Submitted by his son, William Lavonis, Jr.
was born in Reading Pa. April 16, 1917. The County Almshouse lists his
birthday as April 18, 1917.
birth parents were Steve and Annie Nause from Port Carbon, PA. Steve was
killed in a work-related accident. Annie did housework. He was adopted
for two dollars by John Leonas/Lavonis in Gilberton, Pa. on Jan 5, 1920.
Hi real name was Louis Nause. Bill and his brother Frank were separated
for 22 years before the Red Cross brought them together again. Bill was
at Bolling Field in DC; Frank was at Scott Field, ILL. This was in 1940.
There was another brother named Joe (Kutney) whom I hink may have been
a half-brother from his mother Annie's second marriage, and a sister named
Nell (Aunt Nell).
According to the 1920 census, Louis Nause (Bill Lavonis) age 6 and his
brother Franklin (Frank Nause) age 8 were in the Schuylkill County Almshouse
in Manheim PA beginning Dec 30, 1919. They are listed at the end with
the children. The father's nationality is listed as English and the mothers
as Polish. ; mother Annie Kutney (maiden name); her mother was Josephine
Kolutskie; her father was Joseph Kutney; his Father Steve Nause; Almshouse
records state his birth as April 18, 1917 not April 16. .At the beginning
of the page is Annie Nause, age 32. Also in the Almshouse. I believe this
is the mother. She is of Polish/Russian descent. No maiden name given.Where
the father is--who knows. He may have died in a mining accident. Mary
Nause says his father died from a beer barrel he was delivering hit him
in the head.
Bill lived on Quality Hill in Gilberton Pa with his adopted family. The
1930 census shows him enumerated in the family of Joseph and Anna Dougherty
(his step-sister). He attended Gilberton Elementary School for 8 years
(Sept 1923-June 1930) and graduated in June 1931 and 2 years at Gilberton
High School and dropped out.
US Govt, State Forestry of Pennsylvania (Petersburg, CCC Camp) @ 30.00-45.00
Built new fire trails, new roads, worked in quarry with high explosives,
planted trees, fought forest fires.
Reading Coal and Iron Co.
He enlisted in the army to get away from that very dangerous occupation.
Bill enlisted in the Army July 26, 1936 from his hometown of Gilberton,
Pa. His number was RA6891007.
US Army, Department of Air Force
Various duties as a soldier: supply Sgt, Supply clerk, Shipping Clerk,
Inventory Clerk, Warehouse Man, Cook, Fireman, Guard, Truck Driver, Bus
Driver, work in remount stables, Parts Clerk, Administrative Clerk.
Sgt. Lavonis entered the 6th Field Artillery at Fort Hoyle, MD where he
remained until Oct. 1936 before leaving for Panama.
Panama/ Army: July 1936-Feb. 39
Dad got his first driver's license in April 1939.
He was welterweight champ of his outfit in the Canal Zone for eight solid
months (30 contests) without ever hitting the canvas. 1940 Court Martialed
for using Govt Gasoline for private use (3 months hard labor, fined 2/3
pay for 3 months) 1940, Bill reunites with long-lost brother, Frank Nause.
In May of 1942 "Rocky" became first sergeant of the 329th Materiel
Squadron at Bolling Field, Washington D.C. Later on June 8th, 1942 he
came under orders to Smyrna Air Base (Tennessee) to assume the First Sergeantcy
of the 313th Base Headquarters and Air Base squadron which had absorbed
the 329th. 1942-45 supervised 15 men and supply warehouse in England.
Served as First Sgt with a bomb squad during WWII. The 446th bomb group.
Operated hi-test gasoline pumps, forklift operator. Also attended Gunnery
School at Lowry Field, CO from July-Nov 1943 October 1944 received Soldier's
Medal for Heroism: "Sergeant Lavonis, with complete disregard for
personal safety and danger involved, ran to a crashed fighter plane, jumped
upon the wing and opened the pilot's compartment to reach the unconscious
flyer. An explosion knocked him off the wing, but his heroic act made
it possible for others to reach the pilot and remove him to safety."
(from a letter from Brigadier General DR Goodrich, 10/22/44. A quote from
a Philadelphia Newspaper: "Philadelphians in Service, England: The
Soldier's Medal was awarded to Staff Sergeant Wiiliam J Lavonis, 2222
S. Chadwick St. for heroism. He ran to a burning fighter plane that had
crashed, jumped onto the wing and opened the pilot's compartment to reach
the unconscious pilot. An explosion knocked him from the wing, but others
were able to remove the pilot because of Lavonis' bravery."
His posts have included Ft Hoyle, MD, Ft. Slocum, NY, Brooklyn Army Base,
Brooklyn NY, Ft. Amador, Panama Canal Zone.
Rose said "I'll marry you if you give me a diamond ring" and
he did. He bought the ring on time.
Married April 18, 1942
2222 So Chadwick St, Phila. Pa
Phila Transportation Co. 1.60-1.80 p/h @ 45-75.00 per wk.
Operated streetcars and buses, collected fares, performed emergency maitinence.
Left to re-enlist in Army.
Bill and Rose lived at 1547 N. Edgewood St, Phila. (34th ward)They took
out a mortgage for 2800.00 (156 months) on June 18, 1946 with a monthly
payment of 24.45. It seems the dwelling cost 3750.00, formerly owned by
Elizabeth V. Dowling and before that owned by Maurice E. Pennypacker.
US Army, 150.00-350.00 a month
First Sergeant (supervise administrative functions of Nike-Hercules Missle
Battery with 170-200 men in the unit), Platoon Sgt (supervise combat platoon
of 8 tanks and 48-52 men), Sgt Instructor to Army reserves (instruct civilians
in military matters) and basic training (make soldiers out of civilians).
Stationed in Germany from Dec 1, 1955- March 10 1958. The family lived
at 56B Lincoln Strasse, Mannheim-Kaefertal Germany. His Platoon Leader
there was Father Raymond A. Schroth.
On leave Aug 1957 in Italy; On leave April 1956 in France and Spain;
10 Ridgley St. Mt Holly, NJ
726 Holly Lane, Mt Holly, NJ
Retired from Army Dec 1958
Fischbach and Moore and Tellepsen, New Egypt NJ
Chief Classified File Keeper @ 75-90.00 per wk.
Handling classified matter pertaining to a BOMARC Missile site. Used following
equipment: Ozalid, DItto, Verifax, Mimeograph, Photo Machines. Also a
Laborer @ 110-118.00 per week
Terminal Construction Corp, Woodridge NJ
Constructed 1450 housing units at Maguire Air Force Base.
Bill was in the General Laborer's Local Union No. 369, Trenton, NJ from
April to Oct 1960.
Salesman of Ice Cream with Calken and Co. Sold Polar CLub ice cream to
soldiers at Ft Dix, NJ on 10-15% commission.
Policeman/Guard @ 3760-4040.00 per yr
US Naval Research and Development Center, Johnsville, PA
US Naval Air Development Command, Johnsville, PA @231-235.00
Maitenance and Janitorial
Nov 1984, Retired from Civil Service Job as Forklift Operator at Fort
Bill owned a a 1953 Chevy Sedan, 1950-something Blue Ford, 1965 Cocoa
Rambler, another White Rambler, A blue Matador, a 1983 yellow Ford Futura
and currently a Blue 2000 Chevy Prizm.
Dad quit smoking cold turkey on Oct 29, 1969.
Eulogy for my Father, William John Lavonis
Born, April 16, 1917
Died, August 18, 2005
Mass, August 23, 2005
My father was a character! Mom called him a curmudgeon. It seems that
Bill was surrounded with layers of protective armor his whole life, beginning
in 1920 when he was adopted at age 3. Despite the difficult early years
and his tough experiences as a coal miner in Pennsylvania, Bill got up
and out and joined the military, achieving the rank of Master Sergeant.
He was affectionately and appropriately known as "Sarge," even
to his wife and kids, but with a bark bigger than his bite. During that
time he managed to locate his long lost brother, Frank through the Red
Cross, received a medal for bravery, having saved a pilot from a burning
plane and was even the welterweight boxing champ of his outfit in the
Canal Zone for eight solid months! They called him "Rocky."
I'm glad I never felt his punch--I ran too fast for him! Rose and Bill
married in 1942. Mom says "When your father proposed, I told him:
'I'll marry you if you give me a diamond ring'" and so he did. He
was very generous to his family. Always quick to say "no," Dad
would usually relent in less than an hour, and we would get the cash,
the ice cream or the dog that we wanted. Though you would never know it,
Dad was also deeply sensitive. When the chips were down with my sister
Rosalie, he stepped in and helped her out-even going so far as raising
three of her children at one point in their lives. I clearly remember
when we returned home, after seeing Margie off on a plane to South Bend
when she joined this wonderful community of sisters in 1965, Dad crying
like a baby, he missed her so much.
When I was growing up, I was never the go-and-spend-time-with-Dad type
of kid. But the one activity "Sarge" and I did together was
traveling about 50 minutes by car to the Jersey shore and setting up a
spot for crabbing. Oh, how he loved to go crabbing!! What in the world
was it? I don't think I ever saw him eat a crab in his life-unless we
picked them so Mom could make crab cakes!
After his retirement Bill and Rose traveled, joined organizations at Sacred
Heart Church in Mt. Holly, and actively participated in their bowling
league. Dad took up walking! He would walk for miles every day, and up
until a few days ago he got on that exercise bike religiously! He was
not a big socializer, but he usually went along with whatever Rose had
up her sleeve. Despite his gruff, military vocal style, Bill possessed
a beautiful voice and loved to sing! I think the thing that affected him
the most in his long life was losing his voice to cancer. At the end of
Mass my partner Kurt and I will play and sing a song that Bill used to
sing around the house and invite all who recognize it to join in.
Two years ago, my sister, my nephew Will, Kurt and myself helped move
my parents from their NJ home of forty years to St. Paul's Retirement
Community so that they could be closer to their children. Despite Dad's
reservations, the move was blessing for all of us. So Dad, on behalf of
your family and friends, I would like to express our gratitude for your
many gifts. We love you and we will miss you.
August 20, 2005
U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 Record
about William J Lavonis
Name: William J Lavonis
Birth Year: 1845, I dont think so.
Nativity State or Country: Pennsylvania
County or City: Schuylkill
Enlistment Date: 23 Feb 1939
Term of Enlistment: Enlistment for the Panama Canal Department
Component: Regular Army (including Officers, Nurses, Warrant Officers,
and Enlisted Men)
Education: 2 years of college , was he fibbing?
Marital Status: Single, without dependents