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When nation called, family’s boys responded

Toledo’s Urbanski brothers all served during WWII

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  • Ray-Jack-Frank-urbanski-Sylvia-and-Rachel-Urbanski
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  • Rachel-Urbanski-joe-urbanski-draft-notice

    Rachel Urbanski, widow of Joe Urbanski, holds the draft lottery notice that included the draft number of her husband. They had been married 21 days when he was drafted.

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  • Letter-from-Joe-Urbanski-to-his-wife-Rachel

    A letter postmarked May 16, 1945, was sent to Rachel Urbanski from her husband, Joe, while he was serving overseas. Back then, letters home were censored and retyped.

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The Urbanski brothers, from left, Jack, Ray, Frank and Joe (inset), served for a total of 32 years, notes Joe's widow, Rachel Urbanski. The last of the brothers died in April.


The Urbanski family had already answered the call of their country.

Before he was even of age — at 17 — Jack Urbanski asked his widowed mother to sign the papers that would enable him to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps. That was in 1938.

Then a draft card arrived for one of his older brothers. And soon after, another, and then another.

First to get notice was the second eldest of the Urbanski clan, Joe, who had been married only 21 days when he was called into the Army.

Then the eldest, Frank, received his notice to report.

And last, the third youngest of the Urbanski brothers, Raymond, was notified that he was drafted to fight in World War II.

Four boys. One Family. Each said good-bye to his mother and served.

And each will be remembered Monday by those who knew them and those who didn’t.

“When the drafting came up, everyone got a number. They put all the numbers in a tumbler or a hat. All three of the older boys got their numbers pulled,” said Joe’s widow, Rachel Urbanski, who was a newlywed when her husband was drafted.

OBJECT“These boys gave 32 years all grand total. People should realize what they’ve done,” she said.

The Toledo family of four boys and one girl had met hardship early, Mrs. Urbanski recalled. When the siblings were still young, their father died of a heart attack.

That left their mother to raise the five siblings and meant the boys each grew up more quickly, she said.

And then war broke out.

Mrs. Urbanski, now 89, was there when her husband and his brothers were one-by-one called to serve. Her own brother too was drafted into the army, six days after he turned 18.

In her window at home back then were two blue stars, indicating that her husband and brother were serving. It was blessing, because across the street there were two gold stars that hung — one for each of the two young brothers who had been killed.

Although serving at the same time, the Urbanski brothers were not stationed together. Frank was stationed in England and Ray never left the United States and was ordered to an ordnance-clearing company in Maryland.

Okinawa connection

span class="libobject mceNonEditable">OBJECTa941a284-3fc6-47aa-a45a-a6aa57198ec4Recently, Mrs. Urbanski recalled a story about learning from her mother-in-law that Jack was stationed in Okinawa with the Marines. She knew from the now-yellowed letters that she received from Joe that he, too, was there with his unit.

“I wrote Joe and said, ‘I think your brother Jack is on the island.’ So they looked each other up,” she said.

Today, she can show you a black-and-white photo of the two young men, taken when they were able to reconnect thousands of miles from their home in Toledo.

“I think they both had been in the booze,” she said as she fondly took in the photo. “Look at their eyes.”

The brothers each returned home after their years in the service were up — Joe after “five years, one month, and eight days,” Mrs. Urbanski said. Frank served for about four years and Ray about three years, she added.

The three had each earned the rank of sergeant. Their enlisted brother, Jack, pursued a military career and retired as a sergeant major.

OBJECTThe men got married, had children, and built families. And although they had the common bond of years at war, Mrs. Urbanski said they rarely spoke about their experiences — where they went, who they saw die.

Except, of course, when they got to talking about branches of the military, she recalled.

“That was their steady argument,” she said. “Who won the war, the Marines or the Army.”

Joe Urbanski spent 43 years as a driver for the former Toledo Times and The Blade. Raymond was a sheet metal worker in Toledo. Jack lived in Virginia, where he sold insurance and owned a kennel.

Telling the story

The boys are all gone now, the last of the brothers passed away in Virginia in April. It was when she learned of Jack Urbanski’s passing that Mrs. Urbanski decided that their story should be told.

Today, the brothers are buried in various cemeteries in various states. Mr. Urbanski’s cremains remain with his wife, so that one day the spouses of 64 years will be reunited when they eventually are buried together. That means Monday, Mrs. Urbanski does not have a gravesite at which to place an American flag.

But other veterans in the Toledo area will be given such an honor for Memorial Day.

At Historic Woodlawn Cemetery, volunteers every year place thousands of flags on all veterans’ gravesites. This weekend, more than 6,000 sites were adorned with American flags.

Those veterans serving as far back as the Civil War are honored with a flag, said Patty Toneff, director of community outreach at the cemetery.


A letter postmarked May 16, 1945, was sent to Rachel Urbanski from her husband, Joe, while he was serving overseas. Back then, letters home were censored and retyped.

The Blade/Lori King
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“They’ve done if for years,” Ms. Toneff said of the Woodlawn Memorial Day Association, which both places flags and organizes a program for Memorial Day. “What they feel is that is a day to remember, reflect, and honor. We need to teach our children the importance of honoring those who have served.”

Mrs. Urbanski still has photos of the brothers lined up in their military uniforms and creased letters from her husband that he sent from overseas during the war. In a scrapbook, she has kept memorabilia from each of the brothers — a keepsake she inherited from her mother-in-law.

These are her memories of the time they served their country. Of course, her Walbridge home is filled with a life-time of mementoes.

Monday, on Memorial Day, Mrs. Urbanski will celebrate her 90th birthday. But she knows she has to share her day with others. And for her, her daughter, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren — as well as the families of the other Urbanski brothers — Memorial Day is about remembering what their loved ones and so many others sacrificed.

“When I heard that my brother-in-law passed away in April, all of something just flashed,” Mrs. Urbanski said. “They’re back together again.”

Contact Erica Blake at: or 419-213-2134.



Parade honoring vets draws 5,000 downtown

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