William J. Olcheski Sr., a talented writer and editor known for his kindness and sense of humor, was born in Blakely, PA on July 20, 1925. He was raised in Dickson City, Pennsylvania, the oldest of four children. He was of Polish descent and the son of a coal miner. Times were hard for immigrant families. His mother attended school until sixth grade, and his father’s education ended in third grade when he was needed to work in the mine. Olcheski was the first in his family to finish high school and graduate from college.
A teen during WWII, he was ready to fight for his country. He enlisted in the U.S. Army at the age of 17 and was accepted into active duty just after his 18th birthday and served from 1943-1946. He was assigned to the 96th Infantry Deadeye Division and received the assault arrowhead for participating in the invasions of Okinawa and the Philippines.
After leaving the U.S. Army, he attended and graduated from the prestigious University of Missouri School of Journalism. He was employed as a reporter for newspapers in Estherville, Iowa, Waverly, New York and Elvira, New York for a short time. He loved the excitement of being in the moment where the news was happening.
With the outbreak of the war in Korea, he was offered a commission in the U.S. Air Force and accepted. He was enroute to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio in 1951 when he became seriously ill and was hospitalized. He was diagnosed with polio and suffered paralysis in his arms and legs and went through 8 months of physical therapy learning to walk again. He was almost 1800 miles from home and was flat on his back with nothing to do. It was here that he spotted an ad in the newspaper about stamp collecting. He ordered a bag of stamps and started collecting. Little did he know that stamps would become a hobby for the next 67 years and that he would become a part time stamp dealer.
Following his hospitalization, Olcheski was offered the chance to be discharged from the U.S. Army with disability status. He was adamant that he was not disabled, rejected the idea of this compensation and continued to serve. His next assignment was at Palm Beach Air Force base in Florida where he would become the Public Information Officer. It was here that he met Rosemary Breslin, his beloved wife of 62 years. He was offered a promotion to stay in the U.S. Air Force and relocate to Turkey. He decided to take an honorable discharge and remained in the U.S. with his bride.
In the private sector, he accepted a job as printing job foreman with Army Times Publishing Company in Philadelphia. After a few months, he transferred to the company’s Washington, D.C. location where he worked as an associate editor. He later became the founder and editor of Federal Times, a publication for civilian government employees which grew to a circulation of 114,000. His “Report to the Reader” columns included interviews with interesting people and humorous stories about raising five kids.
While he enjoyed his work, he dreamed about starting his own consulting firm. He left the government to launch Olcheski Enterprises, a public relations firm that he operated in Falls Church, Virginia for 10 years. He authored 12 books including “Your Retirement,” “Beginning Stamp Collecting” and “Specializing in Stamp Collecting.” He co-authored “Letters from the Sand,” a project of the U.S. Postal Service. Olcheski was recognized for writing the first correspondence course on stamp collecting for Penn State. The goal was to enroll 60 students; they got 600.
An excellent opportunity at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) brought Olcheski back to working for the government. He retired in 1987 as the senior speechwriter for the FDIC. In 2001 at the age of 76, he accepted a month long position in Jakarta, Indonesia as a consultant to the banking industry. While there, he enjoyed learning the local customs and the thrill of riding an elephant.
Olcheski and his wife Rosemary resided in Falls Church, Virginia for 53 years and were active members of St. James Catholic Church. They moved to Ashby Ponds Retirement Community in 2008. Olcheski remained active there until his final days, leading a stamp collecting club and a writer’s group, as well as a contributor and editor on Around the Ponds, a quarterly publication. He will be remembered for his incredible talent as a writer, his devotion to his family and friends and his sense of humor.
He is survived by four children: Julie Stirling (Bob Bakley), Bill Olcheski Jr. (Renee), Cathy Ahrendsen (Mark) and Sue Robson (Bill), 15 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren and his sister, Patricia Wilhelmi and daughter-in-law Nancy Greenstreet. He is predeceased by Rosemary, his beloved wife of 62 years, and his son Jim who passed away in January, 2018.
Visitation will be held at Murphy Funeral Home in Falls Church on Friday, July 20 from 5 – 8 p.m. A funeral Mass will be held at St. James Catholic Church on Saturday, July 21 at 1 p.m. There will also be a Memorial Service at Ashby Ponds Retirement Community on Monday, July 23, at 10:15 AM, in the Great Oak Theater. Final inurnment will be at Arlington National Cemetery at a later date.