Tommy Aurednick, a World War II combat veteran, longtime resident of Florida and four-year resident of Lawrence (and big “front row” fan of KU women’s basketball), died Sunday under Hospice care. He was 90.
Tommy, the youngest of five children, was born and raised in Sun, W. Va., the son of Wenzel and Louise Aurednick, who had emigrated, separately, from Munich, Germany. All of his three brothers worked in the coal mines, as did his sister’s husband. To avoid that fate, Tommy’s brothers pushed him toward the Navy after graduation from high school, where he had lettered in track and football.
He served the entire war aboard the USS Lavalette, a destroyer. The Lavalette endured frequent kamikaze attacks, and it nearly sank on two occasions: after being torpedoed off Guadalcanal and, later, after striking a mine in the Philippines, enduring high casualties both times. The Lavalette managed to make its way to safety for repairs each time and returned to battle. At an exhibit on the U.S.S. Hornet in Alameda, Calif., the Lavalette, the only destroyer in the exhibit, is heralded as the sixth most battled-tested ship in the history of the U.S. Navy.
After retiring from the Navy in 1962, Tommy worked as a boiler technician in Providence, R.I., before moving to Dunedin, Florida, where he worked as a timekeeper for Cone Brothers Construction until his retirement.
Survivors include his wife of 62 years, Marjorie, and two step-sons, Kenneth Gibson and his wife, Diana, of Clearwater, Fla., and Malcolm Gibson and his wife, Joyce, of Lawrence. Tommy had numerous grandchildren and great-granchildren, including Malcolm and Joyce’s two children: Jennifer Gaudet (to whom he would serve breakfast in bed when she was a toddler) and Ian Gibson (who, as a toddler, at the sound of a train whistle, would be whisked by Grandpa Tom into his truck for a quick trip to the railway crossing to watch the passing train). Malcolm says Tommy, his step-dad, was a special father because he picked “us” and “we” picked him.
A memorial gathering will be held at 2 p.m., Thursday, at Meadowlark Estates.