Survived WWII and Albion tornado, died at age 100


Few people are entitled to a parade in honor of their 100th birthday. But few people have lived a life like John Suscheck.

Suscheck, who died on August 27 – just 11 days after turning 100 – survived both World War II and the Albion tornadoes. He lived to help raise eight children and spend time with 23 grandchildren, 30 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.

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“Family and church were the two engines of my parents’ life,” said his son, Dennis Suscheck. “There was hardly ever a week when he and mum, even in their 80s, didn’t go to mass on Saturday night.”

Suscheck’s Life as a World War II U.S. Army Veteran

Suscheck, a native of Albion, was a well-known veteran of the United States Army, having joined the Albion and Girard American Legion posts.

He served as a staff sergeant in the 175th Field Artillery Battalion, serving in Italy in 1945.

John Suscheck, pictured in his US Army uniform, served in the final year of World War II.  Suscheck died on August 27, 2022 at the age of 100.

“Dad was a radio man, basically on the front lines,” said his son, Bob Suscheck. “One story he told was that the enemy kept cutting the lines of communication and Dad was supposed to climb the pole and fix them. A Sergeant Jones said he would, then a sniper l ‘ put on the post. It could have been dad.”

Released after the war, Suscheck returned to Albion and married Ann Root. The couple remained together for 74 years until his death on December 6.

After the war, Suscheck returned to Albion

Suscheck also returned to work at Rogers Brothers Corp., an Albion-based trailer maker. He remained there until 1984, long enough to be considered the company’s longest-serving employee outside the owner’s family.

But Suscheck was not content with just one job. He worked so many side jobs that his kids jokingly claimed he papered every house in Albion.

“Dad also built our family cabin in North Springfield using lumber from old Rogers Brothers warehouses,” said his daughter, Diane Formanski. “He even hammered out the old nails so he could reuse them.”

“Actually, my job was to pull the nails out and straighten them out,” Dennis Suscheck said with a laugh. “He even made the windows himself.”

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A powerful tornado in Albion destroyed the Suscheck family home

The Suscheck family lived in Albion, in the same house where Anne Suscheck grew up, until May 31, 1985. It was then that a powerful tornado, blowing winds reaching 260 mph, touched down in Albion and destroyed the house with many others.

Many family members were in the house when the tornado hit, including three young children.

“My dad had just gotten home from the grocery store and was sitting at the kitchen table,” Dennis Suscheck said. “My brother, Tom, looked out the window and saw the tornado. He alerted the family, and they all went to the basement while he ran upstairs to get his daughter.”

Fortunately, none of the Suschecks died, although Tom Suscheck suffered head injuries which he continues to suffer almost 40 years later.

John Suscheck released from hospital after breaking his ribs. The family then decided not to rebuild the family home, but instead moved to Fairview Township.

“Albion has always been a special place but my parents didn’t want to rebuild at their age,” Dennis Suscheck said.

Suscheck quickly engaged with his new community, joining the post of the Girard American Legion as he had done years before with the post of Albion.

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He often wore a World War II veteran’s hat when running errands at Fairview and Girard. He also often returned to “Little Albion”, the lakeside cabin he had built in North Springfield.

“The chalet has become our family’s favorite place,” said Diane Formanski. “We went there even after Dad’s funeral. We put on his polkas and all the grandkids and great-grandkids danced polkas in his memory.”

John Suscheck, left, stands with his hat in hand as Girard's American Legion honor guard salutes him during a parade in Girard in honor of Suscheck's 100th birthday in August.

Special parade for the 100th anniversary, then massive heart attack

Suscheck enjoyed good health into his 90s and was able to celebrate his 100th birthday on August 16 with a special parade at Girard.

Bob Suscheck is a member of the Girard American Legion Post honor guard, and he worked for almost a year to set up the parade for his father. When the honor guard stopped where Suscheck was seated, he rose from his chair, removed his veteran’s hat, and held it to his heart.

“He was so happy,” Bob Suscheck said. “He didn’t expect something like this and it meant so much to him.”

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The family was preparing for an official birthday celebration on August 20, but hours after the parade ended, Suscheck suffered a serious heart attack at his home, where he lived alone. His daughter, Ann Marie Cook, found him the next morning on the back patio.

He was taken to hospital and then sent home a few days later for palliative care.

“It was his wish and my mother’s wish to die at home,” Dennis Suscheck said. “We took him home and he died peacefully at home.”

Contact David Bruce at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ETNBruce.

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