Walter Jadezuk, a Marine sergeant who was among the first wave of troops to go ashore during four separate Pacific invasions in World War II, the last of which claimed the lives of two close friends and left him with near-fatal gunshot wounds, has died. He was 90.
The Syosset resident, who founded Abalene Oil Co. among other small businesses during a life of bootstrap entrepreneurship, died Thursday at Syosset Hospital after battling an array of ailments.
In an August interview during which Jadezuk reflected on the terrors of war, the former 4th Marine Division rifleman broke into tears as he recalled scrambling up an Iwo Jima sand dune with a pair of fellow sergeants on Feb. 20, 1945.
Somewhere, a hidden sniper lurked.
"Sgt. [Norman B.] Bell, he ran up the beach, the three of us, and we laid down and were looking around to see what's what," he said, the memory of his friend still vivid more than 70 years later.
"And he got it just below the helmet," Jadezuk said, poking a finger to the center of his forehead and bursting into tears.
"I lost a lot of friends there," he said, weeping.
He was in New York recuperating from bullet wounds to the shoulder and leg when Japan's August 1945 surrender brought an end to a war in which more than 16 million Americans had served, and more than 400,000 were killed.
Feared his luck might end
Having been twice hospitalized among the 671,000 American troops who were seriously wounded, Jadezuk said he feared his luck might run out.
"I was happy for that," he said of the war's end. "I was in four battles, all in the first wave, so I figured it was best to get out while I was still alive."
In ways, Jadezuk led the hardscrabble life lived by many young men at the dawn of World War II.
Born in upstate Amsterdam, Jadezuk was 4 when his mother died. His father left soon after, as the Great Depression tightened its grip, and Jadezuk was placed in a string of foster homes that eventually brought him to Oyster Bay when he was 13. He enlisted in the Marines just four years later, a blue-eyed, 5-foot-10 teenager who by the end of the war was earning a regular paycheck of $81.90 per month.
Jadezuk was part of the hotly contested invasions of Roi and Namur islands in the Marshall Islands. He was evacuated with gunshot wounds during the June 1944 invasion of Saipan, and again less than a year later from Iwo Jima.
After his honorable discharge in October 1945, he met Helen Johnson while socializing with friends at a Bayville bar. They were married in 1949 and settled in Oyster Bay.
Jadezuk founded Abalene in Syosset in the early 1950s. He told Newsday he realized that suburban growth spurred by the arriving families of young World War II veterans meant there would be an expanding supply of new homes that would need heating oil and boiler service. He sold the business in 1979 but involved himself in several other ventures, from restaurants to real estate. In the mid-1980s, his son, Wayne Jadezuk of Carle Place, founded Abalene Plumbing & Heating, which he still runs.
The couple had two other children, Debbie Reece of Northport and Beth Jadezuk of Syosset, and eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Helen died in 2013.
Service on Tuesday
A wake is scheduled for Monday 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at Beney Funeral Home in Syosset. The funeral is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at the chapel at St. John's Memorial Cemetery in Laurel Hollow, where he will be buried.
Beth Jadezuk said her father liked boating, and loved even more the camaraderie of friends as they spent hours riding Montauk's offshore swells.
"We think he partied more than he fished," Jadezuk said of her father, a big-voiced man with an easy laugh. "He was always a good-times guy."