Rudolph Jablonicky, witness to one of the worst naval disasters of World War II, died Wednesday in Mercy Hospital. He was 89.
Mr. Jablonicky, a Cheektowaga resident, was one of 15,000 servicemen on board the Queen Mary when it mistakenly collided with the British cruiser Curacao on Oct. 2, 1942, while crossing the Atlantic. The Curacao, cut in two, sank within 5 minutes and took 338 crew members with it.
Family members said Mr. Jablonicky told them that, as he felt the impact, he rushed to the top deck, where he witnessed the cruiser going under.
"It was impossible for the Queen Mary to stop to pick up survivors because the disaster occurred in the middle of the German submarine zone," he often said in recalling the tragedy.
Mr. Jablonicky, a 1935 graduate of East High School, served in the Army until 1945 and fought in North Africa, Italy and France. He was in Paris during its liberation.
After the war, he returned home to work at the Spencer-Kellogg Research Center and later at General Mills, where he spent 25 years, working his way up to traffic coordinator. He held that post until his retirement in 1980.
Mr. Jablonicky also worked a second job as bookkeeper and delivery coordinator for Benbenek Catering, owned by his wife of 62 years, the former Ann Benbenek.
In addition to his wife, survivors include two daughters, Sister Anne Marie Jablonicky and Sue Musial, and a sister, Helen Zwirecki.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 9:30 a.m. today in St. Josaphat Catholic Church, William and Peoria streets, Cheektowaga.