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Alois "Al" Opatz


Alois "Al" Opatz, 91, died Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, at the Rehabilitation Center of Lisbon. Mass of Christian Burial: 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 4, at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, Mount Vernon, with visitation one hour prior. Burial with military honors: St. John's Cemetery, Lisbon. Arrangements by Stewart Baxter Funeral & Memorial Services, Mount Vernon.
Survivors include his children, Kenneth (Ann) Opatz of Lisbon, Diane "Mari" (Nic) Opatz-Muni of Oxford, Ohio, and Linda (John) Roemhild of Cincinnati, Ohio; son-in-law, Robert Van Daalen of Harlingen, Texas; grandchildren, John (Amy) VanDaalen, Nicholas (Mark) VanDaalen, Christina (Gabe) Burkhart, Patrick (Marlin) Opatz, Kimberly Opatz, Jessica Muni, Alex Muni, Emily Roemhild and Mia Roemhild; great-grandchildren, Mason and Hailey Burkhart; siblings, Edwin (Carol) Opatz, Albena Gerlach and Delphene (Don) Gralish; and stepsons, William (Sandy) Lighthall and Steven Strauch and their families.
Alois Joseph Opatz was born March 13, 1927, on the family farm in Stearns County, Minn., the seventh of 12 children born to Thomas and Katherine (Oldakowski) Opatz. Al joined the U.S. Coast Guard in 1944 and earned the rank of Petty Officer Third Class, serving on the USS Admiral H.T. Mayo in the Asiatic Pacific Theater during World War II, with ports of call in the Enewetak Islands, Midway, France, Panama, Caroline Islands, Marshall Islands, Okinawa Islands, Philippine Islands, Japan, Sipan Island, Ulithi Islands, Hawaiian Islands and Korea. With his shipmates, Al walked through the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, after the atomic bomb strike in August of 1945. He earned the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, American Campaign Medal, Navy Occupation Service Medal and the World War II Victory Medal, and was honorably discharged in 1946.
Shortly after moving to Iowa, he met and married Esther Mae Phelps in 1949. Married 32 years, they raised four children in Lisbon. She passed away in 1982. He later married Dolores Strauch in 1984. Dolores passed in 2017.
After completing railroad telegraphy courses at the Gale Institute, Al accepted a position with the Chicago Northwestern Railroad in Eastern Iowa. Always fascinated by trains, Al worked as a telegrapher for several railroad companies over the years, including the Chicago Northwestern Railroad and the CRANDIC, retiring in 1989.
Al was raised in the Catholic faith and stayed true to his Catholic beliefs throughout the years. He was a member of St. John's Catholic Church in Mount Vernon and the Knights of Columbus. He was a proud veteran, a member of the VFW and a 68-year member of Lisbon American Legion Post 109. Al had a variety of interests, including taking flying lessons and flying around Minnesota as a recreational pilot after his discharge from the service. He took piano lessons after his retirement from the railroad and also learned to play the accordion. He was a master at tinkering and known to be a collector and keeper of things. Many people in Lisbon noted that there might have been a better selection of tools and hardware in Al's garage than at the local hardware store.
Al was preceded in death by his parents; first wife, Esther; daughter, Kathleen Opatz VanDaalen; siblings, Peter Opatz, Martha Shuman, Rose Miller and five others who died at birth; second wife, Dolores; and stepson, Robert.
Memorials may be directed to Meals on Wheels program at Southeast Linn Community Center, Lisbon.
The family extends its appreciation to the VA Home-Based Senior Care Program and the Meals on Wheels program for assisting Al in living independently in his own home until age 90. Also to the staff at the Lisbon Rehabilitation Center and Essence of Life Hospice for the compassionate care and friendship provided in recent months.
Please share your support and memories with Al's family on his tribute wall at www.stewartbaxter.com under obituaries.