A Tribute to Matthew Joseph Vorich
August 18, 1917-June 1, 2015
from his daughters
Matthew “Mutt” Joseph Vorich was one of the eleven children born to Croatian immigrant parents; Magdelena Tandavic Vorich and Frank Vorich. He was born in Markle, Indiana in 1917 and raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He attended St. Peter’s Catholic Grade School and Central High School.
He lived in one of the old ethnic neighborhoods in Fort Wayne and he used to tell us they all had those funny endings to their last names. The neighborhood was full of people with Macedonian, Polish, Croatian and other Slavic heritages. Some of those people remained life long friends to our dad. And by the way, the nickname “Mutt” came from some of the neighborhood kids who couldn’t pronounce Matthew or the name my grandmother called him, so it came out, “Mutt” and it stuck. We used to chuckle when we’d tell people our dad’s name. They were often taken aback by someone being called “Mutt.”
Our dad was not a captain of industry, a great scholar or famous to anyone else outside of his community and family, but he was certainly special to those who knew him. He was honest, smart, hard working with personal integrity. Our mother has said that he may have had many jobs before he settled at Dana, but he was never a day without work. He had many friends and kept them all through his life. He was best man to those friends more times than we can count and was godfather to many nieces and nephews. He had a tremendous sense of humor delivered with a twinkle in his eye. He was modest and never showed off.
He was a sports enthusiast having belonged to the old Fort Wayne Rangers Athletic Club. The men in that club and their wives, later in life, became the couples Euchre Club group that met monthly for over 50 years and was a big part of our parents social life. Card playing was one their favorite recreational past times (and they were good at it). They played everything from Bridge to Pinnacle. And I remember many Sunday afternoons when we gathered with aunts, uncles and cousins and the men played poker and drank a little beer.
After high school, our dad worked in various jobs until he joined the U.S. Navy. As a Sea-bee, he served in the South Pacific during WW II. After he left the Philippines, because of his experience and work in the Fort Wayne Bass Foundry before the war, he was sent to Guam for special projects as the war was ending. His experience with pouring concrete for air strips during the war also came in handy when friends and neighbors needed some concrete work done. He also built many of the roads in Fort Wayne after the war. Our dad was a guy who got his hands dirty. And was for sure, part of the “Greatest Generation.”
After the war, he met our mother, Susan Churchward, who also came from a family of eleven kids. They married in 1947 and had three girls; Virginia, “Ginna”, Barbara and Karen. We were three in three years. Our dad used to take a lot of teasing about being the only man in our house, but it did assure him of getting the one bathroom, all to himself.
We lived in a pretty typical modest 1950’s neighborhood growing up. It was a double city block, (Kenwood Avenue) with 75 kids on it. When the popsicle boy came in the summer it looked like the pied piper coming down the street. Most of the mothers were stay at home moms, there was one car in the family and if the mother needed the car during the day, everyone got up to take dad to work and then pick him up later. It was a time we played hop scotch on the sidewalk, sat in pj’s.’s on the front “stoop” after our evening baths and lay on blankets in the front yard identifying the “Big Dipper” along with catching ‘lightening” bugs in jars.
Everybody’s mom watched out for everyone else’s kids. And those neighborhood friends and their children have been life long friends to my parents and to us. When we later moved to the suburbs, many of them followed to our new neighborhood.
The moms raised the kids and the dads worked. That was pretty typical of their generation. My dad wasn’t any different. If we’d ask him for something, his usual response was, “ask your mother.” However, if he did lay down the law, it was usually final. During our teen years our house was always a meeting place for our friends. In spite of my dad’s quiet pleasant demeanor, he could put on a pretty serious face scaring some of the guys that came to our house, half to death. He was a pretty serious boss at Dana too, but people who worked for him, respected him.
Our dad never liked to talk on the telephone. If he could punt that job to someone else, he did. While growing up our phone could ring and ring and he would rarely answer it. He always said, “with three teenagers in the house, he was sure the call was not for him.” And he was usually right.
Our dad’s final job was at Dana Corporation where he worked his way up into supervision. He retired from Dana in 1981 after working there for 31 years. In his retirement he took up golf again, with 3 holes-in-one to his credit. He also enjoyed the activities of his grand kids and great grand kids. And was proud of keeping a good looking yard.
Our dad was always a baby and kid magnet. He could soothe and put babies to sleep when no one else could and he could get them to laugh hysterically. However, he never changed a diaper…he drew the line there. Babies and kids just knew he was a good guy and loved him.
Our parents had a long retirement filled with travel, golf, kids, grand kids and great grand kids and friends. The night before our dad died he had his usual Canadian Club Manhattan and played Gin Rummy with our mother. The next day he just slipped away peacefully, at home. He and our mother were married 68 years and he was two months shy of his 98th birthday. He never lost his sense of humor and was still mentally sharp. We can’t imagine that it can get any better than that. It was a life well lived.
How fortunate and blessed we feel that we were raised by two people who loved each other, offered tremendous security, in a home environment that was welcoming and comfortable. We have learned so many good life lessons by watching the way they lived their lives, together. And their 6 grand kids and 12 great grand kids have too.
Our dad’s greatest legacy will be the family he leaves behind. One that will always love him and remember him with full hearts. The wonderful memories we have of him will become our comfort and give us joy. RIP, Dad.
Lovingly, your girls,
Ginna, Barb & Karen