Obituaries for Tuesday, July 9, 2002
KAROL OTTO KOCOUREK, P.E.
Memorial services for Karol O. Kocourek, P.E. will be held Saturday at 10 a.m. at The Church of the Mediator, with the Revs. Ann L. Whitaker, Mike Dobrosky and Eddie B. Cryer officiating. Burial will be in Memorial Garden Cemetery with Barham Funeral Home in charge of arrangements.
Mr. Kocourek, 69, of Meridian, died Saturday, July 6, 2002, at Jeff Anderson Regional Medical Center. He was retired from Georgia Pacific Corporation (formerly Fort James, James River, and American Can Company).
He was born in Ruzomberok, Czechoslovakia. He was a member of the high school basketball team which was able to win a competition against the Czechoslovakian National Team. More than 30 years later he was still recognized on the streets of Ruzomberok for those famous basketball games.
He was a graduate of the University of Slovakia in Bratislava, Slovakia, specializing in pulp and paper engineering. He was selected to advise Fidel Castro on that industry and left Czechoslovakia for Cuba in 1962.
He formulated a plan to escape by boat to Miami, but the Communists suspected his plans. Robert Lipa, Karol's childhood friend and basketball teammate, warned Karol that the Communists were suspicious and helped Karol to formulate an alternate escape plan.
Karol tried to gain additional time to accomplish his escape by eating chalk so that he would be too ill to travel. This did not work, so he met a doctor in an alley and received typhoid injections, but he never even broke a fever. Karol had no alternative but to board the plane back to Czechoslovakia as ordered by the Communists. Knowing that the plane would have to stop to refuel before crossing the Atlantic, Karol decided to walk off the plane wherever it stopped. The stop was in Gander, Newfoundland, Canada, and Karol walked off the plane and asked for political asylum.
From Canada, Karol eventually found his way to the United States and worked in the paper industry with the American Can Company which subsequently became James River, Fort James, and Georgia Pacific. He became a United States citizen on May 16, 1980. He was the Director of Major Projects at Naheola Mill in Pennington, Ala., when he retired in 1998 after more than 33 years of service.
Karol's favorite leisure pastime was travel, and he went to many interesting places including a trip to India with Jwala Gupta, a co-worker originally from India, who gave him an insider's tour.
When the Communists finally left Czechoslovakia in 1989, Karol was able to travel back to his home country to visit his mother, relatives and friends whom he left behind when he escaped.
He spent several weeks in his hometown every year, most recently in April through June 2002. Karol also traveled broadly elsewhere in Europe and South America. He was a member of the Episcopal Church of the Mediator, but enjoyed visiting other churches, including First Union Baptist Church, New Prospect Missionary Baptist Church and Fifth Street Baptist Church.
Survivors include his wife, Sarah Springer Kocourek, his stepsons, Kyle Doherty and Colin Doherty, all of Meridian; his mother, Eva Kocourekova,of Ruzomberok, Republic of Slovakia, as well as his parents-in-law, Paul and Mary Jean Springer of Meridian; several close friends in the United States and overseas, all of whom will sorely miss their wonderful friend.
He was preceded in death by his father, Karol Kocourek.
Memorials may be made Wesley House Community Center, 1520 Eight Ave., Meridian, MS 39301.
Visitation will be Friday 5 p.m.-8 p.m. at the church.
JAMES COBERT KENNEDY JR.
Graveside services for James Cobert Kennedy Jr. will be held today at 11 a.m. at Liberty Church Cemetery with the Rev. J.B. Costilow officiating. James F. Webb Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
Mr. Kennedy, 51, of Madison, died Saturday, July 6, 2002, in Jackson. He was owner of Independent Surveyor Prostake Company and a member of Liberty Baptist Church. He was also a member of the Mississippi National Guard.
Survivors include his sister, Sandra Gibbon of Newton; two nieces, Kimberly Norman and Carrie Norman, both of Brandon; a nephew, Kurk Weems of San Francisco.