Joseph Stemach

Joseph Stemach December 20, 1912 April 2, 2014 Joseph Stemach passed away April 2, 2014, at age 101. Born December 20, 1912, he was a life-long resident of Eureka who contributed a worthy chapter to this city's history. His father, Matt Stemach, an immigrant from Yugoslavia, was Eureka's first green grocer. Joe and his three sisters worked in Matt's Fifth Street market as young adults. Matt bought huckleberries from local Native Americans, and it was Joe's job to load the huckleberries onto ocean-going schooners bound for the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, world-renowned for its huckleberry pie. Each Fall, Joe drove to Healdsburg to bring back a ton of grapes so his family and other Yugoslavs in Eureka could make wine. He sold fireworks now certainly illegal and even "managed" the market's slot machine then considered legal all to supplement the family's income. During the Depression years, Matt asked Joe to "keep food on the family table." His adventures in doing so led to a life-long passion for fishing and out-door adventures. Joe said that those years were among the best of his life because he "could live like Huckleberry Finn" catching fish, raiding potato fields in the middle of the night, even stealing whiskey from moonshiners which, during Prohibition, he re-sold at local dances for 25› a bottle. In 1937, Joe rode his Harley Davidson motorcycle across the Golden Gate Bridge on the day the bridge opened to vehicles. But he gave up his Harley to wed Mary Pawlus, his loving wife of nearly 74 years. Mary preceded him in death in 2011 at age 94. During World War II, Joe served as a Supply Sergeant in Europe. Once again, he was responsible for putting food on the table, this time for a company of soldiers that moved from England to France and Germany. He earned the Bronze Star twice. After the war, he returned to Eureka where he and Mary raised five children Joe Jr., Jerry, Janice, Judy, and Jim. The children attended St. Bernards where Joe helped with Dads' Club chores. Every Thanksgiving, he single-handedly ran a raffle for charity. Joe was general manager for thirty years at Andrew Rosaia, Inc, a wholesale liquor distributor. He was an early responder in the 1964 disaster relief efforts for flood and tidal wave victims. He started one of Eureka's first recycling programs, visiting schools to raise awareness among young people. Joe and Mary received recognition from national magazines for their backyard flower gardens. He encouraged his children including ten grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren to enjoy the beauty and bounty of the great outdoors. It is, in his words, the finest cathedral on Earth. The community honored Joe on the occasion of his 100th birthday. The family wishes to mark his passing publicly by that event. They will celebrate his passing privately. Contributions in his name may be made to Hospice of Humboldt County who, together with Doctor Edward Olsgard kept this centenarian smiling to the end. Please sign the guestbook at and click on obits.

Published in Eureka Times-Standard from Apr. 4 to Apr. 6, 2014