Joseph Blas (Jozef Blaszczykiewicz), 103, of North Riverside, died March 9, 2015.
Mr. Blas was born in Poland and was serving as a corporal in the Polish Army when Nazi Germany invaded the country on Sept. 1, 1939.
He was captured by the Wehrmacht on Sept. 9 and spent nearly six years as a prisoner of war, first at a prison camp in Germany and then — due to his pre-war experience as a bricklayer — as a forced laborer in a construction battalion made up of POWs, which was shipped across Germany during the war to construct bomb shelters and reconstruct buildings damaged in Allied bombing raids.
As a member of a construction battalion, Mr. Blas was treated better than the average POW and was even paid a small amount.
“In Schweinfurt they allowed us to get lunch at the café,” Mr. Blas remembered.
After the war, Mr. Blas bounced around various displaced persons camps in Germany. In 1950, Blas and his wife and eldest son, Zenon, obtained a sponsor and immigrated to the United States and settled in the Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago.
Mr. Blas became a union bricklayer and remained active into his 90s. He still had a valid driver’s license at the age of 99. For the last few years of his life, Mr. Blas lived with his son, John, and his daughter-in-law, Jody, at their home in North Riverside.
He was featured in a Riverside-Brookfield landmark article about his wartime experiences shortly after his 101st birthday, in 2013.
Services have been held.