Intimations of Ancestry

I was very close to all of my grandparents.  My mother’s parents lived in Oakland and I fondly remember visiting with them, watching old movies, and taking long walks.  I was even closer to my father’s parents who lived right here on the Monterey Peninsula, in the same house in which my wife, son, and I currently reside.  They were originally from Czechoslovakia and they would often tell me stories about their daring escape from their native country with my father – a young boy at the time –shortly after World War II.  Although I had the benefit of hearing about my grandparents’ experiences for most of my childhood, there are still some compelling events of the past that can easily be forgotten forever.

A few months ago I received an email through my law firm’s website from a gentleman in Massachusetts.  The email stated that the person did not have a legal question but wondered if my grandfather was the same person who was a “famous hockey player who defected in the 1940s.”  I immediately wrote back to confirm the gentleman’s hunch.  He stated that he was researching Post War hockey and that he came across an article about my grandfather that was published in The Hockey News in 1949.  The article described my grandfather’s hockey career in Europe, his escape, and his “surprise” appearance at a meeting of American amateur hockey players in New York City.  My grandfather was quoted as saying, “I really love the game and would be extremely happy to get back into it.” 

Instead of getting back into hockey, my grandfather got a job teaching Czech at the DLI, moved to Monterey, concentrated on golf, and lived a completely different second half of his life.

Even though I was so close to my grandparents and knew so much about their past, there was so much I didn’t know.  I knew my grandfather played hockey but I didn’t know how prominent he was until I read the article.  I never thought about how his life took such a dramatic turn when he accepted the position at the DLI – how different his life could have been had he stayed in New York and, for example, started coaching hockey.  This nugget of information could have been lost from my family forever. 

With regard to Estate Planning, we often focus so much on transferring cash, bonds, real property, automobiles, and personal items – the tangible “things” – that we forget about the intangible assets we all have.  This is why I encourage my clients to write an “ethical will.”

An “ethical will” is often described as a “voice of the heart” or a “love letter to the family.”  It often includes a description of personal values and beliefs, life’s lessons, wishes for future generations, and descriptions of rich experiences and building blocks that have shaped who you are as a person and how you wish to be remembered.   Consider writing an “ethical will” in addition to your other Estate Planning documents so that future generations have a better sense of where they came from and can carry your spirit into the future.

Full Text of the Aforementioned Article from The Hockey News, June 15, 1949

Puckster Fled From Reds; Wants Place In Game Here

NEW YORK, N.Y.—A surprise visitor to the Skyline Suite at the Hotel New Yorker on June 3 was Karel A. Krasa, prominent player, coach, manager and secretary of European hockey teams during the last 20 years. Krasa, who was forced to leave his native Czechoslovakia due to the Communists, is now living in New York where he is employed as a reporter for a Czech-American newspaper.

Krasa, who is now 45 but looks 10 years younger, was secretary of the best team to ever come out of Czechoslovakia.

That was the Czechoslovakian Lawn Club Team which toured England in December of 1947. Karel coached and managed several other first-grade Czech teams prior to 1947.

Star In Britain

Before becoming a coach he was a star player in his own right. He played center for the Queen’s Club in London, England, 20 years ago. He also starred at center for a Belgian team.

When he would not conform with the policies laid down by the Communist controlled Czech government he was dismissed from his job at the Czech Foreign Trade Commissioner’s office and left for this country. He had difficulty getting his wife and six-months-old child out of the country but after a most trying journey they turned up in New York last March.

Since coming to New York Karel has contacted Tommy Lockhart and hopes that he will be able to become associated with hockey again in some capacity or another. “I really love the game and would be extremely happy to get back into it,” Krasa stated.