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home : obituaries : obituaries
January 21, 2018

1/12/2018 10:40:00 AM
Henry Andrew Skubik

Henry Andrew Skubik


Captain Henry “Hank” Andrew Skubik, 94 ¾ yrs. young, of Englewood Fl., formerly of Massapequa, NY slipped the surly bonds of earth one last time on January 3, 2018 to touch the face of God. Hank’s final flight was accomplished his way, on the wings of angels while singing “Everything is Beautiful”. He was born in 1923 in New York City to Henry and Pauline (Grom) Skubik and spent his childhood in Lyndhurst, NJ. His first paying job was as a singing telegraph delivery boy for Western Union, receiving 10.5 cents per hour.  He also raised and competitively raced pigeons, enjoying great success. He met the love of his life, Katherine (Kaye) Schack, a co-worker, at Bendix Aviation in Teterboro NJ.  Before they were married Hank joined the Army Air Corps and trained in the B-17. Like so many girls, a young Kaye waited for her hero to return and they were married on July 14, 1945. She predeceased Henry in 2011 after 66 joyful years of marriage. Hank is survived by a son Gary (Jacqueline) of Englewood, Florida, a daughter Karen Hoy-Skubik (Casey) of Wooster, Ohio and grandchildren Briana, Sean, Ryan and Mark.  Hank was a member of St. Rafael Catholic Church, Englewood Fl and St. Martin of Tours, Amityville, NY.  

Hank was a humble man, so few were aware of his exemplary and heroic service record. Hank joined active duty in 1943, became a B-17 pilot, and served with the 8th Air Force in Nuthampstead, England. He piloted aircrafts “Bedroom Eyes” and “Black Widow” on twenty-eight combat sorties and was twice shot down. His first brush with catastrophe was on the 28th of September, 1944, when his aircraft lost two engines to enemy fire. The damaged craft made it to Belgium, but without hydraulics for braking, the crew resorted to urinating in the hydraulic reservoir to replace lost fluids. The men also affixed parachutes to the floor which were deployed upon landing. The gamble paid off and Hank’s crew successfully brought the crippled bomber to a stop with only a few feet to spare. Hank’s luck would run out on his 28th mission.  

On the 20th of January,1945, while serving as an Instructor Pilot for a crew on their initial mission qualification, flack struck Hank’s aircraft resulting in an uncontrollable fire and the loss of all engines.  Hank commanded his crew to “Hit the silk”, and bail out of the burning aircraft. He parachuted down from twenty-five thousand feet over Mannheim, Germany, and was captured by the Wehrmacht. He was then marched through the town he just bombed. An angry mob pelted him with snowballs and garbage. He was then made to kneel before a German officer and told to pray. The officer held a pistol to Henry’s head as Hank prayed what he thought would be his last prayer. The officer lowered his weapon and turned Henry over to the Luftwaffe, who reported his capture to the Allies.

Hank was placed in solitary confinement at Dulag Luft camp in Wetzlar, Germany where he was routinely interrogated.  He staunchly refused to surrender any information, keeping with the unwritten code to only give name, rank and service number. Eventually Hank’s keen wit earned him more unwanted attention. When asked if he was downed by German fighter planes, he quipped, “Oh, you have fighter planes, too?  I’ve yet to see one”.  More lonely days in solitary confinement followed that remark. 

In February 1945 he arrived at Stalag XIII B in Nuremburg, Germany where he described conditions as “deplorable…we existed day to day”. In March, with allied troops advancing, he and thousands of other POWs were marched to Stalag VII A near Moosburg, Germany. Allied tanks liberated the camp on April 29, 1945. The sound of the approaching tanks “Was the sweetest sound I ever heard”, Hank recalled. He was discharged from active duty on October 5, 1945 and served in the USAF Reserve until 1963 when he retired as a Captain.  

During his captivity, the Luftwaffe allowed him to keep his Army Air Corps ring out of professional courtesy.  When trouble brewed or the future looked uncertain, Hank would be reminded that “This ... was when times were tough”. His military decorations include the POW Medal, the Purple Heart with 1 oak leaf cluster, the Air Medal with 3 oak leaf clusters, the Presidential Unit Citation, the European Theater of Operations Ribbon with three bronze battle stars, the European-African-Middle Eastern campaign Medal, and the American Campaign Medal. 

 Following the war, Henry built a career with the FAA. He served as a Regional Director, Eastern Region and retired in 1978.  He and his beloved Kaye enjoyed many years snowbirding between Massapequa and Englewood, traveling, playing shuffleboard, bowling, square dancing, playing golf and bird watching. For many years he served on the condominium board of Quail’s Run and is credited with a number of community improvements. 

A celebration of life is planned for Jan. 20, 2018, 2-6:00 pm, at Massapequa Funeral Home – South Chapel in Massapequa, NY. That date is the 73rd anniversary of Hank’s final wartime mission.  He will be buried with military honors alongside his wife at Calverton National Cemetery, NY on January 22, 2018. 

Henry’s passing brings a long life of vigor, charisma and humility to a close. By all accounts, Hank’s life was a life well lived.  He left his family well loved, always there as a husband, Dad and Grandpa.  All who knew Hank have fond memories to cherish.  

Dad, Grandpa, Hank, we love you and we look forward to the day when we can be reunited. For now, so long. Mission complete. Job well done, Sir. 

“Man must rise above the Earth - to the top of the atmosphere and beyond – for only thus will he fully understand the world in which he lives.” Socrates.  

“…And while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod, the high untrespassed sanctity of space, put out my hand, and touched the face of God.” John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

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