James Tomasek, Jr.

(1929-2005)


 

Jim Tomasek Jr. was born in Omaha, Nebraska, May 15, 1929 to James Sr. and Lula Tomasek. His paternal grandparents, John and Frances Tomasek were born in Bohemia. John, born in 1885, had come unaccompanied on the ship, Dresden, in 1892, with his 10 year old sister, Anna. John was a butcher. Jim had one sibling, a brother Jerry.

James Tomasek Sr.’s Military Record

Jim’s father, James Sr., a furrier, moved his family to Lincoln, Nebraska, in May of 1942. In October 1943, James Sr. entered the U. S. Army. He completed basic training at Camp Walters, Texas and in May of 1944 was shipped overseas as part of the 60th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division 1. The 60th first taste of battle on European soil came on D-Day + 4, June 10th, 1944, when it joined the 39th and 47th Regiments for an offensive into France. One of the first orders given to the 60th Regiment was to march toward Ste. Colombe. In this action the 2nd Battalion achieved outstanding results. Driving hard toward the objective, 2nd Battalion completely outdistanced the rest of the Division. They overran the German defenses, set up a bridgehead on the Douve River and held the position for seven hours under heavy fire until the rest of the Division could catch up with them. For this aggressiveness the 2nd Battalion was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation.

During the Battle of Normandy, the 9th Infantry Division captured 18,490 prisoners between June 10th 1944 and July 1st, 1944. Added to the men were also weapons, food and vehicles. The Division itself had 300 men killed and 1851 men wounded. Reporter Ernie Pyle wrote a great tribute to the men of the 9th Infantry Division: “The Ninth was good. In the Cherbourg campaign it performed like a beautiful machine. Its previous battle experience paid off. Not only in individual fighting but in the perfect way the whole organization clicked. The Ninth did something in that campaign that we hadn’t always done in the past. It kept tenaciously on the enemy’s neck. When the Germans would withdraw a little, the Ninth was right on top of them!”

So, after the fighting that resulted in cutting off the Cotentin Peninsula and capturing Cherbourg and its port, the 9th Infantry Division was moved south into “Bocage Country”. Here, battlefields consisted of small fields separated by hedgerows, solid three foot thick and three foot high earthen mounds. These banks were capped with hedges, brushes, trees and sometimes wire. The rain did not help. Tanks were snarled up along the roads. Each man was on his own and a gain of 300 yards a day was a good day’s work. The American Forces, including the Old Reliables, were attempting to push south to the pivot point of St. Lo, the big city. The move was a build-up that would send the Third Army out into Brittany and the First Army toward Falaise and beyond.

On July 10th, 1944, VII Corps was on the offensive with the 4th, 9th and 83rd Infantry Divisions abreast. Crossing the Canal de Vire, the 9th Division moved on the Hommet Woods. Slowly but surely pushing on, it moved until it reached the St. Lo – Perriers Road by July 21st. A lot of action took place on the 25th of July, 1944. On this day all troops of the 47th Infantry Regiment were pulled back about 1200 yards north of the Periers – St. Lo road. They assembled in an area west of Ponte Ducrie, near the hamlets of La Cuillourie and Ponte Hairie. 1st Battalion held the area at the west, 2nd Battalion was in the middle, and the 1st Battalion on the east. Allied bombing started by medium bombers and the first raid went OK. However, by the time that the heavy bombers arrived, the south wind had blown the smoke designating the bomb line back onto the troops. As a result, the heavy bombers bombed their own men. Men of the 1st Battalion only suffered a few casualties. They were lucky, as one of the bombs dropped right in the middle of an aid station, but it proved to be a dud, and did not explode. 2nd Battalion also escaped with slight losses. The 3rd Battalion however suffered heavily. The Command Group of 30 men were all killed or wounded except for the Battalion commander and the Commander of K Company. Several other members of K Company and one platoon of M Company also suffered losses during the bombing. This all happened in the morning, around 0930 hours. Around 1100 hours, 2nd Battalion began to push forward and attacked an area near La Couperie. 1st Battalion fought near Al Rillerie and went towards Marigny and the Periers – St Lo Road. 3rd Battalion took a bit longer to prepare, and fought their way via Montreuil. It sure was a though day for the 9th Infantry Division. On July 26, Jim’s father was killed in action. The notice that appeared in the “The Nebraska State Journal”, Lincoln, Nebraska, August 16, 1944, is at right.

Jim’s mother later married Clarence Schmidt.

James Tomasek Jr.’s Education

Sometime after 1940 the family moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, Jim attended Lincoln High School where he was active in extra-curricular activities including student government. He was especially interested in drama and this continued into his college years at the University of Nebraska.

Here we see Jim, front right, in his sophomore year at Lincoln High School. He is chairman of the Sophomore Cabinet.

Jim in his junior class play at Lincoln High School, 1946. He is fourth from left in tuxedo.

 

Jim rehearsing for his junior play.

Jim in Mikado, senior year at Lincoln High School, 1947. Back row, far right. in 1947, Jim read the Gettysburg Adress before the Nebraska Legislature on Abraham Lincoln‘s birthday.

 

 

Following graduation from high school Jim enrolled in the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. He graduated in 1951.

Here is Jim in the Military Police at University of Nebraska at Lincoln. He is in second row, second from right end. He does not appear happy, 1950.

Outstanding students in theater activities were rewarded with a membership in the Nebraska Masquers Chapter of the National Collegiate Players. Jim was one of those students in 1950. He is sitting at far left.

Following graduation from the University in 1951, Jim entered Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis. The Lincoln Evening Journal, December 25, 1947, reported that James Tomasek told the Christmas story at the St. Paul Evangelical and Reformed Church in Lincoln. Jim clearly had an early interest in the church. In 1950, he was elected chairman of the National Council of Youth Fellowship of the Evangelical and Reformed Church.

We see Jim here, bottom row, third from left.

In 1958, while serving a church in Lincoln, Jim earned a Master’s of Arts from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Mary had earned an MA the previous year while teaching school.

Mary Gaile Sigler

Mary Gaile Sigler was born in Osceola, Nebraska to Dewey and Mildred Sigler. Jim likely met Mary as a result of their shared dram interest. Mary was very active in drama at Osceola High School. She continued that interest at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. She won many honors while there and like Jim was inducted into the Nebraska Masquers Chapter of the National Collegiate Players. Following graduation in 1951, she taught at Lincoln High School in Lincoln. She was in the English department and was technical director of plays during this time. She and Jim came engaged January of 1957. They married later that year on August 18.

Jim and Mary had two children Mark David, born 1963, and Dorcas, born 1965. Mark is the IT District Commander for Emergency Medical Services for the City of Austin, Texas. Dorcas was an actress in theater and television. She served for many years as Camp Director of Camp Boggy Creek. Its stated mission, “Camp Boggy Creek was founded in 1996 by Paul Newman and General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, with one simple premise in mind, that every child, no matter their illness, could experience the transformational spirit and friendships that go hand in hand with camp.” Dorcas now does risk management for nonprofit organizations.

 

Jim’s Pastoral Career

Jim served churches in Evansville, Ind., St. Louis, Mo., Washington, DC and Landover, Maryland before joining the staff of the Central Atlantic Conference of the United Church of Christ. He was made Associate in Christian Education in the CAC in 1966. During this time Jim was a strong advocate for the civil rights movement. Mary told of how badly he wanted to participate in the March on Selma. His personal safety was never an issue for him, he was keenly aware of the risk that many faced daily. He was very disappointed when when accepted that without money for bail, lawyers and transportation for trial he would be jeopardizing the welfare of his family.

For twenty years he served as Conference Minister for the South Central Conference of the Untied Church of Christ. While Conference Minister he served on many special committees for the church. His zeal, smile and deep devotion to the people he served was appreciated by all who knew him. Jim was a tireless worker for the ecumenical movement and counseled many churches trying to decide whether to join the merger that led to the United Church of Christ.

Following the brutal murder of a minster and his wife in Weimar, Jim led the service. His comments were quoted in an article in Texas Monthly, August 1999. Reporter Michael Hall wrote, “At nine-thirty the next morning I sat in a pew at the church, known as the UCC, alongside 150 mourners. The guest minister, the Reverend Jim Tomasek, opened his sermon by reading from Murder in the Cathedral, T. S. Eliot’s play about the killing of the archbishop of Canterbury in 1170: “We are afraid in a fear which we cannot know, which we cannot face, which none understands.” The members of the congregation sat quietly, some still dazed, as Tomasek spoke of the helplessness and abandonment they were feeling, the anger and hurt. “There is always this kind of evil among us,” he said, “when people somehow become enraged in some mysterious way we don’t understand.” It had been only two weeks since the murders, but the future was the important thing. “We need to deal with what is,” he continued, “but let the present lead us into the future.” Good would triumph in the end, the good created by God’s love, “a love that is only interested in the welfare of the other.”

In recognition of Jim’s dedication to civil rights and racial equality, Huston-Tillotson University award him an Honorary Doctorate.

The Rev. James Tomasek Jr. Endowed Scholarship, was established in 2003 by Chap. Enid L. and Mr. James R. Ross of Austin, Texas, in honor of the Rev. James Tomasek Jr. Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

Reverend Dr. James “Jim” Tomasek, Jr. died on April 28, 2005 in Austin,TX after a long battle with Parkinson. A celebration of Jim's life was held on Saturday, May 14, 2005, at 2:00 p.m. in the Congregational Church of Austin TX.

University of Nebraska acting group, Mary Sigler, middle of the bottom row.

 

Junior Class, Osceloa High School, 1946. Mary front row, second from end.

Annual Staff, Osceola High School, 1947.

Mary Sigler, Osceola High School Band. 1947. Mary back row, at right end.

Mary Sigler, English Department at Lincoln High School, 1957.

Mary and Jim Tomasek

 

Left to Right: Jim, mother, Lula, and brother, Jerry

Jim and daughter, Dorcas Tomasek.

Jim, son, Mark, and grandson, Matthew..