June 21, 1931 - January 12, 2014 John Garstka, husband of the late Polly Garstka, and proud father and grandfather, passed away on 12 January 2014. John lived his life upon the foundation of a strong Catholic faith, commitment to family, and a firm sense of duty to country and service to his community. John Anthony Garstka was born on 21 June 1931 in New York City, the eldest of two sons of Jan Josef Garstka and Rosalie Elizabeth Skweres. He earned degrees from Syracuse and George Washington Universities. John met, wooed and married Pauline Ann LeClair of Southbridge, Massachusetts, while they were students at Syracuse. A defining period of John's life was his 24 years of service as an officer in the United States Air Force (USAF). He entered the service in 1952, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel and Master Navigator in 1976. His military service spanned the height of the Cold War, with flight duty including airborne early warning missions off of the US East Coast, perilous airborne electronic reconnaissance missions on the Far East borders of the USSR, airlift resupply missions under-fire during the Siege of Khe Sanh in Vietnam, and multi-aircraft missions performing the airborne recovery of the atmospheric re-entry film capsules from photoreconnaissance satellites. For his heroism and extraordinary achievements as an airman he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with seven oak leaf clusters. As he retired from the USAF he qualified as a Certified Public Accountant, established his own accounting practice, serving clients for over 33 years. In parallel he taught as an Associate Professor of Accounting at Loyola Marymount University (LMU) from 1980 to 1996. During this period he taught over 3,000 students, among whom he had a reputation of being "tough, but fair." His 50 year relationship with the Society of Jesus and LMU began in 1962 when he had first taught there as an Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corp (AFROTC) instructor. John and Polly were active members of the Westchester community. John served on the boards of the LMU Heritage Association, the Bob Hope Hollywood USO and the Flight Path Learning Center & Museum at LAX. He supported Polly's passion for the Airport Marina Counseling Service. While John's childhood during the Great Depression shaped a lifetime of hard work and personal frugality, he was a generous father, grandfather, friend and patron of many causes. The latter included an endowment for annual scholarships in the LMU Accounting Department and AFROTC program. John had a life long passion for Lionel trains. The year he spent in a combat zone no doubt influenced his stoicism and emotional taciturnity. John was an ever ready story teller and had a quick and lovely smile. John enjoyed his evening scotch, and he was rarely without an unlit cigar in his mouth or pocket. John and Polly celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2009. John was a devoted, loving and supportive partner to Polly throughout their marriage and during her battle with an aggressive sarcoma last year. He was a tough fighter in the face of complications of his own advancing colon cancer. John's positive attitude, understated confidence and physical and emotional resilience continued to inspire in the last few months and weeks of his life. John leaves behind a large and loving family, including a brother, five children and 16 grandchildren. Further details about John Garstka's life and photos are available at www.johngarstka.com. A viewing will be held Friday, 24 January, from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. at Holy Cross Mortuary in Culver City, CA. His funeral service will be held Saturday, 25 January at 10:00 a.m. at Visitation Catholic Church in Westchester, CA. In lieu of flowers, for those who would like to make a contribution his family suggests a donation to the Accounting/AFROTC scholarships he endowed at LMU (giving.lmu.edu designating "in memory of John A. Garstka").
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Published in the Los Angeles Times on Jan. 19, 2014