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Obituary: Eugene (Gene) Bondar

Sat, Apr 20th 2019 07:00 am

Eugene (Gene) Bondar, 95, of Washington, Pennsylvania, died peacefully on Sunday, April 7, 2019, in Peters Township, Pennsylvania. Born on May 8, 1923, in Chicago, Illinois, he was the son of the late Marie (Skwarek) and Andrew Bondar.

As a co-pilot in the U.S. Army Air Force in WWII, he flew transport planes across the Pacific supplying bases in Hawaii, Bora Bora, Kwajalein, and Australia, supporting the liberation of the Philippines, the invasion of Okinawa, and the occupation of Japan, returning many liberated American POWs. He earned two battle stars, the Air Medal, the Philippine Liberation Medal, and the rank of captain in the U.S. Air Force in service to his country.

Inspired by the many exotic people and places that he encountered in the war, he used the GI Bill to study anthropology at Lawrence University, and in graduate school at Colorado State. Two Fulbright Scholarships enabled research trips to Kenya with later projects in South Africa, Zambia, and Sudan.

In 1957, he married Elsa Schmieger, also of Chicago, his beloved wife for the next 60 years. Pursuing Gene’s academic career, they lived in Joliet, Illinois; Syracuse, and Kisii, Kenya; before settling in Grand Island, where he taught anthropology at the State University College at Buffalo.

Always active, he enjoyed hiking, biking, mountain-climbing, cross-country skiing, and canoe and backpacking trips with the Adirondack Mountain Club, and participated in archaeological excavations on three continents. In retirement, he continued to work as a national park ranger/archaeologist in Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, and several other parks in the western U.S., and gave lectures at the Buffalo Museum of Science. After living in Western New York for over 50 years, he and Elsa moved to Washington, Pennsylvania, to live near their son and daughter.

He is survived by his children: Douglas (Angelika) Bondar of Augusta, Georgia; Carol (Samuel) Johnson of McMurray, Pennsylvania; and Gregory (Elisa) Bondar of Greensburg, Pennsylvania; and five grandchildren. He was the brother of the late Henry Bondar of Chicago.

Gene’s family would like to thank the staff at Strabane Trails Village, and Donnell House, of Washington, Pennsylvania, Paramount Senior Living at Peters Township, and, especially, the Caring Mission of Washington, for their skilled and compassionate care.

A family adventure to celebrate Gene’s life will be held in the summer. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations should be made to the National Parks Foundation (https://www.nationalparks.org) or the National WWII Museum (https://www.nationalww2museum.org/).

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