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Milona F. Vostal

December 25, 1930 May 29, 2021
Milona F. Vostal
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Obituary for Milona F. Vostal

Milona was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia on December 25, 1930. She was the first of two daughters to the family of Gabriel and Milona Slavik. Her father was a prominent electrophysical engineer who headed a large organization in Prague for development and utilization of high voltage equipment. Her early years were soon marred by the arrival of World War II and the German occupation of Czechoslovakia. Life was hard under the occupation with food shortages, constant threat of imprisonment, forced labor camps or worse. Milona was fortunate that her family was able to buy a plot of land outside of Prague before the war on which they build a small primitive summer cottage. It was nested into the side of a hill along with other cottages with families also seeking to escape the oppressive city life conditions. The cabin was only an hour away from Prague by train which made it easy to use during the summers. There were woods filled with strawberries, raspberries and mushrooms for picking, a child’s wonderland. The time Milona spent there was very formative for her and she always had the fondest memories of that cottage. The war ended in 1945 when Milona was 15 and life began to return to normal. She started to enjoy little bits of the social life Europe was known for and even met her future husband, a bright young medical student, Jaroslav Vostal, at that time. He was one of her dance partners at the formal ballroom dance lessons that allowed young ladies to meet future suitors under the watchful eyes of family chaperones. However, this little bit of freedom from war was soon crushed by the new Communist regime that came into power after the war. Communists purged any opposition and also focused on limiting the influence of the Catholic Church. Anyone openly practicing Catholicism was at risk of losing their job, being expelled from school or sent to rehabilitation camps. My father’s family openly practiced their Catholic faith and this put his graduation from medical school at peril. He was allowed to graduate because of his outstanding academic record but was sent to work away from Prague at a small community hospital about 3 hours by train. Milona stayed in Prague, finished her studies and obtained a degree in accounting. The physical separation could have been an ominous sign for their relationship. My father became interested in research and sought out training opportunities in Prague. After writing dozens of letters, he was finally offered a 2-month research training opportunity in Prague. This allowed him to get the experience he needed and to reignite his relationship with Milona. He achieved both and married Milona about a year later. The family moved to the small hospital where he was doing his residency training. By shear persistence he was able to secure a research position in Prague two years later and the family moved back, this time with their new daughter.

There was a shortage of apartments in the city so they lived with Milona’s parents in their apartment; 4 flights up with no elevator, using coal, which had to be carried 5 floors from the basement, for heat. Two sons were born there. Jaroslav continued his research and was quite successful. By early 60’s he was invited to Sweden do research on environmental toxicity. The catch was that only one member of the family was allowed to go because the Communists feared people would not return. Milona thus became a single parent to 2 children with all the logistics of dragging strollers, groceries and kids up and down 4 flights of stairs on a daily basis. Jaroslav returned after a year but was offered a similar research opportunity a year later. By that time there were 3 children for Milona to care for. Jaroslav returned a year later promising never to leave again but 6 months later he received another invitation, this time from the US, to again do a year abroad. He wanted to decline but Milona convinced him he would never get a chance like that again. It was extremely unlikely that the Communists would let him go out of the country due to his previous trips but it was 1968 and the communist’s grip on the country was relaxing. It was the Prague Spring. The government allowed Jaroslav go for a year of research and remarkably permitted his family to visit him . He moved to Rochester New York to work at the University in toxicological research and his family joined him 5 months later. Milona was 7 months pregnant at the time and would not have been allowed to fly had that been known. She was able to obtain a false due date from a physician friend of the family and off she went, her in her advanced state and 3 children ages 13, 11 and 5.

In Rochester the family settled into a small university apartment with other graduate families. About a month later more political events shaped their life. Russia decided that Prague Spring went far enough and sent army tanks to Prague to crush any hopes of further democratic freedoms. My parents postponed our return back to Czechoslovakia and nervously watched events developing back home. In the meantime, Milona delivered her third son. She developed complications in the hospital and became infected with the infection spreading through her whole body. It was an unusual bacteria that was resistant to common antibiotics and Milona was not recovering. In fact, she was dying. It was the end of the week and Jaroslav was worried so he signed her out against medical advice and took her home expecting the worst. While in the hospital the medical staff was treating Milona with current medicines without success and Jaroslav was calling pharmaceutical companies for any new antibacterials that could work against her infection. He received two new drugs on an emergency basis and tried these on Milona over the weekend. The family recalls kneeling around her bed praying that she would get better. It was Milona’s first brush with death. However, God was not calling her yet and she did recover over next few weeks.

After this rough start Jaroslav and Milona became involved with the university social life and made friends with other families. Jaroslav’s career progressed and while he was denied tenure as a full professor at the University he was offered the Directorship of a new Biomedical division at General Motors research in Detroit. It was the time of increased public awareness of pollution and toxic waste and a strong environmental movement spread across the country. General Motors wanted someone to run their anti-pollution efforts and Jaroslav’s research into heavy metal toxicity caught their eye. Thus, the family moved to Detroit. The children were now older and Jaroslav and Milona had more time together. They traveled the world as Jaroslav presented his scientific findings in Sweden, Norway, Japan and Hawaii. Milona started playing tennis which she played in her teens, in a local league. It turned out she was quite competitive not only in her skills but also in her spirit. She also played bridge and participated in many functions at St. Regis, at one point being the president of the woman’s club. She was a member of St. Regis for 40 years and made many friends here.

When Jaroslav retired they frequently traveled back to Prague in the Czech Republic which, by then, was democratic. In 2001 they returned to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary and were remarried in the same church by the same priest. They were the first and last couple that he married. Their eldest son’s family with three of their grandchildren met them in Prague to witness this joyous celebration.

Milona very much enjoyed playing with her 9 grandchildren and one great grandchild. She enjoyed keeping Czech traditions for holidays like Christmas and Easter and also adopted American Holidays such as Thanksgiving. For example, she insisted on baking 12 dozen of different kinds of cookies for Christmas. Her house was always elegantly decorated at least before the grandchildren showed up and rearranged a few things. It was a warm place to come to, always full of love.

After Jaroslav passed away, she lived by herself but traveled to Prague to be with her sister twice a year, spring and fall. They would spend time at the little cabin being happy and reliving their childhood. She was able to do this for many years and it brought her lot of joy. In more recent years, the loss of her memory limited her travel and she lived with her eldest son in Maryland part of the year. They enjoyed her company and she started knitting again as she had done in her younger years. She was prolific in her output, generating about 20 knitted blankets during those years.

Finally, Milona moved to Maryland permanently to live in Kensington Park Senior Living, an assisted living setting. She made number of new friends and started a new social life she missed while living alone. Things were going very well until COVID came to the facility. She became ill but survived her illness although the isolation and quarantine were difficult for her. She recovered to enjoy this year’s spring but then God called her again and this time she answered the call. She is and will remain 90 years old.

Milona was amazing in her resiliency and adaptability her whole life. It is likely that the harsh conditions of her childhood prepared her well for all the unusual twists that life gave her and allowed her to make the best of all circumstances. Her greatest gift was her commitment to her children and the love she brought to raising them. To the end she was extremely proud of all that her children had accomplished, and she would joyfully tell her friends about them. She will be greatly missed but we know that she is now with her husband, Jaroslav, and her parents.

She is survived by her children, Misha (the late Rick) Kendall, Jaroslav (Donna) Vostal, Ondrej Vostal, and Pat (Sharon) Vostal. She is also survived by her grandchildren, Alexander, Stephanie, Gabriel, Olivia, Karl, Nikolas, Kristopher, Zachary, and Laura, a great-grandson, James, and her sister, Jana.

A Funeral Mass will be celebrated at St. Regis Catholic Church, 3695 Lincoln Road, Bloomfield Hills, Saturday, June 5th, at 10:30am. Burial will take place immediately following Mass at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Southfield.

Memorials appreciated to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Previous Events

Service

Saturday

5

Jun

10:30 AM 6/5/2021 10:30:00 AM
St. Regis Catholic Church

3695 Lincoln
Bloomfield Hills, MI 48301

St. Regis Catholic Church
3695 Lincoln Bloomfield Hills 48301 MI
United States
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