Peter Ewanick was born on 23 May 1919 in Forestville, Pennsylvania, to Ukrainian immigrants who had fled the oppression of their homeland and sought a better life in America. He grew up in Evanston, Illinois, played baseball and football for Evanston Township High School, and then worked to help support his parents and sisters. Peter saw that war was coming and enlisted in the Marine Corps in September 1941, three months before the US entered World War II. He was a member of a USMC special weapons platoon during two of the bloodiest amphibious assaults in the Pacific, the Battle of Tarawa in November 1943 and the Battle of Okinawa from April through June of 1945. He was discharged as a Staff Sergeant in December 1945 and rarely spoke of the war until his later years, and then, only briefly when asked about his experiences.
Peter moved to Los Angeles after the war and became a lineman for the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company. He was among the crews that built the microwave infrastructure across California’s deserts and then installed the overhead and underground cables to support Los Angeles’s post-war population boom. Peter remained a bachelor until he married the former Joyce Bortell in 1958 and moved to Huntington Park with Joyce and her children, Jack and Jeri. Joyce gave birth to Peter’s son, Joel, in 1960 and the family then moved to Van Nuys, in the San Fernando Valley. Fun Fact: Peter was a member of a Bell System bowling team during the late 1950s and early 1960s called the Travelers (“Have Ball Will Travel”).
Peter retired as a splicing and construction foreman responsible for the Wilshire District of Los Angeles in 1981. Together Pete and Joy traveled the country in motor homes until settling in Hemet for several years near former telephone company colleagues. They moved to Sparks, Nevada, for three years before coming to Santa Barbara in 2008. Peter was in his 90s and living in Santa Barbara when he finally shared stories of the horrors of Tarawa and the heroism of his fellow marines and sailors; he confided that hardly a day went by that he did not think about those events and the friends and comrades who perished during the war. Peter Ewanick was a lifetime member of the Elks Lodge and of the Telephone Pioneers. He was a good husband and a terrific role model; he also was patriotic, philosophical, and tolerant. Pete enjoyed watching all sports, especially football, and he played a decent game of golf. After losing the love of his life, Joyce, to cancer in March 2016, Peter passed away peacefully on 25 July 2017 at the age of 98. He will be missed, but his spirit will live on in his children and grandchildren.