U.S. Navy - Reserves and active
Medals - Navy Unit Citation, Good Conduct, Navy Reserve Medal
Duty Stations/ship - USS Francis Marion, APA 249, Troop Carrier
Gregory M. Sek, U.S. Navy
Territorial Area of Responsibility - U.S.Navy Atlantic Fleet
Married - Karen Thies, Aug. 22, 1970. The wedding ceremony was at St. Hyacinth's Roman Catholic Church and the reception at the Lakeside Restaurant in Dunkirk's First Ward.
Children: Romona, twin boys: Gregory, Steven
Grandchildren: Frank Jr., Michael and new baby grandchild due around Thanksgiving Day
Gregory M. Sek is the son of Theodore and Viola (Skrzypek) Sek. His father was an ornamental and structural steel welder who owned his own business in Dunkirk on Leopard Street. The business made custom made-to-fit ornamental railings to provide access and safety for homes. His father also performed commercial welding.
Lake Erie was his playground growing up since he lived on Lake Front Boulevard in Dunkirk's First Ward. He attended St. Hyacinth's School for eight years. While attending school, he played the only sport offered at the time for the students - basketball. This Catholic elementary school basketball team coached by Mr. Stolinski played against many schools including St. Mary's, Sacred Heart, Mount Carmel of Silver Creek, Holy Trinity and St. Hedwig's.
When Sek wasn't playing basketball, he devoted time to scouting. He joined Dunkirk's Troop 8, which was sponsored by the First Ward Falcons Club. He worked his way to a patrol leader, and he made it to the life rank in boy scouting.
Growing up in the First Ward had everything a boy could want, the beaches at Wright Park, the playground at School 7, the Dairy Aisle and Sweet Shop, the cliffs and first and second gulf.
When he became older, he started hanging out with other boys in his neighborhood including close friends Tom Katta, Dan Barlett, John Kasmerziak, Rich Madurski, Harry Sysol and Dave Cybulski. The group's hangout was at a new place called the Huddle located across from Industrial High. For excitement there were the cliffs off of Wright Park Drive that led to Devils Hole. Every now and then for something different they stopped at Alvin's Hideaway for some late night coffee or some wild (non-alcoholic) drink. Summers were full of late night parties going on at the beach house.
Life wasn't always a party. Every day after school, the walk home led him to his father's welding shop on Leopard Street. He got involved with the everyday duties of being a welder at a young age. As the years went by, he picked up the trade and skills needed to come back to the welding field if the need arose.
Sek graduated in 1966 and started working full time at the family's welding and radiator repair shop. Knowing that the country was in the Vietnam War he decided that he wanted to do his duty for his country. Sek had time before the draft and decided to enlist in the U.S. Navy. One day he jumped into his car and drove to the U.S. Navy Reserve Station at Dunkirk's Point Drive North Militia. He was given the approval, signed the papers and was given a set of orders.
Sek reported to the nearest Naval activity having a U.S. Navy medical officer available. Attached to that was a train ticket and a voucher for $62 to be used for the cost of his $15.20 train ticket.
The cost for his room for one night was $22.80 and $39 for additional tolls or amenities. The balance of what was left from the voucher was to be returned. He was to report the day after to commanding officer recruit training. This command regiment was at Camp Dewey, naval training center in Great Lakes, Ill. He spent the next 10 weeks of Naval boot camp learning Naval military history, basic small arms, regulations and seamanship. The main training was learning firefighting skills.
After his first leave he received orders for Norfolk, Va., which was the home of the Navy's Atlantic Fleet. He received orders that stationed him on the USS Francis Marion APA 249, a U.S. Navy troop carrier. His duty assignment was a deck hand, a job that was dedicated to keeping the ship's deck in shape. It involved constant mopping, scrapping and painting the deck. His break came when there was an opening in the ship's personnel department. He took the test on board, passed it and then went from scraper to fountain pen and typewriter. In the ships personnel division he took care of the ship's mail, sailors' records and daily reports.
During his Naval duty he had the chance to cruise the Caribbean making port in many islands. The ship dropped anchor in the Virgin Islands, Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo) Cuba and Puerto Rico. This was part of the Navy's goodwill tour. When they weren't touring the Caribbean, the USS Francis Marion did take part in many drills practicing moving US Marines in island landing maneuvers. The ship's personnel saw a Bob Hope Christmas show while cruising the Caribbean Islands.
When the goodwill tour was winding down and after two months of drilling the USS Francis Marion, he headed back to Norfolk. When the ship hit Norfolk, he had exactly four days left of active duty. Contemplating re-enlistment that required six more years of service he decided, because his dad was getting up in years, that it would be best that he returned home.
After he returned home to Dunkirk, he later discovered that his ship the USS Francis Marion left Norfolk 10 days after his enlistment ended. It sailed to Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina and picked up a battalion of U.S. marines from Camp Lejune and took them to Da Nang, South Vietnam.
Coming back home to Dunkirk for those who served was usually the same. It usually consisted of a family get-together with the aunts uncles and cousins. Then day by day, one would meet their old buddies from the past and just pick up where one left off. The same was for Sek, the family get-together, meeting the old friends and back to his old job. When Sek came back he found that the business got a little bit larger and more products were in demand. Now it involved ornamental railings, steel tank welding, fire escapes and special orders of a spiral staircase or two. One of his first big jobs back was working and building racks for the Plymouth Tube Co.
When his dad was ready for retirement, Sek and his brother purchased the business from their father and divided the business into two divisions - one being the welding and ornamental division which his brother took and the other being the radiator repair division which he took.
The radiator division was responsible for all radiator repairs. It not only involved car and truck radiators but also included commercial radiators used in industry, tow motors radiators and cooling systems. Radiator problems were a year-round concern. In the summer, more cars were driven on vacations and in the winter the cold took its toll. It was a business that kept him busy all the time
All was going well for this Navy vet until in 1986 when an aneurysm struck Sek and put him down for six months. He later returned to work at 50 percent just to try to help catch up with the medical bills that were growing with each day's mail.
In 2008 a new item was presented in the automobile industry that changed his radiator shop; the industry came out with plastic radiators for all new cars. This cut his business down dramatically, leading Sek to decide on retirement.
After retirement, he wanted to do something so he applied for a job as a lunch monitor at School 5. He works school days from 7:45 to 8:50 a.m. and comes back at 10:30 a.m. and monitors to 12:50 p.m. He really enjoys this job. He loves watching the students because they are the future. He also ran and won a seat on the Dunkirk school board in 2006. His goal was to see that the children received the best education possible, but along with that he wanted to make sure that the taxpayers got all they could for their dollar. He stated that he knew how hard it was not only to make a dollar but how hard it was trying to get the most out of it when spending it.
Sek is an active member of the First Ward Falcon Club, the Moniuszko Club and St. Hyacinth's Parish. He states his next adventure is seeking the First Ward councilman's position in the city's next election. When asked why the ambition, his reply was to see accountability and see if there is a direction out there somewhere that the city can head for to make it a great place to live and raise your family and run a business again.
Greg Sek was the person I would see when I saw steam flowing out of my hood of the car. I knew him as the radiator man.
Everyone in the First Ward knew Greg Sek. You would call him and he came and fixed your car as if it was automatic to so. He was that kind of a guy. When he was done customers didn't have to worry when he handed them the bill. When customers saw the number at the bottom they were relieved and started wondering if he had made a mistake because the bill was half of what they planned. That's just the way things were done back in those days with men like Sek. That's the way he was brought up and that's the way he is to this day.
The same man who went and just served. I had called him to do his story because I read he was a Navy man. His reply was like all the others, "I really didn't do that much." My reply as always is that these stories are written for all the men and women who have served. They all are heroes, every job, duty or assignment is not known until issued. Sek was a deck hand. He later worked in the ship's personnel office.
Greg Sek is also a hero, he did his job and did it well. The Navy is full of Greg Seks and that's why our Navy is so strong and is the best Navy in the world. Greg Sek thank you for serving.
Greg Sek is our Hero of the Week.