Services will be 10:30 a.m. Thursday at Church of the Nativity, with her son, the Rev. John A. Vakulskas Jr., officiating. Burial will be in Calvary Cemetery, Visitation will be 3:30-8:00 p.m. Wednesday, with a Catholic Daughters of Americas rosary at 4 p.m. and a parish vigil service at 7:00 p.m., at Larkin Chapel, Christy-Smith Funeral Home.
Mary Vakulskas was born Dec. 1, 1922, in Sioux City, the daughter of Andrew A. and Helen (Krokowski) Smith of Sioux City. She attended St. Francis of Assisi Grade School and East High School in Sioux City.
On June 7, 1942, she married John Vakulskas at St. Francis of Assisi, having first met him at a St. Francis Halloween dance. After their marriage, they moved to Portsmouth, Va., where John worked in ship building at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. Having served in the peacetime U.S. Navy, John was called back into the U.S. Army to serve during World War II. Mary moved back to Sioux City with their son John Jr. When John returned from Okinawa they made the decision to remain in Sioux City to raise their family. Mary prided herself on her role as a wife and mother and cherished the title “homemaker” when their four children were growing up.
She was a former longtime member of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church. She was an active parishioner at St. Francis, having served as the president of the Mother’s Club for many years. For 38 years, she was the parish organist and choir director and relished playing for Mass liturgies, weddings and funerals. She looked forward to choir practices with the group so they could be always ready for the liturgies praising God.
She studied piano as a young girl, but her organ skills came under the tutelage of Sr. Arnold Staudt, OSF, professor of organ, Briar Cliff University. Grateful for her instruction, Mary established an annual scholarship at Briar Cliff University for advanced organ study for deserving students. Her humble spirit shows in the scholarship’s name as it is listed in Sr. Arnold’s name, not hers.
After her children were grown, Mary became a “Girl Friday,” enjoying work in the accounting department at Iowa Public Service Company (now MidAmerican Energy). During election cycles, she volunteered helping various candidates in their bid for public office, and on Election Day worked at her voting precinct. She and John found meaning and strength donating their time, talents and oftentimes their garden’s bounty to The Soup Kitchen in Sioux City. They also participated in 24 tours to 63 countries around the world with their son Father John, until their health would not allow it anymore.
Volunteerism was keen in Mary’s heart — prayer too. Her prayers came from books and the rosary but also while she put in long hours in the family’s backyard garden where flowers, fruits and vegetables flourished. She sewed many outfits for her daughters, Jan and Maria, and mended countless stuffed animals and toys for her grandchildren. Her 11 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren were the light of her life.
She was a member of Church of the Nativity. She was honored to be a 50-plus-year member of the Catholic Daughters of America, Ave Maria Court No. 269.
The daughter of Polish immigrants, Mary instilled in her family the traditions, history, cooking and language of her heritage. A special day in her life was attending an address by the former president of Poland, Lech Walesa, when he addressed a gathering in Sioux City. A front-page newspaper photo of the two individuals meeting is a treasure for her family.
Survivors include her four children, the Rev. John Vakulskas Jr. of Okoboji, Iowa, Jan Masteller of Sioux City, Thomas (Barbara Dagle) Vakulskas of Sioux City and Maria (Ron) Vakulskas Rosmann of Harlan, Iowa; 11 grandchildren, Lori (Brad) Yates of Richmond, Ind., Jim (Tanya Langdon) Masteller of Omaha, Neb., Peter (Abra) Masteller of Miami, Fla., Jane (Alexander) Belov of Chicago, Ill., Michael (Jessie) Masteller of West Des Moines, Iowa, Brian Vakulskas of Sioux City, Molly (Eric) Vakulskas Joly of Sioux City, Dan (Nikki) Vakulskas of Sioux City, David Rosmann (fiancée Becky Tompkins) of Chatfield, Minn., Daniel (Ellen Walsh) Rosmann of Harlan, Mark Rosmann of Washington, D.C.; 13 great-grandchildren, Bryson, Ryan and Nicole Yates, Gabrielle, Justice and Quintessa Masteller, Jace and Ava Masteller, Alainna, William and Jack Joly, Samuel Levi Vakulskas, and Xavier Rosmann; sisters, Ann Pavlovich of Sioux City and Theresa Jackson of Arlington, Texas; and a two special cousins, Em Shuck and Eleanor Nashleanas.
She was preceded in death by her husband, John on May 5, 1999; son-in-law, Phil Masteller; her parents; and two brothers who died as young boys, Andrew and Teddeus.