Jiri Vanourek

Obituary of Jiri Vanourek

Jiri Vanourek (JV), age 84, of Othello, Washington departed this mortal life while at his home, to be with his Lord amongst heaven’s mountains September 18, 2015. He was born in Horky Czechoslovakia on January 30, 1931 to parents Vratislav and Ruzena (Zahradnikova) Vanourek. He and his two sisters grew up on the farm and he attended high school in the nearby town of Caslav. In 1948 the family farm was expropriated by the Soviet communists and Jiri then attended and graduated with a Master of Science degree in Agronomy from Mendel University in Brno. Dodging bullets, Jiri was able to escape the repression of communism by daringly running across the border into West Germany in 1953. He then immigrated to the United States and eventually found his way to the Pacific Northwest. He was so proud to be an American and he dearly loved his adopted country. He attended Washington State College in Pullman, Washington and earned an additional Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Economics in 1957. He married Ingeborg Stattek in Ephrata, Washington in August, 1959. Jiri always found employment in the agricultural field. Along the way he worked as a parts man at a Case implement dealership, worked as a land manager for the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, sold concrete ditches for D & R in Ephrata, Washington and for three years worked as a sales representative for the Chevron Chemical Corporation out of Moses Lake, Washington. In 1963, Jiri decided to go into business for himself. He started the company Soil & Crop Services, Incorporated in Othello and was a true leader and pioneer in the fertilizer/chemical industry in the Columbia Basin. After setbacks in the mid-1980’s, Jiri started Multistar Industries, Incorporated in the same location and steadily grew that organization to where it is today, a preeminent supplier of anhydrous ammonia to industry in the Pacific Northwest. Jiri was a hard working man. His work ethic was unsurpassed. He was never one to sit around and complain. He had that true “can-do” attitude. The little free time he had was spent in the mountains and hiking the trails of the Pacific Northwest. He dearly loved the mountains and the outdoors. He summited several Northwest peaks including Mount Ranier, Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams, Mount Stuart, the Three Sisters in Oregon, Glacier Peak and many others. Jiri was a complex man. He certainly was unique. He will be dearly missed. Jiri is survived by his children; Tom (Ann) Vanourek of North Bend, Washington, Pete (Cindy Castaneda) Vanourek of Othello, Washington, and Sylvia(Scott) Whitmer of Yakima, Washington, and his sisters; Lidka (+Vladimir) Sykora of Leavenworth, Washington, and Ziva Klausberger of the Czech Republic. Jiri also leaves behind 8 grandchildren and 3 nieces and nephews. A memorial service will be held at 11:00 am, October 3, 2015, at Stevens Funeral Home in Othello, Washington. To leave an online condolence to the family, and to learn more about Jiri’s interesting life, please visit our website at www.stevensfc.com. PERSONAL BIOGRAPHY I was born 1931 to Ruzena & Vratislav in a small rural village of Horky, Czechoslovakia. My father was a professor at a junior ag-college and part-time farmer while my mother was a full-time farm manager and a full-time mother/housekeeper of three. When my father (graduate agronomist) and mother married, they both aspired to farm (first and foremost). Together, with the help of both of their parents (also farmers on both sides), they made a down payment on a nice farm spread and in 1929 my mother (with father’s part-time help) went to farm. They finished paying-off the real estate mortgage of a now well developed, intensive row crop farm in 1946 and both were expectantly looking forward to years (my father no longer teaching) of debt-free and successful – both were rather good at it - farming. It was not meant to be. Following the February 1948 putsch of the communists in Czechoslovakia, my father was shortly imprisoned on the pretext of being a “kulak” (“big” farmer employing others; an enemy of the proletariat), beaten in prison till he admitted a guilt of abusing, while low-paying, his farm workers. After 2 months he was released but forbidden to return physically onto the farm. Meanwhile a week after my father’s detainment, the local communist party cell appointed a farm commissar to take over the farm management as well as the farm ownership. The family was ordered to move out of their farm living quarters. During all of this family commotion I was graduating from gymnasium, the European equivalent of the American high school, and preparing to follow in father’s footsteps as an attendee of Mendel’s University in Brno in agricultural engineering / agronomy. There in 1953 I completed the requirements for the Master’s degree diploma graduating summa cum laude (third in a class of 120) thus gaining the qualification for employment with a federal agency specializing in designing the technical aspects of individual farms’ conversion into collectives in line with the socialistic/communistic social and economic dogma. Interestingly, I deviated from the fairly commonly found clandestine political hopes (my parents inclusive) of those who saw a brighter future coming around the corner - 3 to 5 years down the road – in a wishfully hoped-for collapse of the newly inducted communistic/socialistic regime that commandeered itself into a position of absolute dictatorial power. I recollect clearly my firm opinion on the East / West partition of Europe as a semi-permanent / permanent status quo, most certainly compared to the pre-war status quo ante; undoubtedly long-range geographical and political settlements reflecting the Yalta conference agreements to which the USA and Great Britain were both willing signatories and over which Stalin and the Soviet Union would most likely have waged war to preserve it and/or to expand it. I became a ravenous reader on the subject, rather rapidly reaching the conclusion that my personal aspirations and yearnings for a more a priori unbiased, decent, Lord blessed adult life, existed only outside of the sphere of Soviet dominance; the Czech communist lackeys & sycophants inclusive. With my family’s “kulaky” background, I was forever branded & marked as an unreliable persona (persona non grata) amongst the vigilant proletariat disallowing, without immediate and harsh punishment, any opposition to their class warfare dogmas inclusive of state ownership of all means of production. For the duration of my lifelong career I would never be trusted, always a suspect of hostile, corruptive schemes and activities against the ruling regime of the communistic party. Always in danger of demotion and loss of personal freedom on any drummed up charges against the entire family. I, therefore, started a focused, intensive search for the least dangerous “departure” or escape from the communistic Czechoslovakia, a soviet satellite, with the destination anywhere in Western Europe (most likely to West Germany). There were however no easy, safe options. In 1954, a 1 mile to 3 mile wide strip along the western border with Austria and West Germany was already fully sealed shut to normal civilian travel and presence. The entire length barricaded with several different designs of barbed wire fences and electrification, land mines, freshly tilled soil to show any foot traffic, all patrolled with army units positioned at the border including elevated towers to stop and to capture individuals attempting to cross to the West. However the unobstructed border with East Germany offered a crossing with Berlin targeted as my final destination. At the end of May 1954 I elected to cross on foot the yet unobstructed border with East Germany. Shortly thereafter though I aborted my attempt to reach Berlin on foot as in my Czech dress I appeared too conspicuous among the population of East Germans to sneak to Berlin unnoticed; furthermore I should have been riding a bicycle (!). Therefore I turned around and returned back to Czech. At work, all of a sudden, completely unforeseen and unexpected, I was notified of a reassignment from my work in central Moravia, County of Gottwaldov (distant from the republic’s western border) to a County of Tachov in western Bohemia that in its western part bordered directly on West Germany. The agronomic work there - consisting of delimitation of farm land sitting idle or slowly returning into its natural habitat of tree forests ever since the pre-war German population (the area known as the Sudetenland) was expelled, then deported – appeared to be on par with the work I was doing since I went to work for the agency i.e. roaming and familiarizing myself in detail with the countryside. Consequently, when I heard of my re-assignment to Tachov, I considered it immediately a Lord’s given opportunity to execute on my plans to leave permanently the socialistic “paradise” aka working man’s Eldorado and I did everything I could think of to impress on my superiors I was willing & ready to carry out any assignments on what was considered the republic’s frontier only thinly populated since the Germans left behind empty towns, villages and idle farms. Whoa(!), whoa(!)….not so fast(!) Upon arrival to the town of Tachov I learned quickly the entire county was one very extensively managed state farm, practically no services, one barely and irregularly attended eatery and no sleeping accommodations (myself and three additional agronomists simply moved into one of the empty houses the Germans left behind and broke out housekeeping there). The County was divided into three parts: The inner part was managed by the state farm manager, the restricted border zone accessible to private citizens with a special entry permit issued by the Ministry of Interior only and finally the forbidden strip along the border line where the fences and the anti-crossing contraptions were constructed, where no private citizens were allowed, mines were planted and any attempted crossings vigilantly watched for by special army personnel (soldiers) assigned to the border patrol. Soon after our special task force arrived in Tachov, our team leader inquired about an access and assignments to and in the border zone(s). He was informed our agronomic survey included “every square meter” of the sovereign soil of the republic; however he was ordered to secure the required special entry permits for the border zone(s), a rather risky territory to conduct the survey and soil testing in. Among all the men in the five men team, I was the only one single. Therefore it appeared credible for me to volunteer for a permit to execute the survey work in the border zone(s). However when the permit came it specified the Border zone only. I waited till the end of the week when all of my colleagues departed home for the week-end in the interior, altered the permit to include all of the County area and soil and approached the military command in the barracks for permission to conduct the survey. It took the commander over 2 hours before he dispatched me with two of his patrolmen/sharpshooters with a comment I was the only civilian in better than 3 years having approached them with a permit the validity which he apparently questioned. The plan worked as conjured; I learned where the mine fields were; how and where the patrol walked the daily path on their assigned duty; that the electric fence voltage was 4,000 volts (enough to kill a person on contact); and I learned the location of the watch towers the military guards manned 24/7, but above all I discovered a small creek originating across the line in Germany “offering” a possible crossing slithering under the fences inclusive of the electrical one. The same day, it was Saturday, I did not return to Tachov; I hid in the forbidden zone after the company of the two sharpshooters returned to their barracks – no one ever questioned my loyalty to the regime. I was looked upon as an extra loyal, dependent emissary of a special survey team ordered and sponsored directly by the communistic party secretariat in Prague. From my hiding place - I waited till the dusk – I stealthily approached the creek, and then worked my way through its mud toward the fences. The creek though muddy and very shallow enabled me to cross under the electrical fence and the two barbed wire fences as imagined and I was slowly but surely approaching the Czech / German line. . Several meters short of its crossing I was discovered by one of the elevated watch towers that opened gun fire. Fortunately I was only a few meters from the wooded area on the other (German) side of the state line. I rose, jumped across the state line and disappeared in the woods of West Germany. I ran till I reached the German road leading from Bernau to the border. There I encountered an American patrol returning from a routine trip to the then closed border crossing. They captured me and drove me to their barracks in the town of Tirschenreuth where I was debriefed, fed, and then transported to the regional headquarters in Nuernberg. I was held captive for several weeks while my identity and my firm, friendly intent to remain in the “West” was verified and affirmed. Thereafter I was given the status of a D.P person (displaced) and allowed to remain and move freely in West Germany. I moved to Frankfurt am Main where I did find work as a surveyor’s assistant, but decided early to seek emigration opportunities to Australia, Canada or the USA. In Frankfurt I also befriended an American officer who convinced me to seek preferentially emigration to the United States. With my background in agronomy and ag. engineering, he painted favorably the job opportunities in America. With his help I filed my petition with the American consulate in Frankfurt. Coincidentally, the Eisenhower’s Refugee Relief and Immigration Act then passed the US congress and my application fitted the provisions of the act. In May 1956 I landed in New York but moved immediately to Washington, D.C. where as a sponsoree of the US Congress I was aided with temporary living support and assistance to land an existence supporting job. Shortly after I found a car washer’s job and I started to save dollar by dollar to finance my relocation either to the Midwest or the West where the agriculture and ag. related industries reigned supreme. After a brief bus trip through Kansas, and while working & waiting for such an opportunity to relocate, the sponsor’s representative aided me again with an “opening” in Seattle, in the State of Washington. The agency’s representative there thought I could fit the regional job opportunities. I reacted positively, secured an airfare and flew to Seattle, WA. There Wayne R. waited for me and offered help in finding work for me. While there were openings in my field they all required linguistic proficiency in English that unfortunately I was short of. We jointly decided to seek employment with Washington State College in Pullman where next to my menial job I could speed up my proficiency in English. Together we arrived at the end of June 1956 in Pullman only to find the college “closing down” for the summer vacation. However an inquiry with the regional employment office revealed several dry-land farm openings. I selected one and Wendel Guinn 7 miles north of Pullman hired me. At 10 dollars a day + board & room I wasn’t making much, but having no cash expense I saved every dollar I made and at the end of the summer I had money to enroll at WSC as a student, pay the tuition, the books and the meal tickets. With a later supplemental employment with the college housing authority I had enough means to finish the school with an American degree. That gave me an opportunity to nostrificate my European degree and devote all my time to learning English; not only to speak it, but to read and to write it as well. First I could not handle the 18 credit hours I signed for; had to drop back to 12; with all the translation I had to do of my school material I had barely time to sleep 4-5 hrs a day. I hung on and in three semesters I earned an American sheepskin in agricultural economics and spoke well enough to seek work in the private sector starting as parts-man with Twin Falls Tractor & Implement Co., followed with a hitch at the WA State Dept of Natural Resources as land manager, then to a sales representative for California Spray & Chemical Corp / Chevron Chemical Company in their fertilizer & pesticide division. I related well to farmers; my sales rose every year starting with the first one. The three years long employment with Chevron lead to my decision to resign and together with Harry Masto of Moses Lake started an independent dealership (Soil & Crop Service, Inc) with anhydrous ammonia in 1961 opening on January 2, 1963 in Othello, WA. In spite of the capital intensive operation, the business grew and prospered for 17 years when suddenly the sugar beet mill closed in Moses Lake and with the closure, and with 30,000 acres of sugar beets ceasing to be grown annually in the Columbia Basin, the one crop using ammonia preferentially as side-dressed nitrogen fertilizer, a huge market for anhydrous ammonia ceased to exist. That was a severe blow to SOIL & CROP SERVICE that had no warning or anticipation of the sugar beet acreage “departure”; that was financing its growth with bank credit and was therefore severely handicapped to compete in a chaotic, predatory, shrunk market. All of my competitors fought for “their” piece of the market share, the prices and hence the margins dropping below the red line. In turn Peoples National bank quickly served us with an ultimatum to bring additional capital in or face liquidation. With the sugar beet gloom filling the air, individuals with resources to invest were keeping a distance from the irrigated empire. At the same time Masto was retiring and wanted out moving to Seattle. As is usually the case I had no private reserves at that time to continue. I decided therefore to accede to bank’s demand to liquidate without filing for bankruptcy provided they let me continue with the ammonia equipment, discontinuing and liquidating the remaining fertilizer equipment and pesticide business. Acting from a position of power they were not inclined to consider my proposition favorably nor seriously. Later, when the business site was found contaminated with pesticide residues, the bank rather rapidly agreed to the proposed “peaceful” liquidation. They wanted OUT, period (!). This time I was the only one left to nurse the ammonia business back to life. When I started in 1963 I had 2 employees helping me to get started. This time I was alone. Also at that time I had $ 20,000 to start the new business with. This time I had little besides the remnants of the ammonia equipment except possibly a better honed know-how of how to run and develop an ammonia business. It was actually an “easy” decision: to bow my back, return to manual work delivering ammonia to anyone who wanted to buy and had the money to pay for it. I hired a part-time secretary to help me with the paperwork and I slid behind the steering wheel of a 1977 delivery truck and started courting the industrial ammonia end-user’s market right and left. The year was 1986 and slowly, month by month I kept adding to the sales volume one account at a time. In 1988 Van Waters & Roger exited the Alaskan ammonia business – (the top corporate management considered the ammonia re-package business too risky to stay in and to continue) – so MULTiSTAR, my new ammonia business identity following the SOIL & CROP exit “dared” to fill the market void. Since that time until today, Multistar serves about 80% of the Alaskan ammonia refrigerant market. At the same time, mechanical contractors building and servicing the cold storage industry cooling systems, began to engage us as sub-contractors for ammonia evacuation services required prior to their repair work initiation; a business specialty still growing in demand today. We make our ammonia tanks, trucks and well trained ammonia handling technicians available; provide temporary storage, ammonia transportation and environmentally safe, approved disposal. So this is where I am at today. My son Peter has taken over the reins of the organization and although officially retired, I continue to function in an advisory capacity. We have recently come under attack from two Federal agencies, the United States Department of Transportation and the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The outcome of these superfluous “audits” is still in doubt. The amazingly serious and real nature of the potential and REAL abuse of power by Federal Agencies and their all too human employees acting in unethical and possibly illegal fashions; arrogantly and aggressively intimidating and threatening; invoking legalistic maneuvers with a never ending army of taxpayer funded federal attorneys; demanding exorbitant amounts of “records” and forcing time lines that working 48 hours a day could not possibly meet; hiding like cowards behind the doctrine of sovereign immunity and monopolizing a huge percentage of both employee and management time and exhibiting a paranoid overzealousness and self-assured presumption of guilt of the accused; is a serious threat to the individual liberties that each and every American supposedly has constitutional rights to. Our organization has safely handled a very dangerous hazardous material called anhydrous ammonia for 50+ years without hurting a flea and yet our very commercial existence, the financial viability of our organization and the utter well being of real living breathing American human beings, both managers and employees and their families; wives, and children, is actually being put in jeopardy of pure and utter destruction. I thought we were all Americans and we all worked together and we were all in this together. In my dying days, I pray that this trend is reversed in the very near future for as you have well read in my opening story of escape from authoritarian oppression, I pray none of you ever have to dive under 4000V fences and dodge the bullets. I also pray that not too many of you say, “that’s crazy, it’ll never happen”. That’s what a lot of Czechs also said when I was but a little boy. My intention at this point in my life is not to sound bitter and cry sour grapes. This is not my intent. I love being optimistic, I always have been and always will be but one thing I will not be is unrealistic. I don’t mean to end my biography on a sour note. I merely point out the reality of our specific situation and in a more general sense, the realities of the United States of America in 2013. I have been blessed with an amazing life to this point. I merely point these things out as this is the situation my last two years have brought to me. I have full confidence in this great country, the great men who founded it, and the ability of our country to conquer tyranny. We will never obviously all agree on everything. But I beg of each of you to be ever vigilant. Stand up for yourselves and your families. Husbands, love your wives. Wives, love your husbands. Parents, protect, love and guide your children. Children, love and respect your parents. They love you and want the very best for you. Be humble always and be gracious; and give all thanks and praise to Your Almighty GOD. GOD bless all of you. And GOD bless the greatest country in the history of mankind. GOD bless the United States of America! <iframe id="tukios_player_512x330" allowfullscreen="true" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="330" scrolling="no" src="https://www.tributeslides.com/videos/embedded_video/QCCGBHPWJ67TX6R9" width="512"></iframe>
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Jiri Vanourek, please visit Tribute Store

Memorial Service

11:00 am
Saturday, October 3, 2015
Stevens Funeral Chapel
511 S 7th Ave
Othello, Washington, United States
Share Your Memory of