By Philip Stuva, Director of Development
On Saturday October 10, 2009, with family and friends from six different countries in attendance, Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum unveiled a monument in remembrance of John R. Jankowski.
Jankowski was born to a family of foresters in Poland in 1913. John became an officer in the Polish Army and was captured by the Russians and made a prisoner of war in 1939 and miraculously managed to avoid the fate of those in Katyn. He was handed over to the Germans in a prisoner exchange and was interned at stalags in Austria, Germany and Northern Italy. In 1944 John was liberated by the United States Army and rejoined the Polish “Free” Army in Southern Italy and remained there until 1947. Fearing for his safety, John’s parents requested that he not return to Poland after the war. John immigrated to England and then to Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada and would spend a total of 26 years away from his beloved family in Poland. In 1960, John moved to McMinnville, Oregon and in 1961 opened the Safari Motor Inn. Mr. Jankowski became a highly respected businessman and member of the McMinnville community for the next 49 years. During those early years in McMinnville, John met a man named Delford Smith who was starting his own fledgling aviation business called Evergreen. The Safari became the meeting center for the Evergreen Family of Companies and John became a trusted friend to Mr. Smith. John would even pick up the Smith boys from school and give them a warm meal if Del was delayed on a business trip. After a successful career in the motel and restaurant business, John retired at the age of 90 in 2004. John passed away in his place of residence in McMinnville, Oregon, on Friday, March 20, 2009.
As part of the ceremony, Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum renamed their oak grove as the John R. Jankowski Memorial Oak Grove and planted an Oregon White Oak in his honor. John’s granite memorial reads:
Memorial Oak Grove Dedicated to John Rabiez Jankowski
On the 10th of October, 2009 an oak was planted at the Memorial Oak Grove dedicated to John (Janek) Jankowski in remembrance of his life. We do not count the years John was with us, neither do aged oaks, and both firmly hold their proud heads high.
The most respected in the whole clan, John spent his life way from his homeland, Poland, in the United States. John made history by escaping death and miraculously managed to avoid the fate of those in Katyn. He was thankful to God for the fact that He did not let him die at the mercy of Stalin’s executioners.
Along with the forests and angel choirs, an oak will keep springing upwards for many ages. Every day, beginning early in the morning, it will praise John and the other survivors of the atrocities of World War II.
-Written by Kazik Rykowski, Wykno, Poland 2008.
Delford Smith wrote that “This Oak Grove stands as a testament to the long-lasting legacy of John Rabiez Jankowski. We are grateful for his outstanding leadership and commitment to free enterprise. His patriotic spirit and benevolent nature is an inspiration to us all.”