time Band," in 1974 and recorded an album in 1978. In 1972, John was involved in creating the Michigan State Polka Music Hall of Fame. He was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1979. Eventually, John was elected to the office of President of the Polka Music Hall of Fame and currently held the post. John, along with his wife Joan, also hosted Polka Music shows on radio stations in St. Johns and Owosso.
John was a member of Fowler VFW Post #3733, a member of the Ithaca American Legion Post #0334, as well as a lifetime member of the National Slovak Society. He was a member of St. Cyril's Catholic Church in Bannister, MI.
John is survived by his wife Joan of Ithaca, 5 children: John J. (Sue) Smolka of Ithaca, Theresa (Scott) McKenzie of Dorr, Thomas (Brenda) Smolka of Vestaburg, Gerald (Lisa) Smolka of Woodland, Mary Smolka of Kalamazoo. He is also survived by 9 grandchildren: Jeremy Smolka, Stephanie (Jacob) Smolka-Hodges, Lauren (Spencer) VanSickle, Rebecca McKenzie, Michael McKenzie, Travis Smolka, Jacob Smolka, Lacey Smolka, and Melody Smolka; and 3 great grandchildren: Samantha Smolka, Jacob Hodges, and Ryker Smolka; and many nieces and nephews. He especially loved his "in-laws." John was preceded in death by his parents, 2 sisters, and 3 brothers.
The family would like to offer a special thanks to Mid Michigan Hospice for their care and compassion during this time.
Memorials may be made to Mid Michigan Hospice - 3007 N. Saginaw Rd., Midland, MI 48640-4555; St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital - P.O. Box 1000 Dept. 142, Memphis, TN 38148-0142; or Shriners Hospitals for Children - 3229 Burnet Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45229. Online condolences can be sent to www.smithfamilyfuneralhomes.com. The family is being served by Smith Family Funeral Homes, Ithaca, MI.
Mid Michigan Hospice - Midland
3007 N. Saginaw Rd., Midland MI 48640
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
P.O. Box 1000 Dept 142, Memphis TN 38148
Shriners Hospital for Children
3229 Burnet Avenune, Cincinnati OH 45229