Palm Coast, Fla.
Joe Valenta, 97, a longtime resident of Cedar Falls, Iowa, and Horseshoe Bend, Ark., passed away on Sept. 20, 2018, in Saline, Mich. For the past six years, Joe had been dividing his time enjoying living with his daughter Linda in Florida and his son Jim in Michigan.
Born in 1921 in Lozice, Czechoslovakia, Joe immigrated at the age of 7 to the United States with his father and younger brother. During the Great Depression, he lived with an aunt and uncle on their farm near Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Joe's life was greatly influenced by Uncle Tony as he learned by example the virtues of hard work, honesty, being the best that you can be, and the love of family that would serve him so well throughout his long life. Joe often said that two major events influenced his life, the first being the opportunity to come to the United States, and the second being raised by Uncle Tony and Aunt Mary, who loved and raised him as their son.
While attending Iowa State Teachers College (University of Northern Iowa) in Cedar Falls, he volunteered for the Army as World War II was underway. Joe was selected to learn German for prisoner interrogations and spent nine months learning German at the University of Indiana. As the war ended in the European Theater of action, interrogation was no longer needed. He was trained to be an aerial photo interpreter in the Pacific Theater. He served with the 77th Infantry Division General's Headquarters staff and fought in the Battle for Okinawa, for which he was awarded the Bronze Star. He served with the Army of occupation in Japan.
As good fortune would have it, Joe met the love of his life, Helen Sykora. They were married for 67 years before Helen's death in 2012. Joe and Helen resided and raised their three children in Cedar Falls, Iowa, while he obtained advanced college degrees from the University of Iowa. He was employed as an educator and was a Cedar Falls High School coach, athletic director and, most rewardingly, a guidance counselor at Holmes Junior High School. Upon moving to Horseshoe Bend in 1977, Joe was asked to work parttime in the Salem and Brockwell school systems as a guidance counselor, as they had no such program for students. He developed career education programs and initiated standardized testing for those students, which is used to this day. Throughout the years, he had received numerous thank-you notes from students in Cedar Falls, Salem and Brockwell, upon whose lives he had made a difference.
Joe enjoyed golfing, the Kiwanis and Lions clubs, volunteering and especially working in his beloved flower gardens. Joe and Helen spent enjoyable days on Crown Lake in Horseshoe Bend, Ark., with family and friends.
In Joe's autobiography, he states: "Life is what one makes it to be. I can look back with complete satisfaction and appreciation and feel that I would do things just the same. My philosophy of life is to live it to the fullest, help those who are in need and, most of all, appreciate and be thankful for the opportunities and freedom afforded me and all of us here in this land we call America." Joe's life was indeed well-lived and he will be greatly missed.
Joe is survived by his three adoring children, Linda Flug and her husband, Ron, of Palm Coast, Fla., Jim Valenta of Dexter, Mich., and John Valenta and his wife, Jeri, of Ocean Shores, Wash.; seven grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.
A Celebration of Life for Joe will be in the spring in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, surrounded by the springtime he so loved.