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1935 Phil Vondrak 2023

Earl Philip Vondrak

March 27, 1935 — June 7, 2023

Sioux City

Earl Philip “Phil” Vondrak died peacefully June 7, 2023 at Holy Spirit Retirement Home in Sioux City, Iowa. A funeral Mass will be held at 10:30 A.M. Tuesday, June 13, 2023, at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church with Father Francis Makwinja officiating. Burial will be at Calvary Cemetery with military honors. Visitation will be from 4-8 P.M. on Monday, June 12, 2023, at Meyer Brothers Colonial Chapel. There will be a Rosary Service at 4 P.M. with a Vigil service at 7:00 P.M. followed by a 4th Degree Knights of Columbus Chalice Service. 

Phil was born March 27, 1935, the twelfth child of Franklin “Frank” Vondrak and Gertrude (Muir) Vondrak. He grew up on the family dairy farm in Plymouth County, Iowa. He often regaled his children with stories of milking cows at dawn (and falling asleep) and driving tractors at a tender age. He would forever be a farm boy at heart and a “lover of horses,” as the name Philip denotes.

Phil attended Perry Center Number 5, a one-room school house where every student was either his sibling or cousin. He attended Bishop Heelan High School and was a member of the class of 1953, the first class to complete all four years at the new school. He loved being a Crusader and was crowned Homecoming King his senior year. Recognizing his intellectual gifts, his teachers encouraged him to pursue a college education. He was accepted to Notre Dame University, but not being able to afford the fees, opted to attend Morningside College, in Sioux City, where he played football. After completing part of his freshman year, he enlisted in the military during the Korean War. His goal was to be a paratrooper, but upon finding the Army recruiting office closed, he opted for the Marines, regardless of the fact he couldn’t swim. He spent his two-year commission in occupied Japan. Being a Marine was one of his greatest prides and the Marine Corps Hymn required singing for his children.

Upon discharge, he enrolled in Creighton University on the GI Bill. The first in his family to attend college, he received his Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Philosophy and his Juris Doctorate. During his summer breaks, he drove long-haul trucks for Bekins furniture, relishing the opportunity to see the United States. He would always love traveling and made many cross-country vacation trips with his family. Later he would travel with his wife to visit children and grandchildren and enjoyed traveling in Europe, especially visiting Bohemia, the Vondrak homeland.

In 1960 he married the love of his life (and his sister Shirley’s sister-in-law), Donna Jeanette Clarey. To this union six children were born. After living in the San Francisco Bay Area for two years, they returned to Sioux City where they would remain. Phil began his career with State Farm Insurance and then with Colonial Manor. After working in the Woodbury County Attorney’s office, he worked for Iowa Public Service, which later became MidAmerica Energy. During his twenty plus years at MidAmerica, he rose to senior attorney, while in the 1990s he created the company’s natural gas marketing division and served as Manager of Gas Supply for five states. During this time, he met Jeffrey Skilling and Ken Lay of Enron Corporation, but decided not to pursue business dealings with them, rightly claiming that those two couldn’t be trusted and their business model a canard. Always interested in politics, in 1974 he was tapped to run for state senator of Iowa and lost narrowly to the incumbent.

Phil was an intelligent, hardworking man of intense faith, forever dedicated to the Catholic Church and serving others. He was a 4th degree Knight of Columbus and the first president of the Sioux City chapter of Right of to Life. Meeting Dr. Mildred Jefferson, the first president of the national organization of Right to Life and the first Black woman to graduate from Harvard medical school, was one of his greatest honors. In the 1970s he was active in Cursillo, a Catholic charismatic movement. He was also one of the founders of Trinity Heights and did much pro bono legal work to establish the parliamentary rules for the American Academy of Fertility Care Practitioners when Donna was its board member and president. Phil did countless hours of pro bono work for those in need, from writing wills to helping a family whose child had been abused. His generosity knew no limits. 

Phil was also the quintessential family man. He loved Donna intensely and would say that she was the better of the two. They loved to dance, travel, and share a five o’clock glass of wine. For his children he would make any sacrifice. He spent countless hours caring for grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He had a quick wit, a sharp sense of humor, and often laughed until he cried. Most of all, for his family he was a role model of faith and standing up for truth and for the voiceless.

Phil is survived by five children Ann Marie Skaggs (Mike), John Vondrak (Julie), Christopher Vondrak (Joni), Elizabeth Vondrak (Michael Ashenuga), Mary Teresa Doty (Brad); twenty-four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren; sister-in-law Joan Vondrak (Eldon), Lucy Sitmann (Emmett Sitzmann), and Denny Beck (Lu Beck); and over one hundred nieces and nephews.

He is preceded in death by his parents; his wife Donna; his son Matthew; six brothers and their wives Francis Vondrak (Marguerite), Harold Vondrak (Theresa), Donald Vondrak (Jeune), Floyd Vondrak (Janice), Eldon Vondrak, and Gilbert Vondrak (JoAnn); six sisters and their husbands Lucine Maxey (Jim), Florence Casper Schroeder (Lloyd Casper and Ray Schroeder), Evelyn Hansen (Clark), Gladys Niles (Paul), Shirley Clarey (Rich), infant Barbara Vondrak; in-laws Esther (McCorkel) and John Clarey; in-laws and their spouses Jack Clarey (Mary and Nadine), Patricia Graham (Dwight), Al Clarey (Carol), Ann DeRocher (Leo), Ray Clarey (Helen), Lucy Sitzmann (Emmett), Lu Beck (Denny).

Donations in his memory can be made to the Pope Paul VI Institute in Omaha, NE and the Holy Spirit Chapel Renovation Fund. The family would like to extend a special thank you to his caregivers at Holy Spirit. Semper Fi, Dad.

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Service Schedule

Past Services


Tuesday, June 13, 2023

10:30 - 11:30 am (Central time)

Holy Cross Parish-Blessed Sacrament Church

3012 Jackson Street, Sioux City, IA 51104

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