galloping Ghost of the Java
John B. Stefanek was born the 4th of 9
children on August 24, 1919, in Cleveland. Ohio. He graduated from
Benedictine Catholic High
in Cleveland in 1937. He was the first recipient of an award
given for excellence in sports an award he
was very proud of.
He went to the Naval recruiting station to
support a friend and give him courage. The friend was rejected because he had
four molars missing. The Navy encouraged John to take the test just for the heck of it! John was a sailor! He
enlisted on April 19, 1939. The day John left, a
Boston baseball farm contract arrived at the house.
However, the Navy had him. He spent boot camp in Great Lakes. Illinois.
He would have liked to have been a pilot;
however, this was unlikely as he was not an officer. He served aboard the USS
Houston effective October 3, 1940. He played baseball for the USS Houston. He hit
a home run in the same ballpark in Manila as Babe Ruth did.
He spent 42 months as a Japanese Prisoner of War.
He, along with two other prisoners,
prayed the rosary every day. He attributed his coming home to the daily masses, prayers and love of
his mother. He was honorably
discharged from the US Navy on May 19,
1946, as a Chief
He married Irma Kovacs on June 22,
1946. Their daughter Jane
was born on June 2, 1947. He worked as a tile setter in
Cleveland for more than 40 years. He received many awards
for excellence in his tile setting. He died on May 18,
2000, at the age of 80
years. He was laid to rest on
May 25, 2000, at Arlington National Cemetery. He loved his family and the Navy. He was a
deeply religious man. He was a humble man who never bragged about
USS Houston Next Generation Daughter of John B.