GOING HOME

 

BOB STUDNICKA AT JOHN FOX HOME OCT 2015

 During the late nineteen fifties as a young boy, John Fox moved to a rural, semi-wild area of the Southwestern Wisconsin River and started a new life.  His fascination with the outdoors and his association with a family he met, unlike any he had ever imagined, impacted and changed him forever.   Having to leave this land of his roots, he spent almost forty years  living throughout other parts of the US.  Three years ago, he finally returned to the river valley he once called home.  The following is how he found it and the people he once loved.

 

It was a beautiful fall day of early autumn 2015.  Bob Studnicka peered across the dead water oxbow.  He was watching my old Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Lady as  she paddled through the algae.  The dog was headed for the dead teal laying belly up in the water. “Well, it’s nice to know I finally shot my first duck here”, Bob grinned.   I nodded my head.

We were in Bob’s recently purchased “back forty”, a big chunk of marsh and wild upland grass bordering the Blue River and more importantly to Bob, possessing the “oxbow slough”, a winding, dead piece of backwater, full of algae, and other plant life.  Now I know this chunk of wildlife habitat was a lot more than forty acres, but the old common term “back forty” is often used to describe out-of-the-way acres on a farm.

Most of the water in this old dead slough was rainwater,very little came from springs or brooks.  Still, the ducks, especially the early season teal, seemed to love it.   Bob called the marsh an investment, an ecological wonder.   I simply called it his “honey hole”, a new place for Bob to shoot a duck or two.  Although I never asked him, I suspect the funds for the property came from his share of the proceeds from the sale of the Studnicka Brother Farms, that he and his brothers once owned and sold a few years back.

 

DKeith photo

Although the farm was primarily a “dairy operation”, with a few cash ventures on the side such as raising hogs and beef cattle, it kept growing in size over the years to the  point that they were eventually farming over a thousand acres.

One of the side benefits of this rather large agricultural operation was, along with the cropland, about thirty percent of the land was not tillable, consisting of giant hillsides and bottom marshland along the Blue River.   Although some of it was used for timber cutting and pasturing, a lot was simply wildlife habitat.

This created hunting and fishing opportunities, mostly for deer but, also wild turkeys, ruffed grouse, rabbits, squirrels, and furbearers such as fox, coyote, and raccoon.  The river also held waterfowl as well as fish.

It didn’t take long after my first visit to the farm before I became treated like a long lost cousin, especially by Mrs. Studnicka the matriarch.  Her real first name was Cecilia but I never heard anyone call her that.  It was “mom”, or “mother”, or”Mrs. Studnicka” to me.

She was a hard worker whose labor never seemed to be finished. Every morning after milking the cows and completing the chores, the boys would straggle back to the main farmhouse where she had prepared breakfast.  The spreads she put on the table reminded me of the stories I had heard  about what the lumberjacks used to eat, thousands of calories just at breakfast.

What I used to think of as a lunch or supper menu was now served every morning at 8:00 a.m. right after milking.  Eggs, beef in a variety of cuts, breads, buns, sweet rolls, sausages, and bacon were often accompanied  by unpasturized, unhomoginized milk with the cream still swirling around the top.  Often in the old days butter was churned right on the farm.  Sometimes for the afternoon meals, especially in summer, a special treat was served, homemade ice cream, churned straight  from the hand freezer.  And of course there was always a platter of cheeses of different sorts, swiss, munster, and cheddars of various sharpness.

Often, especially in the warmer months, there was also a variety of fruits including June strawberries, musk melon, apples, and from the hillsides, various wild raspberries.  My favorite was watermelon and I couldn’t wait until later on in the summer when the first big melons to be harvested from the garden were iced and cut open.

Mrs. Studnicka had been through a lot in her life.  One day while we were discussing duck hunting, I asked her if she remembered anything about the infamous Armistice Day storm of 1940.  She was a young girl then and she remembered well the day and how the weather drastically changed from a balmy summer like, hot morning to a major winter storm.

While the temperature plummeted, strong winds whipped the normally placid autumn Mississippi River into a lather of giant waves, accompanied by sleet then eventually snow.  The temperature changed so quickly virtually every hunter on the river was caught by complete surprise.

It was early duck season and a weekend and the upper Mississippi River was full of hunters. In the early morning before leaving home, most shucked their long sleeve shirts, hunting vests, jackets, coats and heavy hats for short sleeved t-shirts, summer pants, and buckets of ice water. Grabbing dogs who had them, decoys, and many small wooden rowboats, they paddled and rowed out on the big river, some to islands and blinds way out across the main channel.

When the storm hit, temperatures dropped like a rock, and freezing winds whipped the mild Mississippi into a froth of huge waves, along with rain, sleet, and eventually snow.  It happened so quickly nobody had a chance to respond.   And by the time they did, for many, it was too late.

Over fifty hunters died or disappeared that day, some never to be found, most from freezing to death, some from drowning in overturned rowboats.  A few managed to survive by being able to start a fire on an island and shiver alive through the night awaiting rescue in the morning.    It was the biggest hunting disaster the upper Mississippi River had ever seen.

Mrs. Studnicka was a young girl then and she recalled the day vividly.  “We didn’t live too far from the river, and we had neighbors come by for days telling us about what happened to their family that might have gone duck hunting out there that day.  Some were lucky and managed to survive, others did not.”

When the boys and I would go duck hunting in the Wisconsin river bottoms, we had a penchant for getting wet, especially one of us, me.  “You boys always get wet”, she would say in her smiling, sweet voice when we came home late in the afternoon from a hunt.  Of course she was referring mostly to me.

Besides Mrs. Studnicka, there was her husband Ben, and his brother, who lived with them which everyone simply called “Uncle’.

Their father originally owned the farm but, gradually the boys took over.  The seven sons included Ben, the oldest, then Ken, Jim, Bob, Dan, Joe, and Ron.

Ron was the second family.  Born almost a decade and a half after the last sibling, young Ron was the apple of his parent’s eye.  The older brothers nurtured him as well as spoiled him, and young Ron grew up not only a competent farmer but, the best hunter, fisherman and shot among all the brothers.   At least that is what I was always told, by Ron himself.

He had a room full of mounted giant whitetail and other type deer heads to backup his boasts, so it was a bit hard to dispute his talent.

The spring of 2015 I came to Ron to ask him if he would guide me on a wild turkey hunt.  He said, he would do everything but, shoot the bird for me.  All I had to do is “not miss.”

I have been long jinxed getting an eastern wild turkey gobbler; everything always seems to go wrong.    This spring was to be no different.   We were eating breakfast in a local Muscoda diner around ten o’clock, all dressed in our camo gear mulling over the mishaps of our early morning hunt when in the door walked two guys dressed also in camo gear, obviously other turkey hunters.

Ron recognized them immediately.  A huge, tall fellow came over to our table and politely shook  hands and introduced himself to me;  his name was “Joe Thomas”, super star lineman of the Cleveland Browns.  His bit smaller companion was Colt McCoy, the recently traded quarterback that had played for the Browns but was now in the fold of the Washington Redskins.

The reason they knew each other so well, is because it was Joe Thomas who purchased the Studnicka Brother Farms in 2012, not long after he received his huge signing bonus with Cleveland.

The turkey hunter that morning among us was Colt McCoy, maybe the greatest all time quarterback that ever played college ball for the Texas Longhorns.  He was the only one that shot a turkey, so maybe Colt had other hidden talents besides throwing a football.

Joe Thomas surely does, arguably the richest offensive lineman in pro ball, he is a modest, polite fellow, besides being an avid outdoorsman he is adept at a lot of intellectual things, as his high grade point average in college affirms.

Now the brothers were slowly retiring or leaving the farm, all except my turkey guide, youngest brother Ron, who although was no longer in the dairy game, kept his plow in the soil and grew corn, beans and  hay, and raised hogs and black angus beef.

The brothers got a nice return for the farm.    When Joe Thomas heard it was available, he came running with a giant chunk of “pro football bonus money”.   Having been raised a hunter and a fisherman along with his family in Wisconsin, it was said he wasn’t even around on the rookie draft day, but was out fishing on Lake Michigan when Cleveland pulled his name out of the hat.   Thomas knew a great wild hunting reserve when he saw one, and having kicked around those hillsides for many years in my youth, I knew he bought a paradise.

Lady with a wood duck drake taken on the Blue River

It had been a long time, almost two decades, since I had seen Bob.  During that time his five daughters grew up from the sweet endearing young grade schoolers I remembered, into lovely young ladies, married with children of their own, which now made my old pal a grandfather.

I met Bob and his brothers while I was in high school.  I got to know them when his oldest brother, Ben was tutoring a conservation club as a sideline when he wasn’t attending to his primary duty, teaching physics, and chemistry.  The conservation club is simply a ten dollar name for a high school hunting and fishing organization for the students. It was made up completely by the school boys who liked to spend their spare time with a rod or gun.

I took chemistry.  I hated it.  While big brother Ben glided through the symbols and formulas as easily as a weasel slips through a hole in the hen house wall, I struggled with them endlessly.  Although Ben would never admit it, the only reason he didn’t flunk me was because by the time the class ended, I had become good friends with his parents and other brothers.

I was rewarded for my social skills by receiving a  red “D”, which was certainly better than the failing “F”, which I more rightly deserved.

Raised by grandparents who left the vestiges of the big city life for the rural outback of Southwestern Wisconsin during the late 1950’s, I spent my teen years in the semi wilderness of the great Wisconsin River Valley during the time Vince Lombardi was the head coach of the Green Bay Packers.  It was a wonderful place to finish growing up as a boy, especially a kid that thoroughly enjoyed the countless hours he could spend exploring the vast wild river and its miles of forests and marshes.

If there was anything missing from my life during my introduction to the great Wisconsin outdoors, it was human companionship, particularly young people my age.

Then, quite unexpectedly the Studnicka family entered my life.  Five of the seven brothers were going to school and working on the family dairy farm.  The sixth brother, young Ron, or Ronnie as we called him then wasn’t of school age but, was still helping do some chores at home.

The only brother that wasn’t working on the farm when I met them all was the oldest brother, Ben.  He later went on to get his PhD in chemistry.  The other brothers  toiled hard, the family work ethic instilled in them at an early age.  From grade school through high school and even into college in brother Jim’s case, they all worked planting crops, cutting hay, raising hogs, beef cattle, and milking cows.  Twice a day, morning and night, three hundred and sixty five days a year, they milked cows.

One advantage of having so many brothers was they could take turns doing the milking.  When one or two needed to take time off, there was always someone to fill in.

Brother Jim was the second oldest sibling on the farm, second only to older brother, Ken.  Jim was a hardworking, studious fellow whose structured face reminded me of Gregory Peck. I got to know Jim better during the days we both attended Wisconsin State University at Platteville.   Jim going on to bigger and better things at school in Kansas, and me disappearing into the windy city of Chicago to find work.

Taking days off during the early fall duck season Jim and I would occasionally do some field research for Ella May’s botany class down around the town of Bagley on the Mississippi River. Ella May taught science including botany and she was likely as old as the building she taught in.

It was important we did some field research for her class, one of which was to find, identify and bring back samples of the “world’s smallest flowering plant”.  Of course since this plant commonly grew in the duck marshes, it required us to take along our shotguns, too, just in case some wood ducks or teal might show up while we were searching the water for foliage.

The plant commonly known as “duck weed”, grew in small green circles on the top of shallow water.  It was often mistaken for some kind of algae.   In the summer it would send up the tiniest white flowers, so small they were almost impossible to see with the naked eye.  And because both Jim and I were aware that according to Ms. May, “ducks just loved to eat it”, we couldn’t resist watching to see if we couldn’t get a duck dinner as a bonus.

Jim moved on and became a dairy farming expert, not only in the Kansas classroom but, at home in Muscoda as well.  He married Mary Ann, a sweet local farm girl who helped Jim start a family,and whose one son is now a renowned professional cheese maker who manages a giant cheese factory in Muscoda.

In later years Jim worked on creating a trophy whitetail deer ranch on the farm and used his talents to attract paying sportsmen from all over the US, who wanted an excellent chance to shoot a trophy buck.  One year I was invited to hunt and Jim lead me to my first deer ever within an hour after the season opened.

Unfortunately, one hot summer day in 2007 Jim’s normally good fortune on the farm ran out.  Most of the boys were fishing up in Canada when Jim’s tractor overturned on a hillside where he was cutting weeds, and he was killed.  I had known Jim to be cautious and careful around farm machinery and to this day am still perplexed by his death.

There were also several daughters, two in particular I remember, Betty and Dorothy.  It wasn’t too long before I became smitten with Dorothy.  She was a young sweetheart close to my age, and I found her exceptionally attractive.

Far more shy than polished I had difficulty asking her to go out on a date but, did manage eventually to find the nerve.  We had a good time, at least I did, was never too sure about Dorothy, but the next morning at a prearranged meeting I met the brothers after chores and they were all quiet as church mice.  None of them said a word.  No teasing, no asking “how it went’, nothing.  I realized later that they were all simply being polite but, at the time it scared me more than anything and I shied away from ever asking Dorothy on another date fearing my involvement with her might lead to not only losing her but, the family too.

I had very little finesse when it came to the ladies, a good thing for Dorothy as she went on to find and marry a local boy, raise a family, and help her husband start and run a business.

All the while she was moving on positively with her life, I was a socially struggling bachelor trying to find myself and settle down, and in retrospect was glad that I didn’t try dragging Dorothy along on my own misadventure.

The oldest boy still living at home was Ken.  After Ben left the farm many decades before, Ken by default became the oldest sibling on the farm team.  Although I never hunted or fished much with Ken, as he was mostly a deer hunter ,which I did very little of, he did take me out flying in his private single engine plane which he kept at a neighboring town airport.

We had a good time and I immensely enjoyed flying up and down the Wisconsin River valley getting a look at the woods and marshes and bluffs as I had never seen them.

Ken was the best story teller of all the boys.   Many evenings after dinner he would sit by the fireplace and explain the whys and wherefores of farming, nature, and the Wisconsin Badgers basketball team.

A few years before Bob became serious with Karen, who was an extraordinary young lady who eventually not only raised five wonderful, totally unspoiled daughters,  but taught grade school and did housework when she wasn’t trying to keep husband Bob somewhat in line, Bob and I hunted geese.

Bob takes a break at the oxbow slough as Lady, who retrieved his duck, watches him admiringly.

A neighbor of my grandparents up river spotted a couple of flocks of early migrating Canada geese using their freshly picked cornfield behind their house.  The season had already opened and Bob and I built a blind in the field.  We were still in high school at the time and anxious to show our prowess as waterfowl hunters.

This was in the early 1960’s and the wild Canada geese were few and far between compared to today’s ubiquitous flocks which seem to be just about everywhere.  In fact, there were virtually no local geese in our river valley in those days, they were rare indeed.  About the only wild honkers that we ever saw were the northern flight birds many of which came down from Horicon Marsh via Canada and most of those took a different route to their winter homes in the Southern US.

It was exciting indeed in those early years when we did see and hear them.  It was mostly in good weather at night, often during the bright October moon. The honking of the northern Canada geese as they came flying high above the Wisconsin River heading for places south unknown used to send chills up my spine as I watched and listened from my open bedroom window, a quarter of a mile away.

Since we had no goose decoys and no money to buy any, Bob and I found some old tin panels behind my grandfather’s shed and a with a makeshift pattern we cut out and snipped a dozen silhouettes from the tin which we then put legs on and spray painted black and white.

When we were done they looked somewhat like geese to us, the more important question was, “What would they look like to real live flight honkers?”  As I think back at our laughable attempt at trying to lure wild geese, I knew that we needed all our limited skills to try and entice even one into our game bag.

I had been practicing for a couple of years with my old Olts goose call.  I wasn’t too bad with the more common honks, as long as I didn’t have to get too exotic.    We also had a few full bodied old duck decoys that we threw out into our field for realism.    Now, we just had to stay hidden,be still, and see if any honkers would fly down river and consider checking us out.

Most of the morning went by and we did hear a couple of small flocks heading southwest on the river but,they had no inclination to come over and take a good look at us.  Finally, getting ready to pick up we saw a lone goose heading in our direction.  Staying as hidden as we could, I pressed the old goose call to my lips and gave a short series of “honks”.    The goose was still out of range but, slowly swung wide around our field, dropping down further and further.  I gave a couple more soft honks on the call and there he was, in range right over our decoys, looking like he wanted to land.

Bob and I both stood up together and shot at the same time.  To this day I have no idea which one of us killed that lone goose, maybe we both did, but it fell with a resounding plunk on the hard cornfield earth.

It was something we almost never saw on our river valley, a blue goose, a variation of the snow goose family.  Thinking back, I realized that their call is higher pitched than the Canada geese, and its a wonder that I got one to come to my Olts.  That day, it worked.

You couldn’t have seen two more proud young hunters than Bob and me, you would have thought we had just won the county fair.  Two smiling high school boys posed with the goose held between them while my grandfather took a photo.   I still have that picture buried in my scrapbook to this day.

Bob and I continued to do a lot of things together as we grew up. Once, a few years after Bob was married I was invited over for supper.  Bob told me Karen was preparing rabbit.   Okay, I thought, I have eaten a lot of wild rabbit dishes and that’s fine with me.

Sitting at the table I watched while Karen placed a large platter full of meat in front of us. The legs were huge and stuck out unlike any wild rabbit I had ever seen.  Then I realized these weren’t wild but domestic white rabbits.  By then Bob and Karen had three daughters who were all sitting anxiously at the table waiting to be served.   Having never eaten domestic rabbit, little did I know that the plump, juicy leg meat would be the most tender, tasty, table fare I had ever consumed.  It put the best fried chicken to shame.

Karen used to pack her own lunches to school.  After deer season her sandwiches were almost exclusively made of venison her favorite lunch meat. Karen was raised a rural Wisconsin girl, and knew the value of good wild meat,  as did Bob and the rest of the Studnicka family.  Growing up they learned they were never to waste anything.   All fish and game was to be cleaned, pickled, fried, baked, boiled, broiled, or hung to dry, nothing was to be thrown away.

The last time I visited Bob and Karen in their new home, Karen was suffering from cancer.   I told her that my wife and I would pray for her.  She thanked me and then changed the subject pulling a high school photo of Bob out of a drawer.  It was his graduation photo.  “Wow”, I said, “he looks like a movie star. Now I see why you went for him, Karen.”  Bob was always a good looking guy but the years running around on the farm didn’t do his handsomeness any favors.

I always thought there was something special about Bob. He had a magnetism that could attract almost anyone.  His smile could melt butter.  And when he would laugh, you couldn’t help but smile, he was that magnetic.  When we were fishing or hunting together, although we were disappointed if we didn’t get any fish or game, we always had a good time.  And the main reason was Bob always made it so.

Now as we sat in our makeshift blind on the oxbow slough Bob was telling me stories about one of his favorite topics, his grandchildren, and how he was attending one school function after another, whether they were in a play, or singing, or shooting baskets for the home team, Bob was there.

The night before we planned on coming down to the oxbow for our hunt, I got stuck while checking out the Muscoda marsh.  There I was with my old Chevy Sports Van deep in the rutty sand.  Using my cell phone I called Bob and he came with his truck and rescued me.  I couldn’t thank him enough. “That’s what friends are for”, he said.

Getting ready to pack it in and call it a hunt

As it became closing time we picked up the decoys, loaded the dog, took down our boat blind and started to paddle the long way out of the oxbow to our vehicle with the boat trailer parked on the shoulder just off the highway.

Along the paddle out, I asked Bob if he remembered our big duck hunt along the Blue River that one fall Saturday almost three decades ago?  It was early October, right after the opening of waterfowl season and we decided we should spend a day taking a long walk up the banks of the Blue River, checking the various sloughs and marshes along the way.

We started out way downstream near a little creek that flowed into the Blue called the “Sand Branch”. It was a good four or five miles back to the Studnicka farm.  We had most of the morning and all afternoon.   We also had some bottles of water and a few cookies.  Maybe with a little luck we would catch a few wood ducks napping on the river, around some bend, or maybe with a little more luck might see a small flock of mallards or teal sitting on one of the sloughs.

There were a couple of big sloughs along the way, too. Bob knew them all.  Although we were a couple of barely out of high school kids, inexperienced and still learning the crafts of the outdoorsman, our passion for our sport knew few boundaries.  We would do whatever it would take to get a prize mallard in our bag; walk all day, miss lunch and sometimes even supper, wade through thick marsh mud and paddle an old heavy wooden row boat for thousands of yards through seemingly impossibly high marsh grass and cattails, while enduring heat, cold, rain and even sleet and snow when necessary.

And of course the grandest prize of them all was the uncommon Canada goose.   We would walk or paddle almost anywhere to try and get one.   A big Canada honker was such a prize it was often pictured with the hunter who shot it in the local paper.

We came upon some wood ducks who heard us and flushed well out of range. Then, Bob motioned me to be quiet, the biggest slough on our journey was just up ahead and he thought he heard geese.

The big slough was on the east side of the Blue River as it flowed here and we were on the west side. Now we had to find a shallow spot to wade across the Blue which was more like a huge stream here than a river.    We were in luck in one respect, the high bank of the slough was on our side, which meant if we stayed quiet and crawled on our bellies we could approach within a few feet of the geese unseen.

With guns at port arms we wiggled as slowly and and as quietly as our wet clothes and boots would allow us. Eventually we were within a couple of yards of the top of the bank.  We could hear the geese on the other side of our little hill swimming and making low clucking noises in the water.
We both looked at each other nodded our heads in unison and rose as quickly as we could from the wet earth. The geese saw us immediately and started flushing.  The closest birds couldn’t have been more than ten yards away.   In those days we still used lead shot, so even two overly excited young hunters didn’t have too much trouble putting a goose on the water at that range.

When it was all over there were four dead geese floating on the slough; we had each shot our two bird limit.  These were the first Canada geese I had ever shot.  We were so excited at our newly, unexpected trophies that we could have flown without wings all the way home.  We didn’t have a retrieving dog in those days, so once again we got wet as we waded out to collect our prizes.

Deciding the almost twenty pounds of birds we each now had to carry was a good enough reason to call it a day, we started to march out of the river bottoms to the highway where the walk would be a bit easier and shorter.    Getting to within about fifty yards of the road we saw a car coming at a pretty good clip heading north.  It was brother Joe, going to Muscoda to pick up his girl for a Saturday night date.  As we got nearer Bob and I both raised the geese up as high as we could so Joe could get a good look at them as he passed by.  When Joe spied the geese, he laid on the horn, smiled, waved, and then continued on to town.

That was the last time I saw Joe.  Not long after that he was found dead one morning in the dairy barn.  It was assumed he was kicked in his temple by an upset bovine sometime around milking hour.

In my time outdoors with the Studnicka brothers , especially Bob, I heard plenty of stories, how they got along so well, and how their role model father and attentive mother made them into the loving, caring family that they were.

Although the Studnicka brothers were about as tough mentally and physically as any young farmers could be, I never, ever, heard one of them swear, not once.  Nor did any of them use tobacco, in any form, not cigarettes, or even chewing tobacco which was very common among rural men and older boys in those days.

DKeith photo

Some time after the brothers were into the family farming business they went to a local bank to set up a banking relationship and procure a loan.  The banker looked at the brothers and said, “Am sorry guys, I don’t think we can help you.  Partnerships tend to have all kinds of problems and partnerships with brothers and family are the worst ones.”

Undeterred, the boys continued on and eventually made a big success out of their Studnicka Brothers Farm. The banker didn’t know the Studnicka brothers; he didn’t know how they stood together, supported each other, and showed the world what the term “family” really meant.

I know the old proverb says, “You can’t go home.”  Well, maybe that’s true but, I tried anyway.  When I first came to the farm, as a young high school boy, there were six brothers, and soon after when Ron was born, seven.  By the  time I left and returned, Ben had gone away to earn his PhD in chemistry and leave for a job in industry in Carolina, Dan had left the farm for a job in a neighboring community, and Joe and Jim had died in unfortunate accidents.

That left oldest brother Ken, youngest brother Ron, and of course my waterfowl hunting buddy, Bob.

When we finally got the boat to the high bank that bordered the shoulder of the highway, I was tired and Bob seemed to be breathing heavily, too.   Rather than trying to drag the boat up the fifty foot bank to the boat trailer, I told Bob we should forget it, it was getting dark now, he had a duck to clean, and  I would come back in the morning to pull it out with my winch. He agreed.

And as we said goodbye, I never thought for a minute that this was going to be my last time out with Bob.  We never hunted again.  He died from heart failure a couple months later.

Bob left another of the many Studnicka family legacies , one that included a wonderful wife, five lovely daughters, grandchildren and family, and also a guy who used to occasionally kick around with him from up river, who will never forget Bob or the Studnicka family.

For the blog, I am  John J. Fox V

############################################################# About John J Fox V.    Born in Chicago in the mid 1900s he was legally named after his father, James Dvorak, who was divorced from his mother after two years of marriage.  He was temporarily given the sir name of his grandparents, Johnny Szymanski until his mother remarried and moved to Pittsburgh, Pa., after which he was called Johhny Caruso, the name given to him by his mother and step father who neither adopted him nor legally changed his name. A professional singer Fox’s mother used the stage name of Jean Devon prior to her second marriage.  In fourth grade Fox was sent back to live with his maternal grandparents, whereupon he once again assumed the name Johnny Seymanski, until his grandparents changed their last name to “Seyman” whereupon Fox assumed that name until his enlistment in the military when it was finally legally changed from Dvorak to Seyman.  Through the years of his young life, Fox was given four different names, though he never had more than the one legally.   When he started writing professionally over thirty years ago he began by using the pen name John J Fox, a name which he has assumed until this day.   Since there are so many people named John Fox, he has added his legal middle initial (J) and also, for the purposes of this blog added a V behind it for the Roman numeral five.

 

 

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