1878 – Štefan Ochodnický

Štefan Ochodnický was born on March 3, 1878 to Andrej Ochodnický and and Alžbeta Káš in the village of Moravské Lieskové, in Trenčiansky komitát (Trenčín county) in the Uhorské kráľovstvo (Kingdom of Hungary). The child had brown hair and blue eyes.

Emperor Franz Joseph I
Franz Joseph I

In 1878, the Kingdom of Hungary was a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1867, just eleven years earlier, the Austro-Hungarian Compromise re-established the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Hungary, giving it a degree of independence, separate from and no longer totally subject to the Austrian Empire. However, when Štefan was born, Franz Joseph I held both crowns—as Emperor of Austria and Apostolic King of Hungary. He would do so until 1918 when the Empire was dissolved and the nation of Czechoslovakia was formed.

Štefan’s mother, Alžbeta Káš, was a 29-year-old widow when she married his father, Andrej Ochodnický, age 24, in 1873. Andrej had been born in the nearby town of Bošáca (House #232) located in the center of the Bošáca valley. Alžbeta was born and raised in the village of Moravské Lieskové (House #379) about two miles southwest of Bošáca. We don’t know Andrej’s occupation, but his father, Ján Ochodnický, was a miller in the village of Bošáca. Perhaps Andrej followed in his father’s trade and became a miller in Moravské Lieskové.

Moravské Lieskové

Moravské Lieskové

Today, Moravské Lieskové is a village and municipality in the Nové Mesto nad Váhom District of the Trenčín Region of western Slovakia. The name roughly translates as “Moravia Hazelnuts.”

Archaeologists have found evidence of people living in the area as early as 3000 BCE. In historical records, the village was first mentioned in 1398. It is likely that the first village school was established around 1580. In 1756, records show that 2,909 people lived in the village. In 1807, a fire fanned by strong winds destroyed more than 300 houses and barns.

To get an idea of the local peasant dress and their folk music, follow this link to a YouTube video of a folk ensemble performing at a Harvest Festival in Moravské Lieskové.

1885 – Eva Klč

Eva Klč, (č is pronounced “ch”) was born on September 6, 1885 at House #39 in the village of Hrušové (š is pronounced “sh”) to Štefan Klč and Anna Plašenka. Štefan Klč was a miller also. He had married Anna Plašenka on May 12, 1872.

Eva also had brown hair and blue eyes. She had two sisters, Katherine and Anna, both older.


Today, Hrušové is also a village in the Nové Mesto nad Váhom District. It lies about three miles southwest of Moravské Lieskové.

The map below shows the relative locations of the villages of Bošáca, Moravské Lieskové, Lubina (where Štefan Ochodnický and Eva Klč were married), and Hrušové.


Slovakia had been ruled by Hungary for almost 1,000 years and was often known as “Upper Hungary” (Horné Uhorsko in Slovak). From 1526 to 1918, the Kingdom of Hungary came under the control of the Habsburg monarchy, which had ruled areas around Austria since 1276.


In 1867, the nation of Austria-Hungary was formed. For forty years, from 1867 to 1918, the Slovaks experienced one of the worst oppressions in their history. In a nationalist fervor, Hungary began to pass new laws to wipe out non-Magyar cultures. As the biggest non-Magyar culture in Hungary, the Slovaks suffered the most. Hungarian was the only language taught in schools. Only those Slovaks who adopted Hungarian culture and language could hope to get a decent job. At its worst, Slovak children were taken from their families to be brought up as Hungarians.

So blatant were Hungary’s efforts to ethnically cleanse Hungary of the Slovak culture and language that a word was given to their actions—Magyarization. During the dark days of the second half of the nineteenth century, many thousands of Slovaks left their homeland to try and build a new life in America.

This was the political situation when Štefan Ochodnický and Eva Klč were born in 1878 and 1885.

military service

Hussar on horseback

Štefan reportedly served in the cavalry of the Hungarian army for a period of two years of active duty. Military service was manditory in Hungary. Young men were drafted at the age of 20, although they could volunteer as young as 17. Depending on the branch of army (infantry, cavalry, or field artillery), active duty could range from two to seven years. After that, men were expected to be part of the army reserves for an additional seven years. During that period, they were required to report for duty for two weeks annually. Conscripts were not allowed to marry until their active service had been fulfilled. As a result, many were 26 or 27 years old at their marriage. Štefan was 26.

The Hungarian army was one of four armed forces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Known as the Magyar Királyi Honvédség or Royal Hungarian Honvéd (Homeland Defense), its units were organized by ethnic region (Slovaks, Magyars, Romenians, Slovenians, Croats, Serbs, etc). Towns and villages from the Trenčiansky komitát (Trenčín county) provided recruits for the 15th Trenčín Honvéd Infantry Regiment. The light cavalry units were known as Hussars (Husár in Slovak). Cavalry soldiers were all volunteers. I don’t know which Hussar regiment drew recruits from the Trenčín area. At this point, we have found no military records for Štefan.

1904 – marriage and childbirth

Lubina Evangelical Church

Štefan Ochodnický and Eva Klč were married in the Evangelical (Protestant) Church in the town of Lubina on February 16, 1904. Štefan was 26 and Eva was 19. Hrušové was not large enough to have its own church and was part of the Lubina parish, located just a mile away.

I am not sure whether Štefan and Eva subsequently lived in Lubina or whether they lived in Hrušové. Nine months later, on November 25, 1904, they gave birth to their first child, Ján (John). The record shows his birthplace as Lubina. However, it is most likely that his birth was registered at the church in Lubina but that he was born in Hrušové.

1906 and 1907 – emigration

S.S. Barbarossa

On February 3, 1906, at age 25, Štefan Ochodnický sailed from Bremen, Germany aboard the S.S. Barbarossa to New York. He entered the United States through Ellis Island on February 15th. (When he declared his intention of becoming a citizen in 1917, he said he arrived in New York on June 5, 1906 aboard the S.S. Rhineland.)

The Ellis Island transcriber has recorded his last name as Ochoduicky. He came with three companions—Janos Hrba (26), Janos (name indecipherable) (26), and Adam Juracek (29). The ship’s manifest lists Stefan and his companions as farmer/laborers. Stefan had $12 in his possession. The men were heading to Pennsylvania to stay with Štefan’s brother-in-law, (name indecipherable).

S.S. Samland

A year later, Eva sailed from Antwerp, Belgium on March 2, 1907 and arrived at Ellis Island on April 3rd aboard the S.S. Samland. The Ellis Island transcriber listed her last name as Ochoduiyki. She was 22 years old and had just $4 in her possession. Her destination was St. Louis, Missouri.

When Eva emigrated to the United States she left her 2 ½ year old son Ján behind. He was raised by his maternal grandmother Anna Plašenka for the next decade until her death in 1919. In 1920, Štefan and Eva then sent for Ján and brought him to America when he was sixteen years old. In the meantime, Štefan and Eva had more children on this side of the Atlantic.

1908 – second child

On September 12, 1908, Alzbeta (Elizabeth) Ochodnicky was born to Stefan and Eva in St. Louis. She died two years later.

1910 – 1919

In April 1910, the federal census listed “Stepan Ocholnicky” (32) and Eva (29) living at the rear of 1616 South 12th Street (now South Tucker Boulevard), between Lafayette Avenue and Carroll Street in Soulard. (The house no longer exists.)

Their daughter Alzbeta was listed as “Betha” and was 18 months old. She died on June 13, 1910 in her mother’s arms on the way home from from the doctor. She had contracted either diphtheria a or pneumonia. She was buried in Concordia Cemetery.

Stefan was working in a glass factory and Eva in a hemp factory. Perhaps she worked at the Broderick & Bascom Rope Company at 728 North Main Street or the A. Leschen & Sons Rope Company at 925 North Main Street.

In the same building on South 12th Street lived other Hungarian Slovak families—John and Anna Sedovic and their son Sam; John and Kate Baronovic and their daughter Anna; John and Mary Mikulas; and George and Mary Slochar and their daughters Anna and Imilia.

Stefan and Eva eventually had three more children, all sons;

  • Pavel (Paul) Ochonicky, born on September 3, 1911
  • Emil Ochonicky, born on July 11, 1916
  • Jaromir (Jerry) Ochonicky, born on February 18, 1922

Emil had been born the evening of July 11, 1916 at home at 1708 Menard between Lafayette Avenue and Julia Street about three blocks from their previous residence on South 12th Street. Magdalena Krobot, a midwife, was present for the delivery. (The house has been torn down and replaced by the Way of Life church.) John and Anna Znachor (Eva’s sister) lived at the same address.

Five days later, on July 16, Stefan and Eva had Emil baptized at Svatý Lukáša Slovensky Luteranski Cerkvica (Saint Lucas Slovak Lutheran Church) by Pastor Juraj Majoros, who served as pastor there from 1913-1944. The baptismal certificate lists the parents as “Stefana Ochotnicky” and “Evy” nee “Klč.” Sponsors were Michal and Maria Stančik, and Juraj and Anna Hlavaty.

St Lukas church
Svatý Lukáš

In 1916, Svatý Lukáš was located at 2006 South 13th Street at Allen Avenue in Soulard. The church was founded by 36 Slovak immigrant families in Soulard on January 29, 1905 and was the first Slovak Lutheran church west of the Mississippi. It was first organized in the parochial school of historic Trinity Lutheran Church, the oldest Lutheran congregation of any nationality west of the Mississippi, located on 8th Street near Lafayette Avenue. Trinity Church was founded in 1839 as Die Dreieinigkeitskirche by Saxon immigrants who had planned to settle in Perry County, Missouri but ended up staying in St. Louis. The school where Saint Lucas was organized is today the oldest continuously operating elementary school in St. Louis.

During its first eighteen months, Svatý Lukáš was served every other week by Slovak-speaking students from Concordia Seminary in Springfield, Illinois. Its first regular pastor, L.A. Jarosi, arrived June 1, 1906 and stayed until October 15, 1907. In January 1909, under Pastor Theodore A. Balent, the church purchased a three-story building at 1921 South 9th Street which had served as the former “Self-Culture Hall” building. Since 1895, the Hall had been the site of a free community school for working people run by the Ethical Society of St. Louis.

In 1914, the congregation learned that St. Paul Friedens Church at 13th Street and Allen Avenue was for sale, following a merger of that church with the Jesus Church at 12th and Victor. St. Paul Friedens Church had been founded in 1886 following a dispute at the nearby St. Paul’s Evangelical Church at 9th and Soulard (now Lafayette) which created a rift in the congregation.

St. Lukas and parsonage
Church with parsonage at rear

The Svatý Lukáš congregation purchased the church, parish hall, and parsonage (to the rear of the church) for $14,500 and dedicated the structure on April 19, 1914. By 1918, the church developed plans to establish a parochial school, but due to a lack of teachers, it did not open until 1928.

On June 2, 1917, Stefan declared his intention to become a US citizen. It lists his birthplace as Bocsatz, Hungary, not Moravské Lieskové. They were still living at 1708 Menard Street. It claims that he emigrated from Antwerp, Belgium on the S.S. Rhineland (not the S.S. Barbarossa leaving from Bremen, Germany). He renounces allegiance to Charles, the current Emperor of Austria and Apostolic King of Hungary.

Eva, Stefan, Paul, and Emil in 1919

By 1918, Stefan had dropped the ‘d’ from his last name and was spelling it Ochonicky. He registered for the draft as Steve Ochonicky at age 39 on September 12, 1918. His address was listed as 1520 South 13th Street (between Lafayette Avenue and Soulard Street just three blocks from his previous address on Menard). He was working as a laborer at the American Manufacturing Company. The American Foundry and Manufacturing Company was founded in St. Louis in 1888.

In 1919, two different city directories listed Stefan Ochonicky as the owner of a fruit market located at 1520 South 13th Street.

1920 – 1929

1014 Geyer

On January 5, 1920, the federal census found “Steph and Emma Ochonick” living at 1014 Geyer (between 10th and Menard) with their sons Paul (8) and Emil (3). Stefan’s occupation was listed as “proprietor, grocery store.”

1922 Sidney

On June 7, 1929, Eva and Stefan became naturalized citizens. By now they were living at 1922 Sidney Street.

Stefan and Eva

Emil remembered his father as a quiet, gentle man who could be very profound when he spoke. Stefan stood about 5’6” tall, but was powerfully built. Nearly all his life he had worked as a laborer.

Emil remembered his mother as a large, domineering woman who ran the household. She made the rules and would not bend them. Emil was not allowed to play on Saturdays until he had scrubbed the front steps of the house. No amount of bargaining could sway his mother’s mind. All of the sons were expected to work for the family’s welfare and all wages had to be turned in to help the family make ends meet.

Stefan, Emil, Jerry. Paul, and Eva

As a young boy, Emil sold newspapers (three cents a copy) before and after school, and worked in a bowling alley in the evenings. On weekends he helped his brother Paul hang wallpaper without receiving any payment for his services. Emil was angry that he could not keep some of the money he earned because all of his “American” school friends had spending money. He decided to keep a small portion of his earnings and told his mother he was going to do this. Apparently, he got away with it.

Paul filled the role of the eldest son since John remained in Slovakia. Paul remembered that his mother Eva was a very hard person and would beat him for minor infractions.

Ján Ochotnicky (he always spelled his last name with a “t”) sailed from Le Havre, France aboard the S.S. Rochambeau on October 13, 1920, and arrived in New York ten days later. The ship’s manifest says that his home was in “Horné Bzince, Slovaky”. His nearest relative in Slovakia was an uncle, Martin Macuih, who lived in that town. The manifest states that he was going to join his father Stefan Ochonicky at 1014 Geyer in St. Louis. He was 16 years old, and had no memory of his mother and father.

Horné Bzince is a tiny village in a cluster of small villages. In size, it is slightly overshadowed by its adjoining neighbors Bzince pod Javorinou and Dolné Bzince. Horné Bzince means “Upper Bzince,” Dolné Bzince means “Lower Bzince,” and Bzince pod Javorinou means “Bzince under Javorinou.” Horné Bzince is within a mile to a mile and a half east of Hrušové and Lubina.

When he arrived in St. Louis, John soon learned about his mother’s angry temper. One day, he was ordered to get the horse and wagon out of their stable/garage. When Eva got in the wagon, John led the horse to the street. The wagon missed the crossing stones that had be placed over the drainage at the side of the street. The wagon turned over and Eva’s face was scraped and bruised. John was blamed for the incident.

John Ochotnicky

John played an instrument and was in a band, playing often at the Czech-Slovak Hall, a kind of fraternal lodge. In 1854 a group of Czech immigrants in St. Louis formed a secular organization for fraternal and financial support. It was originally called the Česko-Slovenský Podporující Spolek” or the Czech-Slovak Protective Society (CSPS). It was once the largest Czech-American free-thought fraternity in the United States. Freethinkers held that beliefs should not be formed on the basis of authority, tradition, revelation, or dogma, but they should instead be reached by other methods such as logic, reason, and empirical observation. Many Czechs were freethinkers, and the hall became a place for drinking and dancing.

It was at the Czech-Slovak Hall that John met Ludmilla Manna. She was born on March 16, 1901 in Vlachova Lhota, Moravia. She preferred to be called by her American name of Lillian. They fell in love.

He married Ludmilla (Lillian) Manna on February 16, 1924 at Svatý Lukáša Slovensky Luteranski Cerkvica (Saint Lucas Slovak Lutheran Church) when he was just 19 and she was 23. Originally Catholic, she became a Lutheran when she was confirmed by Pastor Majoros on the day before the wedding. She was six months pregnant.

When their first son, Jan (John) Martin Ochotnicky, was born on May 4, 1924, Eva had him baptized at Svatý Lukáš the same day.

A second son, William Jaroslav Ochotnicky, was born on November 21, 1925 and died on May 27, 1927 at the age of 18 months. He was buried at the New Picker Cemetery.

John and Lillian soon moved to Pennsylvania and later to New York where he bought a grocery store. John and Lillian had two daughters there—Anne and Lillian.

John and Anna Znachor

Anna and Jan Znachor

Eva Klč Ochodnický’s younger sister Anna Klč married twice. She married her first husband, Ján Znachor, in Hrušové, Slovakia. He was born on February 14, 1877, most likely in Hrušové. Together, they emigrated to St. Louis. They may have been married about 1900 and were living in St. Louis before 1906. A ship arriving in New York on October 8, 1906 listed a Gyorgy Znachor (29), a laborer from “Hruso” in Hungary, who was traveling to meet his brother Ján who lived at 1548 Ninth Street in St. Louis. Along with him was Martin Solovitz (40), heading for the same address. (The house was torn down to make way for Interstates 55 and 44.)

In a 1913 St. Louis city directory, John Znachor was listed as a fruit merchant living at 1516 South 13th Street. In 1916, he was listed as a fruit vendor living at 1708 Menard Street. When he registered for the draft in 1918, he and Anna were living at 1708 Menard. He described himself as a self-employed merchant.

John was reportedly an alcoholic who was unwilling to work as hard or as reliably as Anna expected. She divorced him on January 13th, 1921, and he returned to Slovakia. He reportedly died about 18 months later, which would place his death around 1923. She briefly retook the name of Klč.

Martin and Anna Plašenka

Martin and Anna (seated) with Stefan Ochodnicky

On February 3, 1921, just a few weeks after the divorce decree, Anna married Martin Plašenka at Svatý Lukáša Slovensky Luteranski Cerkvica (Saint Lucas Slovak Lutheran Church). The wedding was performed by Pastor George Majoros and Stefan Ochodnicky served as the best man and witness. Martin shared Anna’s mother’s maiden name, Plašenka. We don’t know their exact familial relationship. Perhaps they were cousins. Martin Plašenka was born on October 24, 1879 in House #38 in Hrušové, next door to the Klč house at #39, so they must have been close childhood friends. Interestingly, Znachor was the maiden name of Martin Plašenka’s mother, which leads to additional questions about their inter-relationships. After all, Hrušové was a very small village, so none of this should be considered very unusual.

Martin and Anna Plašenka purchased a large home at 1126 Sidney Street at the southeast corner of Twelfth Street in August of 1922. At the time, Twelfth Street was named State Street.

The "lion house"

Known to locals as “the lion house,” the two-story brick mansion was built by Max James Feuerbacher, owner of the Green Tree Brewery. He was one of St. Louis’ many prosperous “beer barons.” Feuerbacher built the two-story house in 1874 of red brick and stone, with twin bay windows in the front and a cupola on the roof that must have provided a magnificent view of Frenchtown (Soulard’s earlier designation) and the Mississippi River. The interior featured a large pipe organ and many chandeliers. One book claims that the cellars were used for lagering beer and had an entrance to Cherokee Cave. It was the first private residence in St. Louis to feature a pair of stone lions as entryway guards.

To the east of the house was a yard for horses. A stable at the back had a second floor apartment for the stable master.

Lion statue

A guide to St. Louis haunted houses stated that the home at 1126 Sidney is famous for its poltergeists—unseen spirits that move objects around in the house on a regular basis. One web site claims that the ghost of a man has been seen, objects moved, cold spots felt, and sounds heard. Emil Ochonicky remembered playing in the attic of the house, and said it was “spooky.”

Max Feuerbacher

Maximillion J. Feuerbacher was born on June 30, 1835 near Bamberg, Germany. His father was a brewer and Max apprenticed in the trade. He emigrated to St. Louis in 1852 at the age of 17. He initially worked for Uhrig’s Brewery, and then the Philadelphia Brewery where he became a foreman, before joining Joseph Schnaider & Company in 1857. That company’s founder, Joseph Maximillian Schnaider, was born in Zell am Hammersbach, Germany in 1832. A brewer by trade, he settled in St. Louis in 1854. In 1855, he built the Green Tree Brewery a block from the Green Tree Hotel and Tavern on South Second Street. It became one of the most famous of St. Louis’ early breweries. Feuerbacher joined him in business two years later.

Green Tree Brewery

In 1864, Schnaider & Company constructed a new brewery on the southwest corner of Sidney Street at Eighth Street (since demolished) using caves under the building to store beer. A year later, Schnaider sold his interest in the business to Feuerbacher and opened the Chouteau Avenue Brewery and Schnaider’s Garden at Chouteau Avenue and Twenty-First Street. Feuerbacher then joined with Louis Schlosstein, organizing the Feuerbacher & Schlosstein Brewery. Sometime around 1880, they adopted Green Tree Brewing Company as their corporate name, and the brewery at Sidney and Eighth became known as the Green Tree Brewery.

In 1874, in anticipation of his marriage, Max Feuerbacher constructed his brick mansion four blocks west of the brewery. He married Minna Wallenbrook in February 1875. In 1884, suffering from failing health, Max Feuerbacher returned to his hometown in Germany where he died ten days after his arrival in the house in which he had been born. He is buried in Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis. After his death, his widow Minna Feuerbacher (1854-1925) sold his interests in the company to the St. Louis Brewery Association. They operated the Green Tree Brewery until 1919. The Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which created Prohibition, was ratified on January 16, 1919. The country went dry one year later, on January 17, 1920.

Minna Feuerbacher remained in “the lion house” until three years before her death in 1925. On August 8, 1922, Martin and Anna Plašenka purchased the house.

sideline story

Susan R. Buder

Here is an interesting sideline to this story. Max Feuerbacher’s daughter Lydia married Gustavus Adolphus Buder. His mother, Susan Rassieur Buder (1847-1909), founded the Susan Buder Jewelry Company with her husband William at 2118 South Broadway. She became very involved in efforts to help indigent families in South St. Louis, with a special focus on the welfare of poor children. Her charitable work, especially in the later years of her life, gained her the title “The Little Mother of the South Side.”

In 1912, three years after her death, her son Gustavus, who was a lawyer, newspaper publisher, and philanthropist, gave land at the corner of Ewing and Rutger to the city for the establishment of Buder Playground in memory of his mother. In 1917, he donated seventy acres of land fronting on the Meramec River opposite Valley Park. The following year, he added another 70 acres to this tract. Today, the land is Buder Park in St. Louis County.

In recognition of her charitable efforts on behalf of children, members of the South St. Louis community petitioned the Board of Education to name a South Side school for her. In 1920, the Susan R. Buder elementary school was constructed at 5319 Lansdowne Avenue. The Buder Branch Library began in the school in 1922 with a donation by Gustavus Buder.

Gustavus Buder was an alumnus of Washington University in St. Louis. Each member of the first graduating class of Buder school was awarded a scholarship to Washington University through a fund Gustavus established. In the 1960s, Washington University continued to award a full-tuition four-year scholarship for a single graduate of the Susan R. Buder School every year. Kurt Struckmeyer won that scholarship in 1965.

1920 – 1929, continued

Sidney Street buildings

A new building was constructed in the stable yard to the east of the mansion. Many real estate records say that 1120-1122 Sidney Street was built in 1920, but that cannot be accurate. I believe it was built in 1923 or 1924, certainly no earlier than 1922, because at that time a Red-Blue Book of St. Louis streets showed the addresses on the block showed the addresses skipped from 1116 to 1126 and Minna Feuerbacher was still in residence until August.

Anna and Martin Plašenka constructed a four unit building at 1120-1122 Sidney which had a storefront business on the first level (1120). They made use of the stable yard for the building. Anna and Martin lived upstairs (1120A), ran their grocery business in the storefront downstairs, and rented out the other two apartments (1122 and 1122A). The stable and its upper apartment stood on the rear of the property.

1120-1122 Sidney Street today

The “lion house” became a boarding house that provided additional income. I was told that they hired Paul Ochonicky to build outside stairs to the second floor and put up partitions to divide the living quarters.

Rear of 1126 Sidney
Paul Ochonicky about 1925

Of course the stairs have probably been replaced over the last 100 years but these photos show what they may have originally looked like.

On May 23, 1925, Martin and Anna Plašenka sold the “lion house” to Joseph and Mary Rudar and moved into the newly built property next door.

The 1929 and 1932 city directories list Martin Plašenka as the proprietor of a grocery at 1120 Sidney Street.

Martin Plasenka’s market (Martin behind counter at rear). His name appears on the sign above his head to the right.
Anna and Martin Plasenka in 1932

In his teens, Emil Ochonicky worked for Martin and Anna Plašenka, his uncle and aunt, in this grocery store. Emil worked after school and on Saturdays. Initially they would pay him in produce or other groceries.


Stefan Ochodnicky was out of work during much of the Depression so the food would have helped. The family survived on their son Paul’s income. He became a house painter and wall-paperer, painting home exteriors when the weather was warm enough and doing interior work the rest of the time. Emil helped Paul, especially with wallpapering. Emil cut and pasted the paper and Paul put it up. Emil was not paid for his work. All of the money went to the family.

1930 – 1939

In the 1930 census, Stefan and Eva’s last name is transcribed as “Achonicky. They were living at 1122 Sidney Street. The home was valued at $6,000. Stefan worked for a stone company and Paul worked for a decorator. Stefan’s age is listed as 52, Eva 44, Paul 18, Emil 14, and Jerry 7.

Stefan in 1939

At one point Stefan worked for the Algonite Stone Company at Kingshighway and Christy. He also worked for Cuttler Manufacturing Company which made conveyors and fruit packing machinery. Stefan’s last job required him to clean the weld joints with acid of newly-built railroad tank cars. He used caustic materials in a confined space with poor ventilation.

Paul, Jerry, and Emil

Emil quit McKinley High School after the ninth grade in order to work full time. This would have been about 1931, well into the Great Depression, and Emil would have been about 15 years old.

Emil was required to turn all of his earnings over to his mother to support the family. If Emil needed spending money, he had to ask his parents for it. He soon tired of this arrangement. Emil said that all of his “American” friends were able to keep their earnings and he thought his family arrangement was crazy. Emil eventually revolted. He told his mother that he would give her six dollars a week for room and board, but would keep whatever else he made for himself. His mother considered this stealing from the family. Then Emil told Teta and Ujco that he wanted a salary. They paid him $10 a week. Later on he demanded $12. They refused, so he quit and went to work somewhere else for that amount. Several weeks later they told Emil that they wanted him back and that they would raise his salary to $12.

Anna and Martin Plasenka eventually tired of running the grocery business and sold it to Harry J. Walkenbach, a meat cutter. Emil continued to work for the new owner, and later, when Harry opened a second store at 12th and Shenandoah, Emil managed the store on Sidney Street for him. By then he was making about $23 a week and had become an experienced meat cutter.

In 1938, Emil’s aunt Anna decided that Emil, now 22 years old, should have his own business. He had met Viola Baer in 1936 and they were engaged to be married. Anna Plasenka convinced Harry Walkenbach that he only needed one grocery and persuaded him to sell the grocery store in her building on Sidney street to Emil. Since Harry was renting the space from her, he didn’t have much choice. Emil borrowed the money to purchase the contents of the store from his parents. He bought the grocery business in the spring of 1939 and renamed it “Emil’s Market.”

Emil Ochonicky at Emil’s Market in 1942
Jerry Ochonicky in 1942
Interior of Emil’s Market in 1942

Paul married Anna Valencik on June 27, 1936 at St. Lucas Evangelical Lutheran Church. After their marriage, the couple lived with Paul’s parents. All the money he made had to be turned over to his mother.

Jerry in 1936

Jerry graduated from McKinley High School in June 1939. The only son who did. He then worked in Emil’s store full time.

Emil married Viola Baer on September 3, 1939 at St. Lucas Evangelical Lutheran Church. (See Emil Ochonicky and Viola Baer.) They moved into the apartment above the original stable at the back of the property.

Stable with apartment above

1940 – 1949

Stefan in 1940

In the 1940 census, Stefan (62) and Eva (54) were living at 1922 Sidney Street with their youngest son Jerry (18). Stefan was no longer working. Jerry worked as a grocery clerk.

Emil and Viola were living at the rear of 1120 Sidney. His occupation was a meat cutter.

Stefan died of chronic myocarditis (an inflammation of the heart muscle) on August 30, 1941.

Eva bought a cemetery plot from the First Evangelical Lutheran Cemetery Society for $125. He was buried in Concordia Cemetery at 4209 Bates in St. Louis.

Then there were the funeral expenses of $593.96 from Moydell undertakers.

To pay the funeral expenses, Eva cashed in two certificates from the Slovak Evangelical Union, a fraternal benefit society in the amount of $1,250.

Eva with Stefan’s grave marker

The Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Jerry Ochonicky registered for the draft on June 30, 1942. He joined the Navy and served in the Pacific as a Ships Cook First Class aboard the Howard F. Clark destroyer-escort ship. He was mustered out of the Navy on December 1, 1945.

Emil also registered with the draft on October 9, 1940. The registration noted that he had a “tattoo on each forearm.”


When he got out of the Navy, Jerry went to work at Sears, Roebuck, and Company, where he caught the eye of cashier Jean Mull.

William and Oma Mull

Vera Imogene Mull was born on October 24, 1922 to William Edgar Mull and Omega Harrison in Messler, Missouri. She was the fourth of six children. She moved many times during her childhood, but managed to complete the ninth grade. as an adult she earned a GED. Jean’s older sister and brother-in-law, Maxine and Art Dillow, helped to raise has as a teenager.

With the onset of World War II, she enlisted in the Women’s Army Air Corps (WAACs) on December 3, 1943. She served two years as clerical Army staff, stationed in the Pacific arena (Hollandia, New Guinea, and Manila), near the front lines. Jean enjoyed this time in service, often singing for the troops. She contracted malaria, but fully recovered before returning home.

The GI Bill provided Jean with the opportunity to take flying lessons. She joined the Ninety-Nines (an organization of women pilots), won flying competitions, and attracted notoriety as a pilot who didn’t know how to drive a car. Jean worked at Sears, Roebuck, and Company, and caught the eye of a handsome young man.

She and Jerry took flying lessons while they dated. Jean stopped flying just before she achieved flight instructor status. Jerry earned his commercial pilot and instructor licenses.

3418 – 3420 Louisiana

Anna and Martin Plasenka decided to sell their property on Sidney Street. Since a new owner might want to own the grocery business also, they offered the property to Emil and Viola. Emil borrowed $5,000 from his parents to make the down payment. Anna and Martin then moved to 3418 – 3420 Louisiana. They lived at 3418.

Sidney Motors at 2601 S. 7th Street

Emil tried his hand at other ventures besides meat cutting. This picture is a used car lot that he started in 1949 called Sidney Motors.

1950 – 1959

On October 27, 1950, Eva Ochodnicky died at home at 2927 Minnesota Avenue where she was living with her son Jerry.

Emil remembered that before her death, his mother was seriously ill and urgently needed a doctor. In February 1950, Emil contacted a doctor, Leo P. Young at 2621 South Jefferson Avenue, who examined Eva and determined that surgery was necessary. In the operating room, he discovered cancer in the colon that was inoperable. He performed a colostomy and sent Emil a bill for $500. Emil called the doctor and complained that they had never discussed fees and that he would never have agreed to an amount that large without consulting his brothers. He knew he would be in hot water with them for committing to surgery without a prior cost estimate and he knew they would probably be unwilling to contribute the full amount. The surgeon reluctantly agreed to lower his charges to between $200 and $300. Eva survived until October when she died of a cardiac collapse brought on by the cancer.

Eva Ochodnicky was buried in Concordia Cemetery on October 30, 1950.

Jerry Ochonicky married Jean Mull on February 14, 1953, Valentine’s Day, at St. Lucas Evangelical Lutheran Church. Although raised a Baptist, Jean had joined the Lutheran church, so she could marry Jerry.

Their son, Jerry Steven Ochonicky, was born on May 4, 1954, and daughter, Linda Jean Ochonicky, was born on August 4, 1956.

Anna Plasenka died on January 21, 1953. Her death was the result of ovarian cancer.

Martin Plasenka

1960 – 1969

Martin Plasenka died seven years later on April 23, 1960.

Jerry left Sears after ten years and about 1962 returned to the grocery business as a partner with Emil. Together they opened J & E Grocery store in East St. Louis, Illinois. Jerry remained there for four years. He then went back to work Sears.

1970 – 1979

1980 – 1989

In 1982, Jerry retired from Sears when he was 60 years old. He launched a small engine repair business called J & J Services. In 1987, he obtained a realtor’s license. In addition to real estate sales, he began to rehab homes.

1990 – 1999

Emil Ochonicky died on August 8, 1996 in St. Louis, Missouri. Viola died on April 1, 2001.

Paul Ochonicky died on January 4, 1998 in St. Louis, Missouri. Ann died on April 13, 1999.

John Ochotnicky died on October 18, 1998 in Woodbury, New York. Lillian died in May 1985.

2000 – 2019

Jerry and Jean Ochonicky celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary on February 14, 2013, just before Jean’s death. Jean died on April 7, 2013.

Jerry moved to Edwardsville, Illinois to live with his daughter, Linda, and her husband, John Muer, in 2014. Jerry Ochonicky died on June 5, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri. Both Jerry and Jean are buried at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.